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MonkeyNotes Study Guide-Huckleberry Finn-Huck Finn-Free Booknotes Synopsis
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CHAPTER 42: Why They Didnít Hang Jim


There is no sign of Tom the next day. At breakfast, Aunt Sally realizes that she has not read the letter from Aunt Polly, which came in yesterdayís mail. But before she can read it, a delirious Tom is carried in on a mattress and accompanied by the doctor and Jim, dressed in Aunt Sallyís dress and with his hands tied. In the ensuing confusion, Huck grabs the letter and hides it.

The people who have come with Tom chain Jim and put him back in the cabin. The doctor intervenes and says that they should not treat him roughly because he would not have been able to save the boyís life without his help. He tells them that he has never seen a more faithful and selfless person than Jim, who risked his own freedom to stay and help the boy.

The next morning, Tom wakes up and tells Aunt Sally the splendid way in which they helped Jim escape. Aunt Sally cannot believe that Tom and Huck are responsible for the whole mess and grows angry. She promises to punish him after he is well and cautions him not to go near the runaway slave again. Tom gets out of bed, unmindful of his wound, and tells Aunt Sally that they have no right to hold Jim, for he is a free man. He explains that Miss Watson has died two months earlier, and in her will, she grants Jim his freedom. When he is questioned as to why he was helping Jim gain freedom when he already was free, he says he did it for adventure. Aunt Polly arrives, reveals Huckís true identity, and confirms Jim as free. The mystery of the missing letters from Aunt Polly is also cleared up when Tom admits to having hidden them.


The doctor has been able to save Tomís life, thanks to the help he has received from Jim. When the people chain the runaway slave and put him back in the cabin under constant armed guard, the doctor says that they should go easy on Jim. He has never seen a more faithful and selfless person than this slave.

The next morning, Tom reveals that Jim has been freed two months earlier in Miss Watsonís will. When questioned why he did not reveal this information earlier, Tom admits that he wanted to have a grand adventure in helping Jim to escape. Tomís selfishness is more clear here than at any other point in the book. He does not care about anyone except himself and his romanticized pretensions.

In the melodramatic and complicated ending, Aunt Polly arrives and clears up the assumed identities. Huck is delighted to be himself once again. Aunt Polly also corroborates Tomís claim that Jim has been granted his freedom.

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