Chapters 36, 37, 38 and 39
After much hacking at the ground with their kitchen knives, the boys resort
to using pick-axes in order to free Jim. They are not able to finish the job before daybreak and so they will return the next night to finish the job.
They gather together sheets for a rope ladder, spoons, a tin plate, candlesticks and candles so that Jim can scrawl a message on the plate which can then be thrown out of the window to be read by passers-by, just like in the romantic novels.
The next night the boys dig their way through to Jim who is delighted to see
them. He tells them that Sally and Silas Phelps visited him and they had a prayer meeting.
The boys explain their scheme to him, which he does not comprehend, but
thinks will be enormous fun and goes along with it.
Sally goes mad at everyone in the household over the missing candles,
sheets, spoons etc.
The boys then replace the sheets and spoons and by returning these they
further confuse Sally, so much so she loses track of how many she originally had.
To add further confusion to the situation Tom and Huck capture rats and
snakes and infest the Phelps house with them.
Aunt Sally becomes wildly upset when snakes begin to fall from the rafters
onto her bed.
These last chapters are spent in a long narration concerning Huck and Tom’s
final adventure before the end of the novel. Tom is intent on making his plan an elaborate parody of what he has read in romantic novels of the time.
Again, Twain is making fun of the romantic adventure stories, which he
The most basic criticism, which has been voiced regarding this section of the book, is that it is just pointless. Huck’s internal moral conflict over slavery was resolved when he decided that he would free Jim at all costs. Huck’s sense of morality has slowly developed throughout the book and he has decided to reject the values, which he has been taught as a child. There still exists the outside conflict between Huck and Jim and their societies to acquire Jim’s freedom. This may have been an interesting topic for Twain to cover rather than this meaningless adventure to bring about Jim’s release from the hut. The reader would have perhaps derived more satisfaction if Jim had obtained his freedom from white society.
Although Huck now treats Jim with affection and kindness, Tom gives Jim no
thought at all. He is merely the reason for having an adventure and whether it brings about his release or not is secondary to the fun he is achieving from carrying out his cunning plan.
Tom is completely selfish in his treatment of Jim.