The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

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Chapters 38 and 39 Summary and Analysis

While Jim and Huck file pens out of candlesticks and a saw out of a case knife, Tom is busy working on the coat of arms for Jim. He comes up with one that is unintelligible, but it does not seem to matter as long as it comes from a book. Huck questions the meaning of such terms as “fess” and “bar sinister,” but Tom refuses to answer. Since dungeon walls were always made of stone, Tom suddenly strikes upon the idea that they could chisel both the coat of arms and the mournful inscriptions on one rock. He suggests they use the grindstone down at the mill. Huck and Tom find it too heavy to move to the cabin, however, so they decide to ask Jim to help them. He willingly takes the chain off the bedpost, wraps it around his neck, and slips out through the tunnel the boys have dug. He and Huck easily role the grindstone back to the cabin as Tom “superintends” the whole thing. With a nail for a chisel and an old iron bolt for a hammer, Jim starts to work on the grindstone.

Tom decides every authentic prisoner should have to contend with spiders, snakes, rats, and a flower to water with his tears. Although Tom feels a rattlesnake would mean more “glory” for Jim, he finally decides to “let it go” after Jim threatens to leave if he forces the issue. Reluctantly Jim agrees to garter snakes instead but complains about the “bother” and “trouble” it is to be a prisoner. Tom instructs him to play music to the rats and provides him with an onion to make tears to water his Pitchiola flower. When Jim complains, Tom loses his patience and reprimands him for not appreciating the fact that he had “more gaudier chances than a prisoner ever had in the world to make a name for himself.” Promising to behave, Jim finally apologizes.

The boys catch fifteen rats and decide to hide them under Aunt Sally’s bed, but a little Phelps boy unknowingly releases them from the cage. The boys find Aunt Sally on top of the bed screaming in fear. Busily catching spiders, bugs, frogs, and caterpillars, Huck and Tom even try for a hornet’s nest but decide to give it up. They catch several dozen garter snakes and hide them in a bag in their bedroom. When they go back upstairs all the snakes have mysteriously disappeared, only to show up later all over the house. Aunt Sally, incensed by the whole ordeal, gives Huck and Tom their just reward by spanking them each time she sees another snake.

Unable to get any rest, Jim complains that the rats and snakes do not all sleep at the same time, keeping him on guard day and night. Each time a rat bites Jim, he writes on his shirt or journal with the fresh blood.

Since there has been no news from the plantation below New Orleans, Uncle Silas thinks he will advertise Jim in the New Orleans and St. Louis papers. The mention of St. Louis hits home to Huck, who realizes that Miss Watson will probably see the ad. Tom,...

(The entire section is 1,062 words.)