The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

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Chapters 32 and 33 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Mr. Silas Phelps: Tom Sawyer’s uncle

Mrs. Sally Phelps: Tom’s aunt

Huck arrives at the Phelps Plantation, noticing that things are rather “still and Sunday-like.” Everyone seems to be out in the fields, and Huck paints a rather bleak picture of the depressing surroundings. As he approaches the kitchen, he hears the hum of a spinning wheel. He walks up to the house, trying to decide what to say but finally leaving it to Providence. He has aroused fifteen of the sleeping dogs that quickly surround him with their barking and howling. With her rolling pin raised, a servant steps out and silences them. Hearing the commotion, Mrs. Phelps runs out to greet Huck with her spinning stick still in her hand and her children hanging around her skirts. Thinking he is Tom Sawyer, her nephew, she welcomes him with open arms.

Perplexed by her display of affection, he tries to guess who she thinks he is. She questions him about his family, but not knowing who his family is, he cannot answer and finally decides that this might be one of those times when he should risk telling the truth. It isn’t until Mr. Phelps comes home, and she introduces Huck as Tom Sawyer, that he breathes easy again. They have been expecting Tom to arrive on the steamboat for the past few days and are relieved and happy that he is finally here. Comfortable with his new identity, Huck can easily invent believable stories about Tom Sawyer’s family.

The noise of the steamboat on the river, however, suddenly reminds him Tom could be arriving any minute. He must ward off Tom’s appearance until he can explain the misunderstanding to him. He tells Tom’s aunt and uncle that he needs to go into town to pick up his baggage. Convincing them to let him go alone, he heads for town in the wagon and meets Tom Sawyer along the way. Tom thinks he is seeing a ghost, but Huck tells him that he was not murdered. Huck explains the case of mistaken identity at the Phelps Plantation to Tom. Coming up with a plan, Tom assures him all will be well. He puts his trunks in the wagon and tells him he will follow later. Huck also confides in Tom about his intent to steal Jim. To his surprise, Tom agrees to help him. Shocked that Tom would do such a thing, Huck’s high opinion of him falls considerably.

In a little while Aunt Sally and Uncle Silas Phelps see a stranger coming up the driveway. The stranger is Tom Sawyer. They quickly set another plate for dinner to welcome him. He pretends to be on the wrong plantation, but they invite him to stay for dinner just the same. During the course of the conversation the so-called stranger suddenly reaches over and kisses Aunt Sally on the mouth. Shocked and insulted she calls him an “owdacious puppy.” He apologizes and tells her he thought she would like it. He finally ends the practical joke by identifying himself as Sid Sawyer, Tom’s brother. They laugh at his joke, showering him with hugs and kisses.

During supper one of the children begs to see the show in town that night. His dad tells him the show has been cancelled because the runaway slave informed on the actors. Huck knows immediately that it was Jim who was trying to expose the king and the duke. That night he and Tom sneak out to try to warn the pair about the danger they are in, but it is too late. They have been tarred and feathered and are being driven out of town. Huck feels responsible somehow even though he was not to blame. He denounces his conscience that “takes up more room than all the rest of a person’s insides” but is of no value to him. Tom Sawyer agrees.

Discussion and Analysis
Twain’s depressing description of the Phelps Plantation is set in contrast to previous descriptions of the peace and tranquillity of life on the river. It is a “one-horse cotton plantation” with “sickly grass patches” and a yard that is “bare and smooth.” Even the sound of the spinning wheel makes Huck feel lonesome. Huck’s depiction of the plantation,...

(The entire section is 1,116 words.)