Summary—Chapter 35: Respectable Huck Joins the Gang
Huck Finn’s wealth and the fact that he was now under the Widow Douglas’s protection introduced him into society—no, dragged him into it, hurled him into it—and his sufferings were almost more than he could bear.See Important Quotations Explained
The news of the gold shocks the village and inspires dozens of treasure hunters. The money is invested and provides both boys an allowance of almost a dollar a day—equal to the minister’s salary.
Becky tells her father about how noble Tom has been, and the judge decides that Tom should go to the National Military Academy and then become a lawyer. Huck, meanwhile, suffers terribly under the burden of being civilized. He bears wearing clean clothes, sleeping in sheets, and eating with a knife and fork for three weeks; he then runs away. The town searches for him, but to no avail. Tom finds him, eventually, sleeping in an abandoned slaughterhouse, and Huck tells his friend that he simply is not cut out for a respectable life. The Widow Douglas makes him dress nicely and forbids him to spit, swear, or smoke.
Tom replies that Huck can do as he pleases, but if he wants to join Tom’s gang of robbers, he has to be respectable. Otherwise, he says, Huck’s sour reputation will drag down the whole gang. Huck agrees to try the widow’s house again for a month—provided that Tom allows him to belong to the gang.
Twain writes that the story must end here because it is strictly a story about a boy. Were the story to continue, he states, it would quickly become the story of a man. He adds that most of the characters in the story are still alive and that he might one day explore how they turned out.
In a way, the town rewards Tom for his disobedience. It hails him as a hero in relation to three actions that are marked by mischief—his return from Jackson’s Island, his testimony against Injun Joe, and his return from the caverns. A model boy would never get lost in a cave or be able to lie “upon a sofa with an eager auditory about him and [tell] the history of the wonderful adventure.” Tom’s adventuresome spirit leads him into risks that others would not attempt, and his payoff is heroism.
Twain’s message, however, is not that disobedience is a virtue. Others who disobey, such as Injun Joe, fall prey to Twain’s criticism without any heroic tempering. Although Injun Joe, Tom, and Huck are all inherently mischievous, Injun Joe harms others to satisfy his inclinations. Tom and Huck, though true to their mischievous natures, never allow themselves to harm others—they feel bad even about stealing bacon. A third category of characters in the novel includes those who obey outwardly but harbor malevolence on the inside—Sid, for example. These hypocrites are the subtle antiheroes of the novel.