The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

by: Mark Twain

Chapters 30–32

While Becky sleeps, Tom explores side passages with the aid of a kite line. He sees a candle on the other side of a pitfall and then sees Injun Joe holding it and retreats in terror. Not wanting to frighten Becky, he doesn’t tell her what he has seen, and he continues to explore other passages.

Summary—Chapter 32: “Turn Out! They’re Found!”

Tuesday night arrives, and Tom and Becky still have not been found. Only Judge Thatcher and a few companions continue searching the cave. Then, in the middle of the night, news arrives that the children have turned up, and St. Petersburg celebrates. The children are taken to the Thatcher house, where a weakened Tom describes their escape. The kite string ran out while he was exploring a gallery, and he was about to turn back when he saw a speck of daylight in the distance. He abandoned the string and crawled forward until he could push through a hole and see the Mississippi River. He then went back and found Becky, and from there, the two crawled out and went to the nearest house, five miles downstream from the cave.

Judge Thatcher and the last searchers learn that the children have been found. Tom and Becky are bedridden for most of the rest of the week. Tom goes to see the invalid Huck that Friday, but the Widow Douglas warns him to avoid any upsetting topics. Tom learns about Injun Joe’s attempt against the widow and also hears that Injun Joe’s companion was found drowned while trying to escape.

Two weeks after he finds his way out of the cave, Tom talks to Judge Thatcher and is told that the door of the cave has been shut and bolted from the outside to prevent anyone else from getting lost. Tom becomes horrified and tells the judge that Injun Joe remains in the caverns.

Analysis—Chapters 30–32

At the end of Chapter 29, the novel seems to be moving toward a final confrontation at the Widow Douglas’s house, but that resolution is thwarted when the Welshman chases off Injun Joe. Twain also removes Huck from the action by having him get sick. This temporary elimination of two main characters leaves the novel’s focus on Tom and Becky, lost in the cave. Twain narrates the episode of their entrapment with superb realism and suspense. We experience vividly their hunger and their fear, their swings between hope and despair.

We can view the cave scene as a miniature version of Tom’s entire journey toward maturity. Tom’s immaturity and his lack of foresight lead him and Becky to stay away from the others for too long and to forget to make marks on the walls so that they can find their way back to the entrance. Once they are lost, however, Tom rises to the occasion. He assumes responsibility for his mistakes, behaves generously toward Becky, and takes practical measures like saving candles and finding a spring to sit by once the candles are nearly gone. Tom takes the initiative to explore the side passages around the spring, while Becky, who is less rugged, sleeps or lies in a daze. Eventually, Tom’s persistence and continued resourcefulness lead him and Becky out of the cave. As Tom matures, his adaptability develops, along with his willingness to accept his own mistakes.