The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

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Chapters 40 and 41 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
The Doctor: removes the bullet from Tom’s leg

Old Mrs. Hotchkiss: a neighbor of the Phelps

After the last warning note has been sent, Huck and Tom take a picnic lunch and go fishing in the river. They check out the raft to make sure everything is in order. When they arrive home for supper that night, everyone in the house is in a state of frenzy. Worried about the threatening letter, Aunt Sally hustles them up to bed after supper without a word.

At half past eleven the boys get up and begin eating the lunch they had stolen from the cellar cupboard. Noticing the butter is missing, Tom sends Huck back to the cellar to get it while he goes to Jim’s cabin to prepare the scene for the escape. Huck finds the butter and stealthily climbs up the stairs, when suddenly he runs into Aunt Sally. He quickly shoves the bread and butter under his hat. Aunt Sally questions him about his mysterious activities in the cellar, but getting nowhere she sends him into the “setting-room” until she has time to get to the bottom of it. In the room he sees fifteen farmers with guns ready to attack the cutthroats who are coming to steal Jim. The room is hot, and the butter under his hat melts and trickles down his forehead. He lifts his hat, revealing the stolen bread and butter. Relieved that his brain is not “oozing out” from brain fever, Aunt Sally hugs him and lets him go.

He runs to Jim’s cabin and frantically tries to explain that the men are coming, and there is no time to lose. The men fill the dark cabin just as Huck, Tom, and Jim slip out the hole and into the lean-to. Tom finally gives the all clear signal, and the three make a run for it. Tom’s britches catch on a splinter on the top rail of the fence, however, and when he pulls loose, the splinter snaps and makes a noise. Soon gunfire is heard, dogs are released, and the chase is on. The dogs are friendly, however, and the runaways make it to the raft safely. Everyone is happy, but Huck and Jim suddenly notice Tom has been shot in the leg. Tom insists they go on, but Jim refuses to leave before they get a doctor for Tom. Huck goes for the doctor, instructing Jim to hide in the woods when the doctor arrives.

Huck gets the doctor out of bed and tells him a story about Tom kicking his gun in his dreams and shooting himself in the leg. The doctor is a kind old man who agrees to help, but insists on going alone because he feels the canoe is safe for one person only. He becomes suspicious when Huck blurts out that it easily held three. Waiting for the doctor’s return, Huck sleeps on a lumber pile all night. The doctor has not returned by morning, and Huck runs into Uncle Silas in town. Under pressure to explain their absence, he tells Uncle Silas that he and Sid (Tom) were all over the river last night looking for the runaway slave. Huck claims Sid is at the post office so they wait awhile, but when he does not show up, they go home to Aunt Sally who is overjoyed to see Huck.

The house is still full of people who are eager to overstate the truth about what happened the night before. Mrs. Hotchkiss is worse than the others, claiming the runaway was not in his right mind.

That night Aunt Sally tucks Huck in and asks him not to leave. Seeing her caring nature, he finds it impossible to sneak out this time, but his mind is on Tom and he sleeps restlessly. He slides down the lightning rod several times during the night, but when he sees Aunt Sally waiting up for Tom, he goes back upstairs.

Discussion and Analysis
Tom’s plan of escape takes on an air of sensationalism as the three runaways battle the suspense of gunfire, tracking dogs, screaming voices, pounding footsteps, and a breathtaking slide through the tunnel with the gunmen breathing down their necks. What tops off the whole romantic episode for Tom, however, is the bullet wound in his leg. They are all glad to get to the raft, “but Tom was the gladdest of all because he had a bullet in the calf of his leg.”...

(The entire section is 1,176 words.)