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Free Barron's Booknotes-The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
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THE STORY - CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER 28

Tom penetrates room No. 2 and uncovers some secrets not only about Injun Joe but about the hypocrisy of some of St. Petersburg citizens, as well. The chapter gives you another opportunity to study Twain's method of storytelling.

NOTE: "THAT NIGHT"

Twain seems to have lost track of time here. Because the episode at the haunted house took place on a Saturday, Chapter 28 must have occurred on a Sunday. Thus, "that night" should mean Sunday night. However, it probably means Monday night. Had he realized the action in Chapter 27 took place on a Sunday, he almost certainly would have mentioned church and perhaps a Bible reading at home after breakfast.

Twain sometimes broke off work on a novel for months or even years before returning to it. Losing track of time is not a major flaw here, unless it confuses you. Nor is it terribly harmful that the summer he describes seems to last at least a month longer than most summers. Still, Twain's carelessness about time is a reminder that when he wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer he was a novice in the art of novel-writing.


The boys keep watch outside the tavern for three nights. On a moonless Thursday night, with thunder rumbling in the distance, Huck stands guard outside the tavern. Tom heads toward the door of No. 2 with his lantern, which he has "blindfolded" with a towel.

Twain doesn't let you follow Tom. Instead, he tries to make you feel Huck's "season of waiting anxiety." How does this approach add to the chapter's suspense?

Suddenly Tom rushes by with his lantern bared and tells Huck to run for his life. The two reach a deserted slaughterhouse just as a storm bursts. There, Tom tells what happened. The door to No. 2 was unlocked. Tom pushed it open and spotted Injun Joe, who was lying dead drunk on the floor. Tom realizes, however, that the room is haunted with spirits other than ghosts.

NOTE: TEMPERANCE TAVERNS

Twain takes a second dig at the temperance movement here. During the 1840s, Hannibal had three whiskey distilleries and at least six bars, or "groggeries" as they were called. A temperance tavern was a place where men could assemble without drinking whiskey or beer. Twain is suggesting that even these high-minded places weren't above selling spirits on the sly.

The boys decide it's too risky to return to No. 2 and hunt for the box. Tom figures that the best course is to wait for Injun Joe to leave some night. Huck proves himself less brave than Tom. He offers to do the watching if Tom will do the snatching of the treasure, and Tom agrees. Huck will wake him up if he sees Joe leave.

NOTE: "GOOD AS WHEAT"

The phrase Huck uses to emphasize his agreement is a comment on their plan. To indicate that the plan is "great," he calls it "good as wheat." The phrase dates back to colonial times, when wheat, a valuable staple food source, was used as a medium of exchange. Something "good as wheat," like something "good as gold," was of solid value.

As the boys leave the slaughterhouse, Huck says he's going to sleep in Ben Rogers' hayloft. This is okay with the Rogers' slave, Uncle Jake, who often shares his food with Huck. Huck and Jake get along because Huck doesn't look down on him.

How might Huck's attitude toward Jake reflect his own situation as an outcast? Why do you think Huck is embarrassed about eating with a slave? What does Huck's embarrassment tell you about his understanding of acceptable behavior between whites and blacks in a slave state?

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