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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
CHAPTER 17: Pirates at Their Own Funeral
In the village, Saturday passes, and there is still no trace of the boys. All the adults are somber over the loss, and the children show no interest in playing. Becky Thatcher is seen moping around the school. She thinks that if only she had not returned the knob, Tom probably would not have gone away.
On Sunday morning, the church bells toll after the regular service. The townspeople assemble for the funeral for the missing boys. Aunt Polly, Sid, Mary, and the Harpers are all in mourning. The funeral begins, and prayers are said. The minister recollects many touching incidents from the boysí lives, and everyone is in tears. Suddenly, there is a noise, and the Church door opens. The three "dead" boys enter the church. Tom is in front, followed by Joe and Huck. They have been listening to their own funeral service and waiting for the appropriate moment to appear.
While Tom and Joe are being hugged and kissed by their families, Huck feels left out and alone. Tom notices Huckís isolation and tells his aunt that there should be someone to feel glad that Huck is also back. Aunt Polly immediately goes and hugs Huck, who acts uncomfortable at the show of affection. The minister interrupts and shouts to the congregation to sing and thank the Lord for his blessings; everyone is thankful for the safe return of the three boys. Tom considers this moment to be the proudest moment of his life.
In this chapter, the crisis of the missing boys is solved in one of the most humorous and understated scenes of the novel. Tomís secret has been his plan for the boys to show up at their own funeral. On Sunday morning, they hide in the church, listening to their own eulogies, and wait until everyone in the congregation is weeping. Then they throw open the church doors and triumphantly march down the aisle. Everyone is delighted to see Tom, Huck, and Joe, even though they realize the boys have duped them once again. Tom thinks it is his best prank ever.
This chapter highlights two diametrically opposite sides of Tomís character. He is totally mischievous and will go to any extent to create excitement and adventure. If he is the star of his antics, then it is even better. On the other hand, he shows himself to be a sensitive and considerate boy when he realizes that there is nobody to welcome Huck back. He says something to Aunt Polly and makes sure than Huck is drawn into his own family circle.