The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Chapter 36 Summary

Instructor: Molly Richards

Molly has ten years of middle school teaching experience and two master's degrees in teaching.

In Chapter 36 of ''The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,'' Tom and Huck set out to free Jim in the most daring and difficult way they know how. Because, according to Tom, if they are not about to get caught, then they are not doing a good job.


After Tom Sawyer's arrival on the Phelps's plantation, he and Huck Finn devised a plan to help free their runaway slave friend, Jim, who had been caught and is being held in a cabin on the Phelps's farm. After much deliberation, Tom convinced Huck that the only way to rescue someone is to make it difficult, because there is no such thing as an easy escape. They agreed to dig Jim out from the hut by going under the attached shed and using kitchen knives Huck stole from aunt Sally. As they began, they kept on the lookout for uncle Silas, aunt Sally, and the superstitious slave, Nat, who watches over Jim.

Dull Knives

With their plan in place, Tom and Huck wait until dark to go back down to the cabin where Jim is being kept. They find a spot in the adjoining shed and begin digging with their kitchen knives, though the pick-axes and shovels are not far away. But Tom says using those tools would not be moral or right, according to the books he's read. So they dig for hours, making no progress, until their hands are blistered and sore.

Finally Tom concedes, even though he does not like the idea, and tells Huck they can use the pick-axe and shovel. Huck is happy to hear Tom speak sense. He says that when he wants to steal something, like a watermelon or Jim, he does not care how he does it. Tom hears Huck say this and then goes back on what he just said, because he thinks he knows the rules better. 'It might answer for you to dig Jim out with a pick...because you don't know no better; but it wouldn't for me, because I do know better.' So he asks Huck to hand him a knife. Huck starts to hand him his knife but Tom says no. Huck reads between the lines and hands him a pick-axe, which Tom gladly accepts. Then the two get back to work until they cannot work any longer.

Writing Materials

The next day, the boys plot to get materials for Jim to write with. Tom steals a candlestick and a spoon to make pens with, and six candles, from inside the house, while Huck steals three tin plates from the slave quarters. Then they wait until dark to go back to working on their hole. The two dig for the next two and a half hours and are finally in. They crawl under Jim's bed and wake him up. He is very glad to see them and wants to get out as fast as possible, but that is not how Tom's plan works. Tom tells him of their lengthy plan and begins asking Jim a lot of questions. Jim tells the boys that aunt Sally and uncle Silas visit him every day to pray and make sure he is comfortable.

This is just the information Tom needs, because he figures this is how they will get some things to him. Tom tells him they will put things in uncle Silas's coat pockets, and tie things to aunt Sally's apron strings for Jim to steal. He also says they will bake a pie with a rope ladder in it that they will get to him through Nat. Jim thinks it is all absurd but goes along with it anyway. The three have a smoke and then Tom and Huck head on their way, with Tom very proud of his plan and how it is all working out.

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