The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Chapter 40 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 include a brief recap of Chapter 39 of ''The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,'' and then provide a summary of Chapter 40, in which Huck and Tom finally help Jim escape from the Phelps's shed.


In Chapter 39 of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Tom and Huck tried to make Jim's shed better resemble an actual prison cell. Uncle Silas decided to post ads about Jim in New Orleans and St. Louis newspapers, which prompted Tom to write anonymous letters warning the family of dangerous thieves coming to steal Jim. The letters greatly terrified the Phelps family.

Huck Forgets The Butter

In Chapter 40 of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the Phelps family is extremely terrified and nervous about what they believe is an impending attack by a violent gang. Huck and Tom are sent to bed early for their own benefit. However, they sneak back down to the cellar and pack a lunch. They go to bed and get up just after eleven o'clock to get ready. Tom wears a dress he stole from aunt Sally as part of their plan for helping Jim escape.

Upon inspection, Tom realizes that Huck has not packed the big slab of butter like he was supposed to do in their lunch. Huck says he left it on a hunk of bread in the basement, and they can do without it just fine. But Tom insists that they need the butter! While Tom goes out, Huck reluctantly goes to the basement, and finds the butter on a hunk of bread, just where he had left it.

Huck Meets The Farmers

Before Huck can leave the basement with the bread and butter, aunt Sally comes into the basement. Panicked, Huck puts the butter and bread under his hat! Aunt Sally asks him what he is doing in the basement in the middle of the night, to which Huck has no answer. Angry, she sends him to await her in the sitting room for further questioning.

Huck enters the sitting room and is immediately dumbstruck. He is suddenly made unable to speak by the shock and surprise of seeing fifteen farmers, all armed with guns, fidgeting in their seats, eager to go after the violent gang. The nervous and impatient little movements of the farmers also make Huck nervous, and he wishes aunt Sally would already deal with him so he can go warn Tom and Jim.

Huck Scares Aunt Sally

Aunt Sally finally comes in and questions Huck, but he is so nervous about the farmers that he cannot give acceptable answers, and becomes feverish. The butter under his hat begins to melt and oozes down his neck and face. Aunt Sally thinks the butter is Huck's brain oozing out of his head due to illness, and is horrified! The farmers see this and rush over to make sure he is alright, and take his hat off his head.

That is when they see the melted butter and the bread on Huck's head. Aunt Sally is so relieved and grateful that she hugs Huck and sends him to bed without any further questions or punishment.

Huck, Tom, and Jim Escape

Huck goes to his room and goes out through the window to Jim's shed. He tells Tom about the farmers. Tom is proud of the fact that his plan has mobilized so many people, and assures Huck that Jim, now dressed as woman in aunt Sally's dress, is ready to make a break for it. However, before they can leave, the farmers come to the shed and decide to wait for the violent gang inside the shed.

Using the darkness to their advantage, Tom, Huck, and Jim escape through the hole in the shed and run for the fence. While running, Tom's pants catch a splinter on the fence rail, and as he frees himself, the splinter makes a snapping sound. This alerts the armed farmers and sets them on their trail. The farmers shout for whoever is there to identify themselves, shooting into the dark as they give chase.

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