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Free Barron's Booknotes-The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
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The "dark, deep-laid plans" of this chapter underline the contrast between the way the two boys approach problems. Tom begins by bemoaning the fact that freeing Jim would be so simple that it would embarrass any self-respecting adventurer. Uncle Silas is so trusting, and the prison is so flimsy, that they'll have to invent difficulties that the enemy has failed to supply them.

Huck has a conflict here. On the one hand, he's in awe of Tom's ability to do things up right, to bring his personal style to everything he does. On the other hand, he wants desperately to get Jim out and run off with him.

He listens as Tom lists the complications that they'll have to create in order to make the escape worthwhile. But in spite of his esteem for Tom's style, he keeps questioning why they can't just get him out and take off.

"Why, hain't you ever read any books at all?" Tom asks in exasperation. Doesn't Huck know anything about what the "best authorities" say on the subject of escaping prisoners? Has Huck no respect for such things as rope ladders, and moats, and digging out of a prison with a fork?

The answer to all those questions is "no," of course. Huck doesn't know much at all about the play-acting kind of adventure that Tom has mastered so well. It's unfortunate-for both himself and Jim-that he sees this as a mark of his own inferiority. In spite of all the questions Huck asks, he goes along with Tom in unnecessarily complicating the escape.

Another way of looking at the contrast between them is suggested by Tom's reaction when Huck tells him that one part of his plan is foolish. "It don't make no difference how foolish it is," Tom says. "It's the right way-and it's the regular way."

This is the boy, remember, who convinced Huck to try his hand at being "sivilized." For all his bravado, for all his talk about danger and adventure, Tom is a rule follower, the opposite of a rebel. For all his wild imagination, Tom is a kid who does what he thinks should be done, not what he might like to do.

Huck has shown, even in the most serious of situations, that what should be done is of little concern to him. That's why the two of them have this continual battle over how best to carry out their plan.

By the end of the chapter Huck has been bullied once again by Tom. "It ain't no use to try to learn you nothing, Huck," he says. Then he sends him off to steal some knives that they need only to complicate what they're going to do.

And Huck does as he's told, even though one part of him knows it's just plain foolishness.

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