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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

by Mark Twain

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Chapter 11 Summary

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By noon, the people of the town find Dr. Robinson’s body. Tom’s teacher cancels school for the afternoon, and Tom soon finds himself wandering toward the graveyard with the rest of the curious. He does not want to go, but he cannot seem to stay away. When he arrives, he sees Huck Finn, but after a single scared glance at each other, the two do not interact.

Everyone in town knows that the knife found next to Dr. Robinson’s body belongs to Muff Potter. Moreover, a witness claims to have seen Potter scrubbing himself in a stream—a suspicious activity by a man who normally avoids washing. These two pieces of evidence serve to convict Potter in the minds of the public, and everyone joins in the search for him.

The manhunt does not last long. Potter is soon spotted walking toward the graveyard. The Sheriff grabs him, and Potter shouts that he did not kill Dr. Robinson. At this, a bystander points out that nobody has accused Potter yet. Potter goes limp and tells Injun Joe—who is among the crowd—that he might as well explain what happened.

Tom and Huck listen in horror as Joe lies and says that he saw Muff Potter drunkenly stab Dr. Robinson in a fight. Throughout the story, both boys fully expect God to send a lightning bolt to strike Joe dead. When this does not happen, they conclude that Joe has sold his soul to the devil. This renews their commitment to silence. After all, they have no chance of surviving if they speak out against a man whose soul belongs to Satan.

After this incident, Tom is filled with guilt. One morning Sid announces that Tom has been talking about blood in his sleep. Aunt Polly says that she too has been sleeping poorly since the murder, and Tom pretends that his disquiet is just like hers. However, he pretends to have a toothache and ties his mouth shut for several nights afterward. Suspicious, Sid frequently unties Tom’s bandage and listens to his mutterings. He also watches Tom at school and sees that he hangs back when the kids playact scenes from Muff Potter’s inquest. This is very unusual, because Tom is usually at the center of everything.

During this period, Muff Potter is locked up, awaiting his trial. Whenever he can, Tom stops by the jail and slips small gifts to Potter through the window. Meanwhile, Injun Joe goes free. The townspeople have all concluded that he was part of a grave robbing scheme on the night of the murder, and they all wish they could tar and feather him for it. However, nobody is brave enough to try.

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Chapter 10 Summary


Chapter 12 Summary