Big Read Recap: Tom Sawyer, Chs. XXXIII-XXXV, Conclusion

If readers were doubting that Tom Sawyer was the quintessential boy’s book, the final three chapters will dispel any doubt. Twain folds in every fantasy any boy has ever entertained in the conclusion to his first solo effort to write a novel.

Why, looky here:

Chapter XXXII

Right after being praised for his ingenuity and bravery while lost in the cavern, Tom is told that no other child will ever get lost in the cave. Judge Thatcher has had the entrance blocked with a boiled iron door.

Tom gets to play knight to the rescue again as he breathlessly informs the Judge that Injun Joe is still in the cave. Once the Judge, Tom, and several men arrive to pry the iron door open, they are met with a gruesome sight. Injun Joe lies dead at the entrance to the cave. Since he died alone, our narrator speculates, in typical hyperbolic boy-language that Injun Joe had hacked away at the iron door with his Bowie knife “in order to be doing something.” The lack of candle stubs and the remains of bat claws must mean that Injun Joe had done the best he could to keep from starving, but in the end, it wasn’t good enough. It was a grisly death worthy of an active imagination.

But Tom has one more exploit up his sleeve. With Injun Joe out of the way, he and Huck scheme to reenter the cave in search of Injun Joe’s illicit treasure. X marked the spot in the shape of a cross. And while the boys dig through the stony surface, they recall all their favorite ghost-repelling superstitions and decide that the cross is also keeping the restless ghost of Injun Joe at bay.

As Tom and Huck dig for the gold, Tom describes his plans to start a new gang, a robber gang, Tom Sawyer’s Gang. They’ll kidnap people and hold them for ransom, organize raids and orgies (although they don’t know what orgies are and don’t much care. They just know they have to “do ever’thing proper like.”) They swear not to kill the women because the women will just be falling in love with the robbers anyway. And Tom insisted that the robbers will have very good manners even if they do carry guns.

Treasure discovered, Tom and Huck carry it out sack by sack, still discussing plans for the robber gang. They slowly make their way back to town with their loot. There they are waylaid by the Welchman, Mr. Jones, who is hunting for the boys as they are the last two missing guests of honor at a party being thrown by the Widow Douglas. This adventure isn’t ending on a high note. Both boys are told to get into Sunday suits before coming down to join the party.

Chapter XXXIV

It’s the Widow Douglas’ party, but they’ll leave if they want to. Huck doesn’t want to stay for the widow’s shindig honoring Mr. Jones and his sons for saving her life. Tom insists he’ll be Huck’s wingman as Sid appears to share the news that Mr. Jones’ plan to announce Huck’s heroics will fall flat ‘cause everyone knows already. Tom slaps Sid upside the head and heads down to the party to bask in further glory that includes Mr. Jones, his burly sons, and the bashful Huck giving his best “shucks, ma’am, tweren’t nuthin” speech.

Tom sees a way to redirect attention to his friend and says, “Hey, check it out. Treasure.” The guests are agog.

Chapter XXXV

Now that both boys are rich, life is, well, unchanged for the most part. Tom’s life is no different, but for Huck, money means the loss of freedom. Huck runs away to a hogshead barrel and some pilfered food. He wants to support himself, enjoy his free life, and shuffle off the trappings of society.

Unfortunately, you can’t be a wastrel and belong to a gang. Tom makes a bargain with Huck. Huck will go back to living with the Widow Douglas, wearing shoes, and eating with a fork, and he can belong to the robber gang. Huck’s a little leery but agrees to go back.


So endeth this chronicle.

It being strictly the history of a boy, it must stop here; the story could not go on much further without becoming the history of a man.

This is a boy’s book. Not a grownup’s. And the narrator isn’t going to tell you anymore, so you can stop reading now. Anytime.

So what'd you think? Glad you read it? What was your favorite part? How does it compare with Twain's other works? What would you have changed about the story? And, most of important of all, what will you read next?

Previous Recaps

Chs. I-IV

About the Author

Kaite Stover

Kaite Mediatore Stover is the Readers Services Manager at the Kansas City Public Library. She is a regular guest on KCUR's Book Doctors segment and moderator of The Kansas City Star’s FYI Book Club. She can tap dance, read tarot cards, and doesn’t bite.