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Free Barron's Booknotes-The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
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THE STORY - CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER 23

The plot line that concerns Dr. Robinson's murder ends with Muff Potter's trial and Tom's testimony, which provides the climax of the story (and, some readers feel, of the novel itself). As the murder story is resolved, a fourth story begins, involving the fate of Injun Joe.

Muff Potter's trial for murder brings the sleepy town to life. Tom and Huck wrestle with their consciences. But they won't come forth and tell what they know about the murder for fear Injun Joe will kill them.

During the first two days of the trial, the boys hang around outside the courthouse and learn that things are going poorly for Potter. Tom stays out late the night of the second day, although Twain doesn't explain why. Tom's "tremendous state of excitement" keeps him awake for several hours. Can you imagine where he has been?


The courthouse is packed on the third day of the trial. Tom takes the stand as a surprise witness.

He glances at Injun Joe and is at first speechless. Yet he finds his voice and explains that he and someone else (Potter's lawyer counsels him not to reveal Huck's name yet) saw Muff Potter knocked out and Dr. Robinson murdered by Injun Joe.

At these words, Injun Joe leaps through the window and disappears. Thus ends the story of Dr. Robinson's murder. But its resolution creates another mystery and a fourth plot line. What will happen to Injun Joe? Will he try to kill Tom and Huck, as the boys feared?

NOTE: TOM'S MATURATION

Does Tom's bravery surprise you? It shouldn't, because Twain has carefully prepared you for it with a parallel episode, where Tom took the blame for Becky after she tore Mr. Dobbins' anatomy book. He seems to have reached a stage in his moral development where he is not merely able to tell the difference between right and wrong but also to act what he believes is right.

How does he differ from Huck in this regard? Why didn't Huck step forward with Tom, or instead of Tom? Some readers feel that, as a child of the streets, Huck lives by a code that puts his own survival first. Others explain the difference between the two boys by pointing to Tom's "Presbyterian conscience"- his fear of God's wrath. Watch for further evidence of Tom's maturity in the remaining chapters.

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Free Barron's Booknotes-The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
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