The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Chapter 42 Summary

Instructor: Erica Schimmel

Erica has taught college English writing and literature courses and has a master's degree in children's literature.

Things finally come to a head for Huck when Jim and Tom are returned to Aunt Sally's. In chapter 42 of Mark Twain's ''The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,'' the truth comes to light.

He's Alive!

At the beginning of chapter 42, after a long night of waiting, Tom, or 'Sid' as Aunt Sally and Uncle Silas know him, has still not returned. Huck sits with Sally and Silas, watching the distressed older couple. After a little while, Silas remembers a letter he picked up at the post office the day before from Sally's sister, Aunt Polly.

Before Sally gets a chance to open it, though, she drops it and runs outside when she sees Tom being carried to the house on a mattress. The doctor accompanies him, along with a group of people leading a tied-up Jim. Though Tom is in serious condition, he is alive. Huck quickly picks up the letter and hides it before following Aunt Sally.

The Doctor Stands Up For Jim

While Aunt Sally runs to get a room ready for Tom, Huck follows the men to find out Jim's fate. Some of the men argue for hanging Jim right away, but others are not willing to pay for him if Jim's owner shows up.

Although they decide against hanging him, the men still 'cussed Jim considerble, though, and give him a cuff or two, side the head, once in a while.' Despite this treatment, Jim never says a word, and does not give any indication that he knows Huck. The men take him back to the same cabin and chain his hands and legs to 'a big staple drove into the bottom log.' They decide he should be guarded and only given bread and water until either his owner shows up or he is sold at auction.

After a little while of this, the doctor steps in and tells them not to 'be no rougher on him than you're obleeged to, because he ain't a bad nigger.' When the doctor had arrived at Tom's side, he saw immediately that he would not be able to do anything for the boy without help, and he had said this thought out loud.

As soon as he said it, Jim had appeared and told him he would help. Though the doctor was nervous at first, Jim was an attentive and faithful helper, even though he himself was obviously worn out. The doctor exclaims, 'a nigger like that is worth a thousand dollars - and kind treatment, too.' After hearing his story, the other men agree to stop beating Jim.

Tom's Condition Improves

Huck is worried about having to explain what happened, but Aunt Sally does not leave Tom's side all day, and he avoids Silas. The next day, after hearing Tom is improved, Huck goes to his room. He finds Tom sleeping, and decides to wait for him to wake up. While he is waiting, Aunt Sally comes in, overjoyed that Tom is well on his way to full recovery.

They watch Tom sleep until he wakes up, anxious to know how he got back to the house. He is relieved when Huck tells him Jim is all right. Not hearing the tone in Huck's voice, Tom asks whether he has told Aunt Sally about their plan, and how they managed to set Jim free. Oblivious, Tom happily recounts the entire escapade to a shocked Aunt Sally - how they had to steal all the materials, and how it 'cost us a power of work,' but finally 'we done it all by ourselves, and wasn't it bully, aunty!'

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