Tom wants Jim’s escape to be so elaborate because he thinks this will make it more thrilling, like a story out of a book. Tom’s imagination has been nurtured by his reading of stories of high adventure and romance such as Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo. He wants to fashion a similarly exciting story out of Jim’s escape, and is indignant at Huck’s suggestion of a quicker way out for Jim.
Tom wants to do things literally by the book – the kind of book he himself likes to read.
It’s the right way, and it’s the regular way. And there ain’t no other way, that ever I heard of, and I’ve read all the books that gives any information about these things. (chapter 35)
To this end he ingeniously attempts to contrive all sorts of difficulties and impediments to Jim’s escaping, to the frank puzzlement of Jim himself, and Huck, although they both go along with it.
With this episode Twain satirizes the conventions of romantic adventure fiction, but it has been panned by some critics as being childish and more or less nonsensical – especially as Jim has already technically been set free in Miss Watson’s will. The sequence is often deemed unworthy of the compelling earlier depiction of Huck’s grimmer adventures and very real conflicts during his great journey down river. This final section of the novel seems to revert back to the lighter tone of the earlier book, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Tom’s adventures would seem to be of a quite different order to Huck’s.