Chapter 18 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 523

Saturday in town is not nearly as happy as Saturday out on the island. Tom’s and Joe’s families both spend the day crying and preparing for a funeral. The streets, which are normally quiet in this sleepy town, seem even quieter than usual. The adults go about their business looking upset. The children mope instead of playing.

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That afternoon, Becky Thatcher wanders to the school and finds the place where she and Tom became engaged. She wishes she still had his brass knob to remember him by, and she regrets the fact that the last words she said to him were so unkind. Soon the other children find their way to the schoolyard, and they discuss Tom’s and Joe’s last appearances there. Many of the children retell their final conversations with the boys, convincing themselves and their listeners that they witnessed signs from God that the boys would soon die.

As the children discuss the boys’ last day in town, they confer a certain “sacred importance” on those who spoke to Tom and Joe last. Everyone tries to get a piece of this glory. One boy even says with great pride, “Well, Tom Sawyer he licked me once.” Unfortunately for him, most of the boys can say the same, so the statement gains him no additional respect.

On Sunday morning, the church bell tolls to announce the start of the funeral. Everyone gathers in the church, filling the building to capacity. Aunt Polly enters, dressed in black, along with Sid and Mary. The Harpers come in next. When they find their seats, the funeral service begins.

The minister gives a sermon about the dead boys, highlighting all of their best qualities. The congregation listens, each of them blaming him- or herself for failing to see the vast promise in the boys while they were alive. They are all ashamed that they saw only “faults and flaws” in Tom and Joe, whose constant mischief they know they will now miss. Everyone begins to cry, including the minister in the pulpit.

At this point the church door opens, and Tom and Joe march in with Huck behind them. This was Tom’s great plan: to hide in the church and listen to the sermon for their own funeral. Tom’s and Joe’s families seize them, kissing them and thanking God for returning them safely home. Huck stands by, feeling uncomfortable and unwelcome. He is about to slip away, but Tom stops him. He says it “ain’t fair” that nobody is welcoming Huck. At this, Aunt Polly grabs Huck and hugs him, embarrassing him even more.

The minister shouts out that the whole congregation must sing thanks to God, and they do, producing a sound so loud that it shakes the building. Tom looks around, takes in the envy of his peers, and decides that it is the “proudest moment in his life.” After the song he goes home with Aunt Polly, who spends the whole day smacking and kissing him, depending on the swings in her mood. Tom understands that both gestures are expressions of her love for him.

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