Monday, February 18, 2013

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Chapters XXX-XLIII

            Before long, the duke and dauphin are making plans again to swindle money out of unsuspecting townspeople.  During a fight on shore, Huck finds a way to escape from them, but when he returns to the raft, Jim is gone.  Huck learns that Jim was sold to a man named Silas Phelps and figures out later that it was the dauphin who sold him.  All this effort to help Jim to freedom has been for nothing, it seems. 

            Huck’s conscience begins to weigh heavy on him again.  He wants to write to Tom Sawyer to inform Miss Watson where her slave is, but then considers how he would appear to others given that he has helped Jim run all this time.  He thinks about what a good man Jim is, and he cannot bring himself to notify Miss Watson.  Instead he resolves not to write the letter.  If helping a slave become free means going to hell, then Huck would rather go to hell.

            Huck makes it to the Phelp’s home, only to be greeted by Sally Phelps who thinks Huck is her nephew, Tom Sawyer, whom they have been expecting.  He plays along, and later meets Tom before he arrives at the house to let him in on the misunderstanding; of course Tom plays along as his half-brother “Sid” and agrees to help Huck free Jim.

            The boys discover that Jim is being kept locked in a shed, and the plan seems fairly simple getting him out.  However, we’re talking Tom Sawyer, and there is no such thing as fairly simple.  This calls for adventure, like in the books we read.  Tom devices such an adventure that takes days and days.  Even Jim was assigned work on his own “evasion,” as it is called when a prisoner of style escapes; Huck described it as “…more trouble and worry and responsibility to be a prisoner than anything he ever undertook…” 

Part of the elaborate escape plan:
Jim must serenade the creatures.
Photo courtesy of Dave Thomson  
            It was such an elaborate escape plan, and they almost were caught; and though the local farmers shot Tom in the leg, they got away, and Jim was free.  Huck must get a doctor to Tom, and he does, but Huck is brought home by Silas Phelps, and Aunt Sally will not let him leave.  When the doctor brings Tom to the Phelps’ home, Jim is with them in chains.   He is treated unkindly, but the doctor tells the farmers that Jim sacrificed his own life to help Tom, whom everyone still thinks is “Sid.”

            Then a weary Tom tells everyone that Miss Watson died a few months ago and set Jim free.  He is really a free man after all.  The whole escape plan was truly for the adventure of it all.  They release Jim and praise him for helping Tom.

            And since Tom’s Aunt Polly, Sally’s sister, arrives, the whole truth is known that Tom is Huck and “Sid” is really Tom.  Now Aunt Sally wants to adopt and “sivilize” Huck, but Huck wants to head out West.  He has had enough of civilization for a while.

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