Adventures of Huckleberry Finn


Mark Twain

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Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Chapter 41 Summary & Analysis

Huck fetches a nice old doctor, telling him that Tom is his brother and that, while the two were out hunting, Tom had a bad dream and kicked his gun, which shot him. When the doctor asks Huck to tell him again how Tom was wounded, Huck says that “‘He had a dream…and it shot him.’” The doctor replies: “‘Singular dream.’”
The doctor assumes that Huck misspeaks when he says that it was Tom’s dream that shot him, but in a sense this is exactly what happened: Tom’s fealty to his romantic, impractical dream of Jim’s escape led the farmers who shot Tom to be on the lookout in the first place.
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The doctor paddles off in a canoe to the raft where Tom is, but the canoe can only carry one person, so Huck is forced to stay behind. He sleeps in a lumber pile that night, and by the time he wakes the sun is up. He decides to go to the where Tom and Jim are to prevent the doctor from exposing Jim to capture, but bumps into Uncle Silas as he sets out. Eventually, Uncle Silas takes Huck home, much to Aunt Sally’s relief.
It is noble that Huck is always concerned with protecting Jim whenever he can, just as Jim protected him during their journey on the river. But Huck is not always free to act as he will. For example, he would go with the doctor, but the canoe can only carry one person. Huck’s freedom is limited in part by external circumstances.
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At the Phelps house, neighbors are gathered, talking about how crazy it is that Jim made inscriptions in the grindstone and the like, and they all reason that he must have had help from other slaves, who they also reason must have stolen things from the Phelps house. Soon, Aunt Sally wonders why Tom and Huck weren’t in their room that morning. Huck gets up, thinks about it, and by way of explanation he lies to her.
The neighbors are right to think that a person who follow’s Tom escape plan is crazy, or at least, in Tom’s case, disastrously immature. Note, also, that the neighbors demonstrate their racism in thinking it must have been other slaves who helped Jim, not even considering that Huck and Tom could be responsible.
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Aunt Sally grows increasingly worried that “Sid” (i.e., Tom) hasn’t come home yet. Huck volunteers to fetch him, but Aunt Sally tells him he’ll do no such thing. Uncle Silas goes out to look for “Sid,” but he doesn’t even come across his path. After Aunt Sally tucks Huck into bed, she speaks with him and begins to cry. Huck feels so bad about making her worry that he promises her that he won’t go off to look for “Sid” despite himself, and he keeps his word.
When not in the company of Tom, Huck is restored to his good senses. He realizes how needlessly stressful Tom’s plan has been for the Phelpses, and with noble self-discipline he declines to act on his own impulse to go to Tom for Aunt Sally’s sake. Tom is a good friend, but not a good influence, on Huck.
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