The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Chapter 38 Summary

Instructor: Molly Richards

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

In Chapter 38 of ''The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn'', Tom Sawyer continues to go to great lengths to make Jim's escape as adventurous as possible. But even Jim begins to doubt the extent of Tom's plans.


Aunt Sally began to notice the missing items around the house, items that Huck and Tom Sawyer had stolen for Jim's escape. Luckily, Uncle Silas took the brunt of it, and it did not help when he found the planted spoon in his coat pocket. Tom and Huck slowly drove Aunt Sally mad while counting spoons, and the boys seemed to get away without getting caught. They snuck the supplies to Jim and even baked a witch pie with a rope ladder inside. But Tom's plan is far from over, because for him, the adventure is just beginning.

Coat of Arms

Part of Tom's elaborate plan is to give Jim tools for writing inscriptions and keeping a journal. Just like every good prisoner, according to Tom, Jim needs to leave behind an infamous tale of the woes of his escape. Jim and Huck do not know quite what to think, but they continue with Tom's plan. Huck and Jim set to work on making writing tools out of spoons and candlesticks for Jim's inscriptions, which is difficult work, but Jim is more worried about the writing part, since he does not know how to write. Tom begins to think Jim should also have a coat of arms (a shield with symbols that represent Jim) to leave behind. Jim is so confused by what a coat of arms is (he thinks it might be a real coat) and has no idea what Tom is talking about. 'He's got to have it. All the nobility does.'

Mournful Inscriptions

After getting Jim's shield squared away, Tom gets to work on Jim's mournful inscription, which reads, 'Here a mournful heart busted,' among a few lines. Tom is so moved by all of them that he cannot just choose one, so instead he decides that Jim can write all of them. Jim gets flustered by this because it will take him a year to scratch all of it into the log, and besides, he does not even know how to write. Tom tells him not to worry, they will help him with it.

Tom's head, always lost in an adventure novel, leads him to believe that real prisoners would not scratch their inscriptions on logs, but rather rock. This idea scares Jim more than the log idea, but once again, Tom reassures both him and Huck. Tom offers Huck to help Jim and decides they can kill two birds with one stone, by using the rock for both the inscription and the coat of arms. Huck's hands are sore from trying to make one pen out of a candlestick, let alone carve something into a rock.

But Tom finds a large grindstone down at the mill that he thinks will work perfectly. He and Huck set out to roll it back to the shed but only make it halfway before having to stop from exhaustion. They go back and get Jim, who follows them out, chain and all, and rolls the rock back with Huck. Of course they get there and the rock will not fit through the hole, so Jim picks up an ax and widens it. Once the grindstone is in Jim's room, Tom outlines the letters on the rock for Jim and tells him to get to work.


Tom tells Jim he can stop when his candle quits chiseling, but then thinks of one more thing. He asks Jim if he has any spiders, to which Jim answers no, he would rather have a rattlesnake. Tom thinks that is a much better idea, as Jim can tame a rattlesnake. Jim is so fearful and begs Tom to not make him get one. But Tom assures him every prisoner has a dumb pet, and Jim might even be the first to have a rattlesnake! What glory!

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account