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MonkeyNotes Study Guide-Huckleberry Finn-Huck Finn-Free Booknotes Synopsis
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CHAPTER 2: Our Gangís Dark Oath


As Tom and Huck are stealthily leaving the house and going towards the garden, Huck stumbles over an outgrown root near the kitchen, which alerts Jim, the widowís slave, who is sleeping inside. He gets up and calls out. When he does not get a reply, he decides to come out and investigate and, not finding anybody, decides to wait; he settles down right between the hidden Tom and Huck. Waiting for Jim to go back seems torturous for Huck, especially when his ankle starts itching. He does not dare to scratch it, for fear of attracting Jimís attention. Jim calls out again and, not getting any reply, leans back against the tree. Huckís misery continues as his nose starts itching and then his shoulders; but Huck doesnít dare scratch. A few minutes later, he becomes very uncomfortable as he starts itching in eleven different places. Huck finally finds relief when Jim begins to snore, indicating he has fallen asleep.

Responding to Tomís signal, Huck eases from Jimís side, and they start crawling away. Tom wants to tie Jim up for fun, but Huck dissuades him by saying that Jim may wake up and alert the people in the house and they would be discovered. Huck is in a hurry to leave, but Tom cannot resist playing a trick on the sleeping Jim. He takes off Jimís hat and hangs it on a branch over his head. The next day Jim makes up a story that he was carried by witches all over the state. Every time he repeats the story, he adds something to it. Slaves come from neighboring farms to hear Jimís story, which makes him feel very proud and important.

Tom and Huck meet Joe Harper, Ben Rogers, and a couple of other friends. They sail down the river for a couple of miles and go ashore. Tom leads them to a dark and damp cave and says that they will now start a band of robbers and call it ďTom Sawyerís Gang.Ē Anyone who wants to be a part of this band will have to take an oath and write his name in blood. When everyone agrees, he reads the oath, which says that they should stick to the band and never let out any of its secrets. One of the members suggests that the families of the boy who lets out a secret should be killed, and this is added to the oath. Then the question of Huckís not having a family is raised. Tom reminds them that Huck does have a father, but the others argue that he is not been seen for more than a year. Huck is almost in tears, fearing he will not be permitted to join the gang. Then he comes up with the idea that they could take Miss Watson for his family and kill her. All the members agree on this, and Huck is allowed to join.

After these minor items are sorted out, the gang gets down to the business of deciding what it is supposed to do. Tom says that they are going to rob and murder people. When he is questioned as to what they are going to rob, he says that they will stop carriages, kill the people, and steal their belongings; they will also hold people for ransom. But they will always be polite to the women. Tom then makes a humorous distinction between burglary and robbery; he states that they would only rob and not burgle. They also decide that they will not do any bad things on Sunday. Tom is elected captain with Joe Harper as his second-in-Command.


Jim, Miss Watsonís slave, is introduced in this chapter. Hearing a noise, which comes from the adventurous Tom and Huck as they try to escape, the responsible Jim comes out to check and make sure everything is all right. Although he does not immediately see anything, he is not satisfied and sits down to wait and see; he soon falls asleep. The mischievous Tom wants to tie him up as a joke. When Huck protests, Tom merely takes his hat and hangs it overhead from a tree branch. When Jim awakes, he is certain that he has been carried away and back by witches. He spreads the story throughout the slave community, enhancing the tale each time it is told. He feels proud each time he tells it. In this brief description of Jim, several key facts are shown. He is the slave of Miss Watson, who has already been pictured as nagging and mean. The reader can assume that she treats Jim much worse than she treats Huck. Like Huck, the uneducated Jim is also very superstitious. When he has no explanation for his hat being in the tree, he blames it on witches and proudly spins the tale for his friends.

It is important to notice Huckís reaction to Tomís intended treatment of Jim. When Tom wants to tie up the slave for a joke, Huck protests, saying it may wake the household and alert them to his absence, revealing that Huck can be practical. But the reader also has a sense that Huck identifies with the slave. Because of his background, nonconformity, and lack of education, Huck knows how it feels to be teased. He seems to want to spare Jim from Tomís humiliation. This implicit relationship between Huck and Jim is developed early in the novel in order to make the end of the novel more realistic.

Tom, who reads romantic, adventurous fiction about heroes and bandits, has a vivid imagination, as seen in his outrageous plans for his band of robbers. The fact that his companions take his plans for robbery and murder seriously is a comment on Tomís natural gift of leadership; however, Twain shows that Tom does not use his ability to any worthwhile end. Later, Huck realizes that he cannot depend on Tom for help in times of distress. Besides, Tom strikes the reader as impractical and insensitive. By contrast, Huck appears more practical. He carefully thinks through a problem to a logical solution, as shown when he chooses to offer the nagging Miss Watson as his family that can be sacrificed.

In the midst of their talk about robbing and murdering, the boys show how much they are already influenced by the constraints of society. They have been taught to respect their mothers, and women in general; as a result, Tom orders them to be polite to all the females that they encounter during a robbery. Because they have all been raised in a religious atmosphere, except for Huck, they decide they will do no bad deeds on Sunday. Such hypocritical thinking is one of Twainís gentle ways of pointing out the hypocrisy that he sees in organized religion. Throughout the book he will imply the hypocrisy of Christians owning slaves.

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