Chapter 36 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 536

The story of Tom’s and Huck’s adventure causes a huge stir among the townspeople. Grown men go around ripping up every haunted house for miles, looking for more treasure—but nobody finds any. Tom’s and Huck’s guardians invest the money, and soon each boy has an income of a dollar every day. This is more money than even the minister earns. Moreover, people treat the boys with respect; they repeat everything the boys say as if it is important. Neither Tom nor Huck can remember being able to say anything of worth before, but now they have “evidently lost the power of doing and saying commonplace things.”

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Tom gets along quite well with his new high status. Judge Thatcher takes an interest in him, especially after Becky tells the story about how Tom told a noble lie to protect her from being whipped at school. The Judge privately decides to send Tom to a military school someday so he can grow up to be a soldier or a lawyer, whichever he chooses.

Huck, however, is not so happy. He is forced to wash, eat with a knife and fork, go to church, and refrain from smoking and swearing. At night he has to sleep between crisp, clean sheets that lack even one “little spot or stain which he [can] press to his heart and know for a friend.” He is utterly miserable, and after three weeks he decides he cannot take the pressure anymore. He disappears. The frightened widow tells her neighbors that Huck is missing, and the whole town joins in the search.

Only Tom Sawyer knows where to look for Huck. He finds his friend behind the abandoned slaughterhouse, dressed in his old rags and having slept in straw and eaten stolen food for breakfast. Tom tells Huck to go home, but Huck will not hear of it. He says the widow and her servants “comb me all to thunder...and won’t let me sleep in the woodshed” and make him wear fine clothes that “don’t seem to any air get through ‘em, somehow.” In civilized life, “grub comes too easy” and there is too much praying. Besides, school is about to start, and there is simply no way Huck could survive such a place.

According to Huck, the worst part is that he and Tom cannot be robbers anymore, now that they are rich. He figures that respectable people do not get to live the robber’s life, but Tom explains that the opposite is true. Unlike pirates, robbers have to come from lordly backgrounds. If Huck is a vagabond, he will not be able to join in the fun. Otherwise people will say, “Mph! Tom Sawyer’s Gang! pretty low characters in it!”

Huck wavers a bit, and Tom promises to walk him home and ask the widow to give him an easier time. Eventually Huck gives in. As they leave, he tells Tom that he can survive the respectable life if he gets to be a robber into the bargain. As the story ends, he promises that he will be an excellent robber, just the kind of robber that will make the Widow Douglas proud.

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