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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
CHAPTER 21: Eloquence - And The Masterís Guilded Dome
As summer vacation draws closer, the schoolmaster grows stricter and crueler. He is trying to get the students ready for public examination day, so he puts up with no foolish behavior and whips the children more harshly and frequently than usual. The boys decide to take revenge on the teacher. With the whole town gathered for the end-of-school examination of the students, the boys dangle a cat over the teacherís head, without his knowing about it. When it is about six inches from the masterís head, the cat reaches down and grabs the masterís wig. His bald head shines brightly, for one of the boys has painted it gold while the teacher was asleep. The boys are delighted to have their revenge and to begin the summer vacation.
This chapter is devoted to the public examination of the students. Attention is given to the appearance of the hall and the proper dress of the attendants. Twain also describes the many boring activities that take place, including the reading of declamations and a spelling bee. He gives particularly harsh criticism to the sentimental writings of the female students.
The night is considerably enlivened by the prank of the boys against the teacher. Wanting revenge on him for his harsh treatment and frequent beatings, they use a cat to steal the wig off his head. It is a humorous incident, delightfully told. Surprisingly, Tom takes no major part in the prank.
CHAPTER 22: Huck Finn Quotes Scriptures
During summer vacation, Tom joins a new order of the ĎCadets of Temperanceí because he likes their uniforms. He takes their oath and promises to abstain from smoking, chewing, and swearing. He discovers immediately after taking the oath that when you make a promise not to do something, you are tempted to do the very same thing. Tom desperately wants to drink and swear; he cannot stand the torture of abstinence and wants to give up the order. Only the facts that the fourth of July is approaching and Judge Frazer is on his deathbed stop him. He knows that the Cadets will march in both the funeral parade and the Independence Day parade. In the end, he cannot hold out and resigns the order. The night of his resignation, the judge dies. Tom is disappointed that he cannot take part in the funeral march since he is no longer a Cadet. The fourth of July is also a disappointment, especially since it rains. But Tom is glad to be free again; he is also amazed that he no longer has the urge to drink or swear.
Tom starts feeling bored during vacation, for there is nothing much to do. Becky Thatcher is out of town on vacation. To add to his woes, he is down with the measles for two weeks and feels miserable. The murder of Doc Robinson also haunts him again. Once he is over the measles, Tom searches for his friends. To his disgust, they are all inside memorizing scriptures; they have become religious due to a tent revival held while Tom is sick. He then goes in search of Huck; when Tom find his friend, he also quotes from scripture, which really irritates Tom. He feels depressed and lonely; he also thinks he is the only wicked one left in town.
During the night, there is a fierce thunderstorm, and Tom is convinced that it is caused by his evil ways. Even though he fears death, he does not repent. The next day, Tom has a relapse. This time, he is down for three weeks. When he is fully recovered, he finds that his friends have lost their religious fervor, much to his relief.
Because Tom is attracted to showing off, he joins the Cadets of Temperance because they wear showy uniforms and march in parades. He does not last for long, however, because he feels he cannot keep the promise of not drinking or swearing. Since he wants to do what he is forbidden to do, he resigns before the fourth of July parade.
Most of the chapter pictures Tom as a more ordinary boy. During his summer vacation, he suffers from boredom and the measles. He is upset when he finds that his friends have a new religious fervor, due to a tent revival. They stay inside memorizing scripture rather than coming out to play; even Huck Finn is quoting scriptures. Tom is so upset by his isolation that he has a relapse of the measles, which keeps him inside for another three weeks.
Twain pokes fun at several institutions in this chapter. He laughs at organizations like the Cadets, who attract members for the wrong reasons. He also satirizes the false religion generated by revivalists. Although the children have a religious fervor for several weeks, they have not undergone a real reformation or repentance. Only Tom, who has missed the revival, remains true to himself.
It is important to note that both Becky and Muff Potter are mentioned in the chapter. Tom, who is still on good terms with Becky, misses her during her vacation. Tom is also plagued by memories of the murder and remains concerned about Potterís innocence.