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Free Barron's Booknotes-The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
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CHAPTER 2

As Huck and Tom begin sneaking past the house in the dark, they make enough noise to attract the attention of Jim, Miss Watson's black slave. He comes out of the kitchen to see what caused the noise, sits down in the dark to wait for it to happen again, and falls asleep.

Tom slips into the kitchen to steal some candles for their adventure, and when he comes back, Huck is anxious to get going. But Tom insists on playing a prank on Jim before they leave. Huck knows this is a dumb idea, because if Jim wakes up, they'll be in deep trouble for sneaking out of the house after dark.

But dumb or not, Tom gets to do what he wants. As the self- appointed leader of the gang, Tom manages to get his own way just about all the time. So he lifts Jim's hat from his head and hangs it on a nearby limb. Huck tells us that Jim later turned this incident into an elaborate tale of being visited by witches while he slept.

Huck and Tom get together with the rest of the gang, and they all travel downriver to a cave Tom has picked out as a meeting place. Huck reports what happens at the meeting, making no comment on it.

At the meeting, Tom outlines his plan for forming a gang of bloodthirsty robbers. He talks of the blood oath they'll take together. He says that anyone who reveals the gang's secrets will be killed, along with his whole family. He describes what will be done with the body of such a traitor.


Where does Tom get such ideas? He gets them from the adventure books he reads. Unfortunately, he doesn't always understand what he's reading, as you'll be able to tell later from his explanation of what it means to "ransom" someone.

Read this whole scene very carefully, and you'll get a good picture of what Tom is-a kid who's smarter than most of the others, but not nearly as smart as he thinks he is. Tom does read more than the others, he does have a quick mind and a lively imagination. But he's the leader of this group more because of his forceful personality than any real difference between him and the others. If you wanted to be very critical of Tom, you could call him two things-a phony and a bully.

But Huck doesn't say anything along these lines. He doesn't see how ridiculous Tom's statements are. He works from the assumption that Tom is much smarter than he is and he takes Tom's statements at face value. As was true in the first chapter, Twain doesn't expect you to be that naive. He expects you to see the truth about Tom, even if the young narrator misses it.

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