Chapters 32-34: Huck and Tom

There is a shift here – what do you notice about the way the story is written in these few chapters?

Why is Huck happy pretending to be Tom, how does Twain present them as a ‘double’?

How does Twain develop the contrast between Huck & Jim as they plan for Jim’s rescue?

How does Twain develop Huck conscience in these chapters?

Mrs S Dutson


  1. In these few chapters, you can notice a shift in the story through how the tone changes as we get to the conclusion of the book. This is firstly shown at the beginning of chapter 32 through Huck’s solemn narration when he describes the breeze that occasionally washes over the farm. For Huck, the breeze comes across as a whisper of spirits long dead, and readers are reminded of those that have already died earlier in the novel. It is at this point that we can see how this journey is affecting Huck, perhaps indicating that as it comes to a close he is almost reeling from the events that have occurred. Also, the Phelps farm is symbolic of his return back into a civilisation, which is contrasted to how he’s been living for the last few chapters, where he has been living in his bubble with societal constrictions not moulding how he lives. The story shifts in these few chapters as it is extremely reminiscent of the beginning of the novel to readers, as the situation is very similar to that of the life they left in St Petersburg.

    Moreover, Huck was happy pretending to be Tom, as he believed that: ‘being Tom Sawyer was easy and comfortable’. Perhaps the reason for this is because Tom’s only job is being a child and he has so many adults looking out for his wellbeing, whereas with Huck for a large part of his life all he’s ever had is himself and so he grew up so quickly he was never able to be a child. While this is the reason he is so pragmatic and conscientious, it meant he never truly had a childhood. Arguably it is when Huck is with Tom that he feels like a normal boy as he idolises how Tom lives and as a result does whatever he says, and their reunion in chapter 32 is further evidence of this. Twain presents the two characters as a ‘double’ through how they interact with one another and how quickly they become partners in crime again after running into each other. They are both orphans and products of the society they live in, only it was fate on Toms side that he was able to live with his aunt and as a result became a conformist to society, whereas Huck became the outcast and individualist who cherishes his freedom.

  2. ‘Phelps farm is symbolic of his return back into a civilisation’ – this is a really interesting idea, Renee. How does Twain represent the hypocrisies in Southern society further here? Consider the comment about the death on the steamship. Huck is embroiled in lies as soon as he reaches the Phelpses’ farm, but his aim to free Jim. How is Twain showing his moral development here, how is he battling his ‘deformed conscious’ (Twain) and earning his conversion’ (Green) away from ‘sivilsed’ society.

    • A way in which Twain represents the hypocrisies in Southern society is through the introduction of the Phelp’s family when Huck stumbles into their house on the farm. As we see that how the Phelp’s family lives is somewhat a microcosm of society. This is shown by how Huck notices the fact that there is no difference between how the white children greet him and how black children greet him. This reflects Huck’s maturation into a knowledge of racial equality as he sees the way in which he has been made to believe by Miss Watson and Widow Douglas and ‘sivilized’ southern society as a whole, is extremely hypocritical. Additionally, this is further seen when Aunt Sally questions Huck about his trip and asks if anyone was hurt in the explosion Huck had made up, Huck replies no, a ’n*****’ was killed, and Sally expresses relief that the explosion was so ‘lucky’. Aunt Sally’s attitude is extremely representative of common people’s attitudes in Southern society. She is an upstanding, religious woman who is married to a priest and altogether a sweet lady, therefore for Twain to have her react this way illustrates the real hypocrisy of the societal norms of the nineteenth century. Huck knows how whites do not view black people as people at all but rather as expendable property only and as a result uses this knowledge to his advantage. He knows that Sally’s response to him saying a black person was killed will dictate how he plays his act, and solidify his charade as a ‘sivilized’ member of society who adheres to common beliefs.

      Furthermore, Twain shows Huck’s moral development through how Huck has the chance to have this ‘easy and comfortable’ life, imitating Tom and being with the Phelp’s, but his aim is still to free Jim and risk the comfortable life he could have. Arguably this is where Huck has earned his conversion from ‘sivilized’ society as he has chosen to risk his easy and comfortable chance of life in civilisation for his friend to be free. Perhaps this is where Huck’s ‘deformed conscious’ comes into play as he is completely morally correct with freeing Jim but now coming back into civilised society again he is around people who all around him hold this commonly accepted view. While in this ‘sivilized’ society Huck’s views would be seen as wrong and Sally’s as right and normal, contemporary audiences would view her as a bigot.

  3. I find there is a shift here in the respect that after the outlandish episodes of the Duke and the King, the novel changes in tone. Twain is less satirical, taking a more serious approach moving towards the conclusion of the novel, saying ‘it was all still and Sunday-like.’ It reminds me of the beginning of the novel, especially with the re-introduction of Tom Sawyer to the novel – something I was surprised with.

    Huck is happy with pretending to be Tom because it gives him a taste of familiarity, which perhaps say something, because although Huck undoubtedly felt trapped by St Petersburg society, he does seem glad to somewhat be reminded of his roots and the adventures he once had with Tom Sawyer’s gang which was child’s play relative to what Huck has been through over the course of the novel. ‘What a head for just a boy to have! If I had Tom Sawyer’s head I wouldn’t trade it off to be a duke, nor mate of a steamboat, nor clown in a circus, nor nothing I can think of.’ The way that Huck impersonates Tom so effortlessly shows how they are somewhat ‘double’. In addition, Huck immediately has this hunch as to where he can find Tom.

    I think the contrast between Jim and Huck is made much more apparent in these chapters. Huck is obviously much younger than Jim, but he is still the one to rescue Jim. It shows how systematic racism has indeed warped social order. On a more obvious note, Jim is stuck in a shack whereas Huck is being well-fed by Tom’s aunt and uncle. This is similar to the escapades throughout the novel, more blatanlty when he stays with the Grangerfords. However, what really stuck out to me was when Tom and Huck are planning Jim’s escape, and Tom treats it as an adventure or a game, not that this could save Jim from a life of slavery. It is ‘Tom’s Sawyer’s triumph’ as Cox puts it. Yet, we don’t scold them for it, as it is like Bloom says Huck ‘is simply acting as a product of his society.’

  4. The story seems to revert back to the civilisation Huck is aware of, as he returns to a Southern style farm. The crazy schemes of the Duke and King completely contrast this ‘normal’ situation. However, the hypocrisy Huck managed to escape from is once again evident when Huck tells the false story of his arrival, stating that a black passenger was killed, and Aunt Sally replies, “Well, it’s lucky; because sometimes people do get hurt”. This glaring hypocrisy is what Huck has had to cope with throughout the novel – people who seem either intelligent, kind or moral but manage to disregard the lives of black people so easily. Twain has shown the hypocrisy of Southern Society throughout the novel through the characters Huck meets and the interactions he shares with them. Every character seems to have some contradiction.
    Furthermore, the tone changes with the arrival of Tom. His introduction further reminds us of the life Huck left behind, particularly the childhood of Huck – he is still an innocent child and easily influenced by others. Huck seems to regard Tom as a sort of role model, because he is upset and disappointed when Tom agrees to help “steal Jim out of slavery”. In reality, Tom is almost like a foil to Huck. He is careless and does not understand the consequences of his actions – if the plan goes wrong, Jim will have to pay the price. His Romantic notions contrast Huck’s Realist stance that we have seen throughout the novel – Huck does not care for the “authorities” and wants to do what he decides is right. Twain develops this contrast between the boys to show Huck’s development since St Petersburg. Even though he does still admire Tom and follows his lead, Huck emerges as a practical and mature thinker, completely different to Tom’s “romantical” adventures. Yet Tom is a foil to Huck because Tom prevents this development and progress that we have seen through the course of the book. The return to an adventure story seems to halt the moral progression that Huck was making, and morphs into an absurd adventure story. Twain seems to move more towards the adventure story than to the journey of Huck’s conscience and growth.

  5. At the beginning of the section there is a clear tonal change. Like mentioned prior, it becomes apparent that the original story is re-established, reverting back to the Huck’s previous life of living on a farm and the Phelpses’ farm is arguably made to be reminiscent of the Widow Douglas’ farm during the opening, potentially hinting that Huck’s adventures with Jim are finally coming to a close and they can live their lives in the free states, without the constant interruption of others. It is also interesting to look at how Huck appears to be happy to imitate Tom ‘but if they was joyful…for it was like being born again’ (clear link to TGG -Gatsby reinventing himself, opportunistic) and ‘being Tom Sawyer was easy and comfortable’, it seems that due to Tom’s familiarity to Huck, he can easily hide his true identity with previous adventure stories of him and Tom. Twain presents them as a ‘double’ in the sense that Huck has lived the adventure that Tom has experienced in the past (and plagiarised through stories he’s read), which could be why at the start of Chapter 33 Huck says that Tom ‘Wanted to know all about it… it was a grand adventure… it hit him where he lived’. Tom is so eager to to know of Huck’s adventures as he feels that they are equal in experience and have that wanderlust adventure to share between them. Twain begins to develop a stark difference between the two boys, Huck’s approach to Jim’s rescue is more methodical and logical, whereas Tom is critical of the plan simply because there isn’t any adventure to it, ‘it’s too blame’ simple; there ain’t nothing to it’. This exposes Tom’s carelessness in the pursuit of his ‘Romantical’ adventure, his nonchalant nature is frustrating in the way that he is putting not only Huck at risk, but also risking the life of Jim who would sure enough be hung if caught escaping. The involvement of Tom in Huck’s plan hinder the progression of Huck and arguably interrupt the methodical, logical action that would’ve resulted in the safe return of Jim without the careless endangerment of all parties involved.

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