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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 34

Huck is welcomed into the fold of St. Petersburg society- something he's not quite ready for. Twain draws a further contrast between the two boys, showing once more how Huck and Tom differ.

Tom and Huck are dressing as the chapter opens. Huck can think only of escape-of "sloping" (slipping away) by letting themselves down to the ground with a rope. Tom, who wants to stay, won't hear of it.

Sid enters the room and explains that the party is to thank the Welshman and his sons for protecting the widow. Sid also knows that the Welshman plans to surprise the gathering by revealing Huck's part in protecting the widow. Yet Sid has spoiled the plan by giving away the secret beforehand. Angry that Sid would sink so low, Tom kicks him out of the room and dares him to tattle.

At supper downstairs, Mr. Jones makes his announcement about Huck, and the guests pretend to be surprised. Huck shrinks from the attention, which makes him want to crawl under a rock. Why do you think he responds to praise so differently than Tom?

Tom sees his chance to jump into the spotlight when the widow says she'll house and educate Huck and someday give him money to start a business. "Huck don't need it," Tom says. "Huck's rich!" The guests think he's making a joke. Tom rushes outside and returns with the sacks of coins, which he spills on the table. When it's counted, it amounts to more than $12,000- a sum larger than anyone his ever seen at one time.

CHAPTER 35

The book's final chapter gives you a glimpse of Tom and Huck's life after they've achieved "success." As you read, watch how their characters remain consistent to the end.

Tom and Huck's newfound wealth has changed not just their lives but the lives of everyone in the village. Even "grave, unromantic men" are ransacking abandoned houses, board by board, in hopes of finding stashed treasure.


The boys have become celebrities, "courted, admired, stared at" everywhere. They are quoted and written about, and their pasts are "discovered to bear marks of conspicuous originality."

NOTE: CREATING A MYTH

Twain calls the boys' $12,000 a "windfall," something that came their way by luck. But the townspeople refuse to accept that explanation. Instead, they create a myth about Tom and Huck, emphasizing episodes in their pasts to explain how the boys obtained the treasure as a result of their cleverness. Suddenly, almost against their wills, Tom and Huck have become model boys. Why does Twain make fun of this effort to misunderstand the boys' success? How is his description of Tom and Huck's treatment part of his parody of the "good-boy" books he so detested?

Tom and Huck have hefty incomes now: about $360 a year each, more than the minister can hope to earn. It's an enormous sum at a time when, as Twain tells you, a boy cost his parents only about $65 a year to house, clothe, feed, and educate. No wonder they have become celebrities!

Judge Thatcher, who once heard Tom flub a question on Jesus' disciples, now thinks Tom an extraordinary boy. He hopes to see Tom attend West Point and law school.

Huck, however, can't stand his new life. He disappears from Mrs. Douglas' house after suffering through three weeks of cleanliness, good manners, and other "bars and shackles of civilization." Tom finds him, ragged once more, in an empty hogshead down by the slaughterhouse. "Everything's so awful reglar," Huck says about the widow's household, "a body can't stand it." To rid himself of all the headaches involved with wealth, he offers his money to Tom.

Tom refuses the money and tricks Huck into giving his new life another chance. "Being rich ain't going to keep me back from turning robber," he says. For Huck to be part of the gang, however, he must be respectable. Being a robber isn't like being a pirate, Tom explains. "A robber is more high-toned." Convinced, Huck agrees to try the widow's house for another month.

NOTE: PERILS OF WEALTH

Twain makes some interesting points about wealth and wealthy people. "Being rich ain't what it's cracked up to be," Huck says. It's "a-wishing you was dead all the time." Twain satirizes the wealthy, too, by suggesting that they are less than honest. "In most countries," Tom says, "[robbers are] awful high up in the nobility-dukes and such." Remember that Twain coauthored an attack on corruption in high places in The Gilded Age.

As the novel ends, the boys are lost in a fantasy about their gang of robbers. Complete with initiation ceremonies and secret pledges signed in blood, the gang sounds like a club. But the boys don't notice this. Huck even believes the widow will be proud of him if he succeeds at robbery.

Can a boy with these beliefs ever be civilized? To find out, you'll have to read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, where Twain retells the final chapter of Tom Sawyer on the first page.

NOTE: SELLING OUT-OR REMAINING TRUE?

In this chapter, Tom becomes a spokesman for the society whose rules he tested throughout the novel. Is this turn of events out of character? Is it a sign of his maturity? Does it make Tom a traitor to the "cause" of boyhood-one Huck still represents with his refusal to live within civilization's bounds?

The way you answer these questions will depend on your perception of Tom's character. Many readers hold that he is a part of St. Petersburg's mainstream from the start, unlike outcasts such as Huck, Injun Joe, and Uncle Jake. Far from rebelling against this society, these readers argue, Tom tries hard to win its respect and to dominate it by engaging others in his fantasies. What evidence does the novel contain, if any, that might enable you to contradict this argument?

CONCLUSION

Twain ends The Adventures of Tom Sawyer with two paragraphs that make a joke out of stopping the story. He claims that he ended the novel to keep it from becoming the story of a man. Moreover, he indicates that ending novels about juveniles is an uncertain procedure for which there are few guidelines. Novelists who write about adults have an easier time, he suggests, because their stories invariably end with marriages.

The second paragraph continues to promote the idea, mentioned in the Preface, that the novel is largely factual. "Most of the characters that perform in this book still live," Twain says. He states that he might tell the story of their adult lives later.

Twain uses the word "perform" to describe what the book's characters do. How might this word be a key to understanding the characters and their perceptions of themselves as actors on public display?

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