The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Chapter 39 Summary

Instructor: Wendy A. Garland

Wendy has a Ph.D. in Adult Education and a Master's Degree in Business Management. She has 10 years experience working in higher education.

This lesson will recap Chapter 38 of Mark Twain's 1884 novel ''The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.'' It will then summarize Chapter 39, where Huck and Tom continue to try and make Jim into an authentic prisoner.


In Chapter 38 of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Tom offered a few ideas in order to authenticate Jim's so-called prison cell. When Jim protested the unnecessary trouble, Tom told Jim that it all created chances at greatness for him.

Huck and Tom Gather Animals for the Cell

As Chapter 39 of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn begins, Huck and Tom gather snakes, rats, and spiders for Jim to keep as pets. Tom still insists that this will add authenticity, or realism, to their prisoner story because he has read about it in his books. But their effort to make Jim's cabin a realistic prison cell backfires when they accidentally infest the Phelps' house with rats and snakes. Aunt Sally becomes frightened and jumpy, and Jim's shed is filled with all the creatures.

Tom Writes Letters

Uncle Silas has not heard back from the fake plantation Tom had written him about, so he plans to advertise Jim in New Orleans and St. Louis papers as a captured runaway slave. Huck and Tom find out about his plans and need to do something! Since these ads will likely reach Miss Watson, Tom decides to put the last part of his plan into action immediately.

'So Tom he wrote a nonnamous letter,' writes Twain. Tom, in order to thwart Uncle Silas and to stop him running those ads, writes letters. However, he writes them from an anonymous friend, someone who is unknown by name. He warns the Phelps family about trouble coming their way.

Twain continues, '...and I smooched the yaller wench's frock that night, and put it on, and shoved it under the door, the way Tom told me to.' Huck dresses up like a girl and delivers the letters.

The Letters Terrify the Phelps Family

These letters, from an unknown person, terrify the Phelps family, especially the longer one, which warns of dangerous thieves coming to steal Jim. Tom and Huck then set out to truly scare the Phelps family in order to make sure their plan will work.

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