The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

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Chapters 42 and 43 Summary and Analysis

The next morning Uncle Silas looks for Tom in town but comes back discouraged. He hands Aunt Sally a letter from her sister that he had picked up at the post office the day before. She starts to open the letter, but glances out of the window and drops it as she sees Tom being brought in on a mattress. He is followed by the doctor and Jim, who has his hands tied behind his back. Thinking Tom is dead, Aunt Sally runs up to him, but he is delirious and can only mutter something unintelligible. Aunt Sally is happy just to see him alive.

While the others go into the house with Tom, Huck follows the men who take Jim back to his cabin. He hears them cursing Jim and giving him an occasional blow on the head for running away. They threaten to hang him as an example to other runaway slaves. They chain both his legs and hands to a big staple driven into the bottom log of the cabin. He is put on a diet of bread and water, and farmers with guns plan to guard his door at night while bulldogs will be on the watch during the day. In a little while the doctor comes to check on Jim. When he sees his deplorable situation, he asks them not to punish him too severely since Jim demonstrated exemplary behavior while he was with the doctor. He explains that Jim stepped out of hiding when Tom became seriously ill and incoherent, threatening to kill the doctor. Jim offered to help and he did it well. He tells them Jim is worth one thousand dollars and kind treatment too. At this the men soften their approach slightly. Huck hopes they will remove some of the chains and alter his diet but doesn’t dare suggest it.

The first chance Huck gets, he slips into the sick room. Bewildered and a bit confused, Tom soon wakes up, asking about the raft and Jim. Huck tells him all is well. Aunt Sally listens in shock as he suddenly blurts out the whole story about their fantastic scheme to free Jim, the runaway slave. Aunt Sally calls him a rapscallion, threatening to punish him if she catches him meddling with Jim again. Surprised to learn Jim did not escape, Tom orders them to release him immediately because he is not a slave. He tells them that Miss Watson, who died two months ago, “set him free in her will.” Puzzled, Huck asks Tom about his motives for planning the escape. Tom tells him he did it for the adventure.

Aunt Polly appears in the doorway and the game of mistaken identities is over. She has come eleven hundred miles to see why Aunt Sally has not answered her letters. Knowing the letters would spell trouble for him, Tom admits intercepting them.

Aunt Polly confirms Jim’s freedom and Jim is released. Uncle Silas, Aunt Sally, and Aunt Polly make a fuss over Jim for helping the doctor nurse Tom. Tom gives him forty dollars for being a patient prisoner. Pleased and excited, Jim tells Huck it is his hairy breast that has made him rich again just as he had predicted on Jackson’s Island.

Tom suggests that the three of them go for “howling adventures” in Indian territory. When Huck complains that he has no money for such adventures, Tom tells him the six thousand dollars is still there since his father has never been back for it. Jim then reveals the secret about Huck’s pap. Hesitantly, he tells him Pap was the dead man in the floating house they were exploring on the river. With no show of emotion, Huck announces his plan to “light out for the territory ahead of the rest.” Aunt Sally wants to adopt him and “sivilize” him and “he can’t stand it.” He has been through that before.

Discussion and Analysis
Twain portrays Jim as a noble character when he bravely steps out of hiding to help the doctor save Tom’s life, knowing full well it will cost him his freedom and possibly his life. The doctor attests to the fact that he never saw anyone who was more faithful “and yet he was risking his freedom to do it.” Jim is...

(The entire section is 1,094 words.)