By Knowles John
By Knowles John
John Knowles was born in West Virginia in 1926. In 1941, at the age of fifteen, Knowles left home to attend Phillips Exeter Academy, a boarding school in New Hampshire, from which he graduated in 1945.
Upon graduation, he spent less than one year in the Air Force and subsequently attended Yale University, from which he graduated in 1949. Upon graduation from Yale, Knowles was employed as a freelance writer as well as a journalist.
It was Knowles’ friend and fellow Yale alumnus Thornton Wilder who convinced him to continue his pursuits as a writer, and he was successful in publishing numerous short stories before having his first novel, “A Separate Peace”, published in 1959. Though Knowles had eight other novels published, none of them had the success of his first. “A Separate Peace” has been critically acclaimed and continues to be very successful to this day.
As the adage goes, “write what you know”, and that is exactly what Knowles did. “A Separate Peace” is set in a boarding school, much like the one Knowles attended in his adolescence.
The character of Gene Forrester is a lot like Knowles in that he is a transplant from the South, attending a boarding school in the New England area during the Second World War. Many of the activities and characters in the novel are based on experiences that Knowles himself witnessed and was party to at Exeter. Knowles has made it clear that the more vicious and darker themes of the novel are purely fictional, as he greatly enjoyed his time at Exeter and did not have the same negative experiences as his characters.
Gene Forrester is a sixteen year old boy attending summer classes at Devon School, a private boarding school in New Hampshire. Gene is good friends with Phineas (“Finny”), his roommate, and another boy named Elwin Lepellier (“Leper”). It becomes obvious that all is not sunshine and roses between Gene and Finny as Gene is jealous of Finny’s charm and knack for getting away with everything, as well as his superior athletic skills.
An accident happens one day when the boys are going to jump out of a tree, and Finny falls and shatters his leg, which is the end of his athletic career. Gene feels bad; worrying it is his fault that Finny fell because he made the branch shake, though Finny believes it to be an accident. When the boys come back to school for the Fall Finny it still at home recovering and Gene visits him to confess that it is his fault Finny fell.
Finny is furious with Gene but does not want to believe that it is true. Back at school one of the senior boys makes a joke that Gene pushed Finny on purpose, so he could have their room to himself, and tensions run high.
The boys all become preoccupied with the fact there is a war going on and they would all like to fight in it, rather than stay in school (WWII). When Finny returns to school he and Gene patch things up, putting Gene’s confession behind them. Finny begins training Gene to be an athlete in his place and to hopefully become an Olympian.
Leper decides to join the Army, but soon goes AWOL which he announces in a letter to Gene. Back at school the other boys relentlessly accuse Gene of pushing Finny out of the tree, and Leper takes their side, believing that Gene did, in fact, cause the fall. Finny hobbles off on his crutches in total distress and falls down the hard marble steps of the school, breaking his leg all again.
Gene visits Finny before his operation, and they make peace, which is good because Finny does not live through the operation. The novel concludes with Knowles’ views on peace and war and the notion of enemies.
The narrator of the novel and a student at Devon who grew up in the south. When the novel opens, Gene is visiting the school as an adult and reflecting on the time he spent there, starting with the summer session in which his life changed forever.
Throughout the novel, Gene is tormented with the idea that he caused his best friend and roommate, Finny, to fall from a tree, breaking his leg, out of jealousy and resentment. Gene is a good student and obeys the rules, except when Finny convinces him to break them. He and Finny have a very tight bond that almost seems toxic, though they rely on one another more than even they seem to know.
Finny is a tremendous athlete who has broken many school records, extremely charming, a bit of a rebel, and well-liked by everyone. Despite that the fact that Finny is athletic he is not competitive as he would rather have a good time playing a sport than win, which is why the games he invents do not usually have teams.
Gene admires and is jealous of Finny’s relaxed attitude on life and his carefree outlook and even sees him as a sort of super-human, even though Finny is a poor student which is what matters to Gene the most. Finny falls from a tree, shattering his leg and taking sports away from him forever and eventually re-breaks it which leads to his death.
Elwin Lepellier (Leper)
Leper is a bit of a dreamer and lives in his own head in a world where there is nothing wrong, much like Finny who refuses to believe there is a war going on. Leper loves nature and being outdoors, choosing to cross-country ski to find a beaver dam rather than help the other boys shovel off the train tracks for the troops that will be passing through.
Leper believes that Gene shook the tree branch on purpose so that Finny would fall, which scares Gene. Leper joins the army when he finds out that he can ski there, though he soon goes a bit crazy and goes AWOL before they can give him a section eight discharge.
Brinker is a tough senior boy who is a model student as he gets good grades and participates in many of the school organizations. He moves into the room that Leper had previously lived in when the winter session starts as Leper had been moved to a different dorm.
Brinker has a knack for writing bad poetry and a thirst to enlist in the military, which he and Gene decide to do until Finny comes back to school and Gene decides he no longer wants to leave. Brinker makes it his mission to prove that Gene pushed Finny out of the tree, and his persistence in the matter eventually leads to Finny’s death. Brinker decided against the war at one point, and upon, graduation joined the Coast Guard, so he would not be drafted, much to the disappointment of his war-loving father.
Chet is also a student at Devon and is one of the boys who is at the tree the day Finny and Gene jump for the first time. Chet is usually in the group of boys that Gene and Finny find themselves surrounded with as he participates in Finny’s attempts to alleviate the boredom of Devon – blitzball and the carnival.
Chet is a great student, like Gene, and is the biggest competition for Gene in terms of becoming valedictorian. The difference between Gene and Chet is that Gene is very competitive and needs to prove that he is the best at something but Chet just genuinely likes to learn and study.
Dr. Stanpole is the doctor on campus at Devon and runs the infirmary. The Doctor is the one who looks after Finny in both instances where his leg is broken, and communicates with Gene mostly about Finny’s condition, knowing they are close.
It is Dr. Stanpole who has to tell Gene that Finny died while having his leg reset after the second break, and he is very regretful about it, knowing that, with the war going on, the boys are going to lose a lot of their friends. He says that a piece of marrow must have dislodged and travelled to Finny’s heart, killing him.
Mr. Patch-Withers is the substitute headmaster of Devon while the school is in summer session. He is very strict and seems basically emotionless. Mr. Patch-Withers and his wife have some of the boys over for tea one afternoon, which seems an awkward experience for all involved except for Finny who is the center of attention and very animated.
At first he is upset that Finny has worn a pink shirt and used his school tie as a belt but when Finny explains himself in his charming way Mr. Patch-Withers clearly admires him and actually laughs.
Mr. Ludsbury is the regular headmaster at Devon School. When the boys return for the fall semester, he has a talk with Gene about his disregard for the rules during summer session and is surprised with his lack of discipline as Gene is generally a quite disciplined student. When Gene and Finny tells the headmaster about the Olympic training that Gene is doing Mr. Ludsbury reminds them that any training done on campus will be for the war, to which Finny replies “no”, shocking Mr. Ludsbury as he is not accustomed to being talk-backed to.
Quackenbush is the captain of the crew team who ridicules Gene relentlessly when he wishes to become manager of the team. Managers are generally disabled students, not perfectly healthy and athletic ones, though Gene knows the reason he does not want to play any sports is because Finny can no longer play sports. Quackenbush calls Gene by his last name, “Forrester”, and his relentless teasing of Gene leads to them getting in a scuffle and falling in the very dirty river where the crew team practices. Like many of the boys, Quackenbush wishes to join the military upon graduating.
Though Hazel never appears in the story, as Devon is an all-boys school, she is somewhat of a legend and is presumably a very pretty girl from town. During the carnival, there is a snow sculpture made of her likeness, and also a lock of her hair, somehow obtained, is set to be one of the carnival prizes.
Brownie is Brinker Hadley’s roommate and is a bit of a servant for Brinker, all too gladly. Brownie has the very important job of guarding the hard cider while the boys are preparing for the winter carnival and he is also the boy who delivers Gene a telegram from Leper. Leper’s telegram reveals to Gene that he has escaped and will be at the “Christmas location.” Brownie is a very timid boy, and it is obvious that he just wants to fit in with the other boys and be accepted as one of the group.
Mr. Carhart is the chaplain of the school and leads the church ceremony each morning. Mr. Carhart believes that God is aiding the Americans in fighting the war, though Finny adamantly believes that the war is made up by fat old men who sit around and want to control the youth. After Leper goes AWOL from the army and sneaks back onto campus, Mr. Carhart is who he visits first, as he is obviously in a bad mental state and in need of some guidance.
Phil Latham is the wrestling coach at Devon School. He is one of the men the boys seek for help after Finny falls down the marble stairs as he is trained in first aid. He helps Finny to relax and helps Dr. Stanpole to get Finny to the infirmary safely. While Finny is in the infirmary, Phil Latham gives Gene some wrestling tips to, unsuccessfully, keep his mind off things.
Mrs. Lepellier is Leper’s mother. Gene meets Mrs. Lepellier when he goes to Vermont to meet Leper upon receiving his telegram. Gene assumes that Leper has escaped from spies as it would be silly of him to escape from the army. However, Gene finds that Leper has gone AWOL and is having some serious mental issues which causes him to lash out, out of fear, which concerns Mrs. Lepellier greatly. She is mad at Gene for attacking her son who she says is “ill” but she eventually forgives him when he agrees to stay for lunch and is very polite and thankful to her.
Mr. Hadley is Brinker’s father, and Gene meets him at the end of the school year. Mr. Hadley seems to be one of the fat old men who love war that Finny was always talking about. He shares his thoughts on war with Brinker and Gene, neither of whom appreciate his stand though Gene seems to understand where he is coming from, much to Brinker’s dismay. He believes that Gene and Brinker are weak for being pacifists and states that he enjoyed fighting in the First World War. Brinker thinks that his father and others who fought in WWI are the reason that WWII is happening.
While Gene and Finny are friends, it is obvious that Gene is envious of Finny. Gene is envious of Finny’s athletic ability, his nonchalance, his charm, and his ability to keep himself out of trouble in any situation. Gene is quite uptight, very competitive, and wrongly mistakes Finny for being competitive as well, not ever realizing that Finny actually admires his smarts.
It is Gene’s envy of Finny that fuels their entire friendship that is often toxic though Finny does not mean for it to be. Envy is what causes Gene to subconsciously make the tree branch shake causing Finny’s fall.
When Gene was first moving from the south to go to Devon he thought he may have to act like someone else to fit in, but he soon realized that he could just be himself. Gene has a hard time dealing with the person he is and often wishes that he could be like others, specifically Finny.
Gene does not realize that others are impressed by the person he is and his intelligence, especially Finny, and he wastes his time competing with them and being jealous. Even Brinker believes that he wants to enlist but then realizes that he does not agree with the war nor does he want any part of it. It is often difficult to come to grips with one’s identity during adolescence, and it is no different for the boys at Devon.
Though the relationship between Gene and Finny may seem toxic, due to Gene’s preoccupation with competition and jealousy, the boys really do rely on each other and their friendship quite a bit. Gene actually feels as though he and Finny are so close that they are two parts of a whole and need one another to survive.
Everything Finny and Gene do is together, and, while it seems at first like Gene needs Finny around, it is really Finny who needs Gene to keep his mind off the harsh realities of the war. The two boys have not just a friendship with an overwhelming reliance on one another.
The boys at Devon are living in a haven that is guarded by their youth. Devon is the place where the boys can be separated from what is going on in the world and with the war. As long as the boys are still in their youth they are safe from being drafted and thus can enjoy their last year or so as an adolescent before being forced to grow up in the face of warfare. Ironically Finny, who never wanted to be faced with war but finally admitted that it was really happening, did not live to be old enough to be drafted to the war he tried so hard to deny.
Most of the rebellion at Devon School is at the hands of Finny who gets away with it due to his ability to charm the pants off anyone he comes into contact with. Finny fully embraces his youth and refuses to grow up to face the realities of the world and takes advantage of finding the fun in everything he does and going through life with a very relaxed and carefree attitude.
When the realities of the war begin to face the boys at Devon some of them, such as Brinker, decide that they want nothing to do with it and rebel against society’s expectations. In most cases, the rebellion seems a catalyst for refusing to take life seriously.
The concept of memory in this novel is not very reliable as the characters often second guess themselves and never seem to know exactly what happened and when. Gene seems to remember everything about Devon when he visits the school as an adult, but no one can seem to remember exactly what happened the day Finny fell from the tree as the stories are always changing.
Gene feels like maybe he made Finny fall on purpose, but is not sure though he feels very guilty about it. Leper feels sure he saw Gene make Finny fall but later is not sure either. Finny does not really remember anything and changes his idea of what happened several times. It seems that memory is all speculation and no facts.
Fear is central to adolescence, and it is no different for the boys at Devon. There is a fear of the unknown and a fear of the future, especially during wartime because the future is so unknown. Many of the boys fear going to war for something they do not believe in and other boys, like Finny, fear the seriousness of the situation.
Leper, the only one of the boys who has actually seen war, has a real, deeply ingrained fear, to the point that it makes him crazy and causes him to go AWOL. Seeing what happened to Leper makes the other boys even more fearful of becoming soldiers. Gene is the only one who seems to have fears outside of the war as he obviously fears not being good enough for others and often acts out of jealousy.
While Devon School gives its students a wholesome, religious education the boys do not necessarily seem religious except for Finny. Finny says his prayers every night and when Gene is with Finny he finds a spiritual beauty in nature and architecture.
After Finny’s accident Gene no longer sees beauty in anything and considers his spill into the dirty river with Quackenbush to be a sort of baptism into evil and vengeance. Finny represents God and light in Gene’s life as when Finny is not there everything is dark and grim, but when Finny is there Gene sees the light and hope and take the time to pray.
War is obviously central to the novel because World War II is going on and the boys are all overcome with thoughts about it and desires to enlist. Devon School begins training the boys for combat, knowing that when they graduate most of the boys will either enlist voluntarily or be drafted.
There are always recruiters coming to the school and Leper actually joins up until he becomes crazy and goes AWOL. Finny does not want to believe in the war and manages to convince himself that it is never really happening until Leper comes back, obviously a changed person. Gene has a sort of internal war going on the entire novel as he feels guilt about what has happened to Finny and a desire to make amends, yet still feels the need to compete with him.
Though Gene and Finny are close Gene has made Finny his enemy, though only within his head. Gene has created an envy of Finny that makes him hate his friend, though not knowing how to function without him at the same time; which is ironic because Finny has no hatred in his body and has no use for enemies.
Finny is a genuinely kind and honest person who is not competitive in the least, despite the fact that Gene goes out of his way to compete with Finny, though Finny never seems to notice. Gene tells Finny he would make a bad soldier because he would try to make friends with the enemy and try to play baseball with them because he does not know how to hate or compete. The boys are all expected to hate the opponents in the war though they do not understand why they should hate anyone they do not know.
The novel opens with a grown Gene Forrester (whose name is not actually revealed until the third chapter) revisiting Devon School, the boarding school he attended in his adolescence. He is disappointed that the school has not changed in fifteen years, as he thought it would have aged with him. He begins to tour the campus and describes the buildings in great detail, which seems vibrant despite the fact that his surroundings are grey and wet as he is in New Hampshire in November. He finds himself in front of the school’s famed marble staircase which is so hard that it is not even worn down after all of the years it has been there. He feels that Devon has changed, though notes that he still fears some fear at being there. Gene heads to the tree at the river that changed his life at Devon, noting that it is bigger and wearier looking than he remembers.
The story flashes back, and Gene is a boy of sixteen standing by the tree with his friend, Finny. Gene does not want to climb the tree, despite the fact that Finny insists that they should. There are three other boys standing by the tree with them, including Elwin Lepellier (“Leper”).
The boys are all deciding whether they are going to climb the tree and jump off it into the river, which Finny thinks is a great idea. Finny strips down, and the narrator comments on his athletic build, and proceeds to climb and jump out of the tree. Gene feels he must live up to everyone’s expectations and do the same. Once Gene is in the tree he mentally freaks out a bit because he fears that if he does not jump out far enough he will smash his head in the dirt. He begins to resent Finny for getting him into this situation, and then he jumps. None of the other boys would jump, making the bond between Finny and Gene stronger than ever before because they were the only ones brave enough to do it. It is summer session, so there are few students around and no Headmaster. Finny tells Gene he did a good job once he was pressured to jump, as Finny apparently always teases Gene.
The two boys stop and wrestle rather than running when the dinner bell sounds. Realizing they are too late for dinner at this point they return to their dorm and do homework while listening to the radio they smuggled in.
The next morning a substitute teacher, Mr. Prud’homme, confronts Gene and Finny for missing dinner the night before. Rather than try to make up an excuse for why they missed dinner Finny simply told Mr. Prud’homme the story what happened the night before: the beautiful day, the tree jumping, and the wrestling. The boys manage to get away without being punished, due to Finny’s ability to be boisterously friendly and charm the pants off of everyone. When the boys get dressed that day Finny puts on a pink polo shirt in honor of the U.S. having bombed Eastern Europe, though Gene picks on him for looking gay.
That afternoon the boys are set to have tea at the home of their substitute headmaster, Mr. Patch-Withers. It proves an awkward experience for all of the boys and faculty involved, though true to form Finny is the epicenter of lively conversation. In the midst of conversation, Mrs. Patch-Withers sees that Finny is using his school tie as a belt and is horrified. Gene expects that Finny will finally get into trouble, but alas he does not. Finny manages to talk himself out of yet another punishment and at the same time gets the very poker-faced Mr. Patch-Withers to laugh. Gene is at first upset but then congratulates himself for being friends with such a specimen.
As the boys are leaving the party, Finny suggests that they jump out of the tree together this time, as a symbol of solidarity. While they are walking toward the river, Finny states that he does not believe the bombing really happened and Gene agrees, because to the boys at the school the war was just something they heard about rather than something they experienced so to them, it was not real. After the boys swam for a bit, they climbed the tree together to jump in honor of the new society they formed called “The Super Suicide Society of the Summer Session”. Gene nearly falls off the branch, and Finny steadies him, then they jump. Gene realizes Finny may have just saved him.
Gene decides that he does not actually owe Finny any thanks at all because he never would have had a near-death experience had Finny not pressured him to jump from the tree in the first place. Finny decides that other boys must be inducted into their society, and he creates a series of crazy rules, one of which states that Finny and Gene will jump from the tree together at the beginning of every meeting.
The meetings occur every night, and Gene agrees to jump from the tree each time though he always fears he will fall. Finny is an adrenaline junkie only made worse by the fact that the athletic program in the summer is far inferior to the one in the normal school year, and Finny is an athlete. He proceeds to invent a game called “Blitzball” which involves tossing a medicine ball around from boy to boy, with the boy holding the ball becoming a target, and no one ever actually wins the game.
One day when Finny and Gene are at the school swimming pool all by themselves, Finny decides he wants to try to break one of the school records, which he does on the first try. Gene tells Finny to do it again in public, so Gene will not be the only one who has witnessed it, but Finny refuses and tells Gene not to ever tell anyone he did it. Finny decides that the two boys should take a trip to the beach, which is a couple hours by bike and is strictly forbidden by the school.
Gene, of course, agrees, and the boys set out on their trip. Finny greatly enjoys himself at the beach, and, though Gene is not enjoying himself quite as much Finny makes every effort to keep him entertained. They grab a hot dog for dinner and manage to get a couple of beers due to some forged draft cards they were carrying. The boys settle into to sleep on the beach and Finny tells Gene that he is his best friend and he is glad they came to the beach for the day. Gene almost tells Finny that he feels the same but changes his mind at the last minute and says nothing.
When the boys get back to school in the morning, they are just on time for Gene to take his trigonometry test, which he fails. Gene is very disappointed in failing his test, but Finny distracts him by playing blitzball and having a society meeting. Later that night Finny studies his trigonometry and Finny teases him for trying to be valedictorian. Gene denies his accusations, but when he thinks about it, he realizes that he does want to be valedictorian.
Finny is the star athlete and Gene wants to be the star scholar, to match Finny’s athletic accomplishments. In the coming weeks, Gene really buckles down on his studies, and Finny begins to study more as well, Gene believes in an effort to make himself a slightly better student because Gene is a fair athlete and being a fair student rather than a poor one would make Finny equivalent.
Gene senses a faltering in his friendship with Finny because of the obvious jealousy, rivalry, and competition between them but in an attempt to not reveal this feeling to Finny Gene continues attending their society meetings. One night, Finny interrupts Gene’s studying to tell him that Leper is going to jump from the tree that night, but Gene believes that Finny only convinced Leper to do it as a means to interrupt Gene’s studying. As they head toward the tree Finny, tells Gene he can stay in and study, as he can tell that Gene is upset. Finny tells Gene that it is good of him to put so much effort into something he is good at and that he envies how intelligent and academically inclined Gene is.
Gene tells Finny that he is done studying, and he wants to see Leper jump. Gene notes that there must never have been the rivalry between then that he sensed and that Finny must definitely be superior to him as it seems obvious that he is incapable of jealousy. Gene and Finny climb the tree to jump together, as they do at the start of every meeting, but Gene’s knees buckle, shaking the limb, and Finny falls to the ground with a heavy thud. Gene jumps into the water, finally fearless.
Word spreads around school that Finny’s leg is shattered, though no one has been allowed into the infirmary to see him yet. Gene wrestles with the idea that he caused Finny to fall on purpose and wonders if it is true, though he does not seem to know. The only time he feels better about the situation is when he dresses up in one of Finny’s outfits, with his pink shirt, but the next morning he is overcome with guilt and anxiety again. Dr. Stanpole tells Gene that Finny is feeling better and would like to see him. He says that Finny’s leg is shattered, and he will be able to walk again sometime, but he will never be able to play sports again, a revelation that causes Gene to cry. Dr. Stanhope tells Gene that he must stay strong for Finny.
Gene, still feeling guilty, asks Finny what he remembers about the incident because he wants to know if Finny feels like it is Gene’s fault that he fell. Finny hints at the idea that Gene caused the branch to shake on purpose, but immediately recants that notion as he feels terrible for bringing it up at all. When Finny tells Gene that he looked to him for support when he felt he would fall, Gene is outraged, believing that Finny meant to pull him down as well, but Finny says he was merely looking for support.
Gene is about to tell Finny that it is his fault that the branch shook when the doctor comes in and sends Gene away. After that day, Finny is not well enough for visitors and is sent home to Boston as the summer semester ends. When Gene returns to school in September, he stops at Finny’s house to see him before continuing his way to Devon. Gene tells Finny that he caused the accident and Finny is outraged and refuses to believe the confession. As Gene is leaving, Finny tells him that he will be back at Devon by late November.
School has started up again for the fall semester, and Gene feels like there is something eerie about the campus and that it is not the same as it was before. The relaxed teachers and supervisors of the summer are gone, and the strict teachers are back, disappointed by all of the rule-breaking they heard occurred over the summer.
At the first church session of the new semester, the leaders encourage continuity of the standards of Devon, though Gene feels that they cannot go back to what was before because everything is different now in the wake of Finny’s accident. He does understand that the rules that are impressed upon the students are for a reason as Finny got hurt breaking them.
Gene feels alone in the dorm situation because he is still in the room he shares with Finny, only Finny has not yet returned to school, and also Leper has been moved to a different dorm, so there is a macho alpha male named Brinker Hadley living across the hall now. Gene is depressed by this change and feels alone.
School sports have started up again, though Finny is not there to play them and he will never be able to play again. Gene heads down to the river for crew practice, though it is not the river they spent the summer jumping into, it is the murkier river on campus called the Naguamsett. Gene arrives at crew late and is harassed by Quackenbush who is a total jerk and hated by everyone.
Gene wants to be crew manager this year, a role usually reserved for someone who is disabled, and is goaded relentlessly for it. He and Quackenbush get into it a bit and end up in the water before Gene is asked to leave. When Gene returns to the dorm, he has a phone call, and it is Finny.
Finny sounds very happy to hear Gene’s voice and is happy that his spot as Gene’s roommate is still open. In an effort to put aside Gene’s “confession” that he caused Finny to fall, he tells Gene that he was awful crazy when he came to visit. Gene agrees with Finny and they begin to talk about sports though Finny is disappointed when he hears Gene wants to be crew manager rather than actually participating. It is obvious that Gene feels he cannot play sports as long as Finny cannot, but Finny tells him that if he cannot play then Gene will play for him.
Brinker travels across the hall and into Gene’s room, commenting that he is jealous that Gene gets such a large room all to himself. Brinker, seemingly joking, tells Gene he must have pushed Finny out of the tree just so he could live in the big room alone. Gene, feeling quite awkward with his guilt, laughs along with Brinker and suggests they go downstairs to the “Butt Room” in the basement and have a smoke. When the boys arrive downstairs Brinker jokes with the other boys who are down there that he has brought the prisoner, Gene, who has tried to kill his roommate.
Gene keeps joking along with the boys, never denying their accusations. When the boys ask Gene to reenact the scene for them, he feels strange about it and turns attention to a younger boy, who does not realize the other boys are kidding, to do the dirty work. When the boy confirms that he believes Gene must have pushed Finny out of the tree Gene tells the others that he has to go study and leaves the room, never having smoked.
The boys of Devon help to shovel the snow off the train tracks because labor is hard to come by during the war times, and the soldiers need the train tracks clear, so they can travel. Leper does not help the other boys but rather goes off on his cross-country skis to find a beaver dam he heard about. After the tracks are shoveled a train of soldiers rides by and Gene notices that they all look happy and carefree and is jealous of the life experience they are all coming into.
On the way back to Devon, the boys all discuss the idea of leaving school and enlisting though some of them, like Quackenbush, would rather graduate before they join up. Back at Devon the boys see Leper coming back from his trip, and Brinker tells Gene that he is going to leave school, and enlist the next day because he cannot wait any longer. Gene decides that he wants to do the same and will leave the next day as well, but then he returns to his room and finds that Finny has returned.
Finny immediately begins picking on Gene, mostly his clothes which are extremely shabby and filthy after shoveling the tracks all day. Finny is upset that Devon does not have maid service this year, but Gene understands, unselfishly, that with the war going on Devon is trying to cut back on expenses. The boys go to bed and Gene prays, which he did not do while Finny was gone.
The next morning Brinker Hadley bursts into the room, excited about the plans he and Gene have made about enlisting, but sees Finny and remarks that Gene’s plan must have fallen through, obviously hinting toward the plan to kill Finny for the room. Gene explains to Finny that he was considering enlisting, though it is obvious that, with Finny being back, Gene will not be going anywhere. Gene feels that Finny needs him around and tells Brinker that he will not be enlisting with him. After Brinker leaves Finny and Gene begin to pick on him immediately, and dub him with the nickname “yellow peril”.
When the boys are headed back from chapel, Finny muses that he loves the winter, and, therefore, the winter must love him as well because when you love something so much it has no choice but to love you back. He then decides that he and Gene should skip class in honor of his first day back so he can explore the campus. Finny wants to go to the gym, which is a long trek on crutches and tires Finny out, but he takes a deep breath and makes a grand entrance into the gym anyway.
Finny wants to visit the locker room first, rather than the trophies, and then asks Gene what sport he is playing. Gene tells Finny that he did not go out for a sport, nor did he decide to manage the crew team, he is just going to gym class. Finny is flabbergasted and insists that Gene allow Finny to train him for the 1944 Olympics, as that is what Finny was going to do before he got hurt.
Gene tells Finny that, with the war, there will be no Olympics, but Finny sticks to his story that there is no war and a bunch of fat old men made it up to keep the country in line and tells Gene the reason he is privy to this information is because of the amount of suffering he has been through, a sentiment, which both boys seem shocked was mentioned. Gene proceeds to do chin-ups, thirty of them at the urging of Finny.
One day when Gene is running he feels different than ever before like he finally hit his stride and Finny is impressed. When Mr. Ludsbury asks what they were doing Finny tells him that they are training for the Olympics and when Mr. Ludsbury tells him that all training must be for war purposes, Finny simply says to him, “no”. Finny tells Gene that Mr. Ludsbury is too thin to be in on the fat old man plot.
Gene decides that he will go along with Finny’s view that there is no war going on, not because he believes it but because it makes life more carefree and enjoyable. Leper enlisted in the service which came as a big surprise to everyone because he is the last person they expected to enlist. Some recruiters came to Devon one day and showed the boys videos of the soldiers skiing, which sparked Leper’s interest and he decided that if he can ski as a soldier then he wants to enlist immediately. He enlisted just before he turned eighteen, so he was able to choose what he wanted to do, rather than be drafted and forced into something.
Gene thought that if Brinker had gone in first then it would awaken the boys to the reality of the war, and they could stop pretending it was happening, but Leper was not a significant enough member of the Devon community to have that kind of effect on the student body. From that point on whenever the boys heard about something big happening in the war, like an attempt to kill Hitler, they assumed that Leper must have been the one to do it, which made the war stories much more fun and interesting to discuss. Finny was the only one who did not subscribe to this mindset and instead immersed himself in training Gene for the Olympics, which was an attempt to keep Gene away from the war talk, as well.
Gene notes that Saturdays at Devon are extremely boring, and the boys must invent numerous activities to entertain themselves. One day Finny brings up the idea of having a carnival the following weekend and Gene agrees. The boys come up with prizes to give away for the winners of the events and Brinker even goes along with the idea and has fun with it, despite his recent role as a serious student.
The boys drink some hard cider, start to have a good time and Finny signifies the beginning of the games by burning a copy of “The Iliad”. Finny gets Gene to show off his Olympic skills and soon after Gene gets a telegram. The telegram is from Leper who has “escaped” and is hiding “at the Christmas location,” and he wants Gene to come to him right away. Leper signs the note “your best friend”.
Gene leaves that night to go to Leper’s house in Vermont, as it is obviously the Christmas location he not-so-cryptically mentioned in the telegram. Gene, as the narrator, muses that he would make the same journey many times in his life when he is in the military, though, he never actually saw combat because the war was basically over by the time he enlisted. Gene tells himself that Leper has just escaped from some spies because there is no way that he escaped the army.
Leper seems happy to see Gene, but he is acting strange. Leper seems extremely jumpy and emotional, and Gene asks him how long he is on leave before he has to go back. Leper tells Gene that he went AWOL (absent without leave) before they could dismiss him for being mentally insane, formally called a “section eight”. Gene is scared of Leper at this point because he is very different from the friend that left Devon. Gene lashes out at Leper out of fear and Leper throws Finny’s accident in his face, accusing Gene of pushing Finny out of the tree.
Gene attacks Leper which attracts the attention of Mrs. Lepellier. Gene tries to explain himself to Leper’s mother and apologizes to her and stays for lunch at Leper’s request because he felt bad if he refused the offer. After lunch, the boys go for a walk and Gene feels like being in nature will bring out the old Leper, though he is mistaken. Leper tells Gene about all of the crazy images and dreams he would have in the army–about things transforming into other things. Gene feels really odd and uncomfortable around Leper at this point and starts yelling at Leper to stop telling him these things as they have nothing to do with him. He runs away from Leper’s house right back towards the town and Devon.
When Gene gets back to campus he wants to see Finny because Finny’s mind is always on sports, rather than war. Ironically, Finny is involved in a snowball fight with some other boys when Gene returns. Gene is distracted by the way Finny walks; he used to almost float and now he seems so crippled, aside from the fact that his leg is in a cast.
Finny asks about Leper and Gene keeps the gory details to himself. Gene tells Finny that he should be more careful and perhaps not do things like get into snowball fights because he may break his leg again, but Finny tells him that he thinks that once a bone grows back together it is stronger than it was to begin with. Later Brinker comes into Finny and Gene’s room and asks about Leper. Gene tells the other two boys that Leper went AWOL, and Brinker assumes correctly that Leper went crazy. Finny finally begins to admit that the war must be real because fake wars do not make people crazy.
Devon becomes immersed in the war and everything to do with it while Brinker, one of the boys who most wanted to enlist, finds himself interested in anything that has nothing to do with the war. Brinker tells Gene that the reason he did not enlist is because of Finny and Gene does not confirm or deny this accusation. Brinker brings up the old “joke” that Gene pushed Funny off the tree, and Gene gets a little uneasy over the whole situation.
One night while the boys are studying Finny says that he saw Leper on campus, and Gene remembers that Leper thinks he pushed Finny out of the tree, so Gene gets very uncomfortable at the thought of him being back at Devon. Later that night Brinker invites Finny and Gene to come out with him and his friends as he has a set of keys to the whole campus from being involved in so many clubs. The boys sneak out and end up in the Assembly Room where Brinker immediately begins making fun of Finny’s limp.
Brinker begins asking Finny what happened on the day Finny fell, determined to get to the bottom of the whole situation, much to Gene’s horror. Finny’s story changes numerous times as it becomes clear that he does not entirely remember what happened that day, he even thinks the tree may have shaken itself on purpose. Brinker and his friends decide they need to bring in a witness and get Leper. Leper refuses to answer any questions about the incident as he does not want to implicate himself and says a few other crazy things.
Finny gets angry at the spectacle, tells all the boys he does not care what happened that day and storms from the room. After Finny leaves the room the boys hear him fall the very large, very hard, marble staircase.
Gene remembers every acting very responsible and exactly as they should in the wake of Finny’s accident. They held him still while someone went to fetch Dr. Stanpole and the wrestling coach, Phil Latham. Gene finds it strange to watch Finny being carried out because the only person Finny has ever needed help from was Gene, in any other case Finny was the one doing the helping. Dr. Stanpole says that Finny’s leg is, in fact, broken again, but this time it is not shattered it is a clean break and should heal just fine after surgery.
All of the boys are told to go back to their rooms, but Gene finds himself crouching in the bushes in the dark outside of the infirmary rather than going to his room. He hears the conversation between Finny and the doctors and begins making jokes with himself while he waits. Eventually once Finny is alone Gene calls out his name and crawls through the window.
Finny begins yelling at Gene, asking him if there is another bone in his body he would like to break while Gene apologizes fruitlessly. Gene leaves the infirmary but rather than go back to his dorm he wanders around campus, finding himself outside of the gym which looks strange to him. Gene feels as though he no longer exists, or maybe he never did; perhaps he was nothing more than a ghost all his years at Devon. Gene falls asleep leaning against the wall of the stadium.
The next morning Gene returns to the dorm and finds a note for him from Dr. Stanpole asking him to bring some of Finny’s clothes down to the infirmary. Gene grabs some of Finny’s clothes and sets out for the infirmary, feeling as though he is experiencing déjà vu, which, in a way, he is as this happened just last summer. He gets to the room and finds Finny alone and tries to explain himself. Gene apologizes, just as he did in Boston, and Finny tells him that the whole situation would be different if there were no war because Finny feels helpless having a broken leg and not being able to fight.
Gene tells Finny that he would be no good in a war anyway because he is too friendly and would probably try to make friends with the enemy. Gene and Finny agree that the tree situation was an accident, and not intentional at all and Finny goes in for surgery. When Gene returns to see Finny after his surgery he is greeted by Dr. Stanpole who tells him that Finny died during his surgery. It seems that a piece of marrow broke off and floated up to his heart, killing him. Gene tells the reader that he never once cried about Finny, not even at his funeral, because it would be like crying at his own funeral as Finny was a part of him.
As school was coming to a close that spring, some jeeps filled with troops rolled into the far common. Brinker and Gene went out to the common to see the greeting ceremony that is happening, and Brinker brings up Leper, but Gene does not want to talk about him, or about Finny. Gene feels as though peace no longer exists for anyone, even at Devon, except maybe for the boys who were there during the summer session.
Brinker introduces Gene to his father who reminds Gene of one of the fat old men who made up the story of the war happening that Finny always used to talk about. Mr. Hadley likes to talk about war and the boys’ responsibility to fight, which Brinker apologizes to Gene for but Gene thinks he knows where Mr. Hadley is coming from. He thinks that Brinker and Finny were similar in the way that they tried to rebel to forget that the war was happening at all.
Gene does not believe that war is the fault of the fat old men, but of ignorance in the hearts of many men. While Gene is clearing out his gym locker he thinks about Finny as he often does though he refuses to talk about him with anyone because Finny is not dead to him. Finny’s way of living still resides in Gene, even as he is telling the story. Finny never had any hatred for anyone or any enemies as most people did.
Gene says that most people find something to hate and spend their whole life making that one thing their eternal enemy, though Finny never did that. Gene says that he went to war though he killed no one and never hated any of his opponents because he knew Finny would not have. Gene says that the only enemy he ever had he killed while he was at Devon.
The following morning, the boys find that the raft has drifted away, but aren’t bothered much by it as they don’t have a desire to return home. After having a bacon and fresh fish breakfast, they start to explore the island. After a morning of swimming and walking, they return to their base on the island. They all begin to feel homesick, but none will admit it. At this point, they hear loud noises and go to shore to see that a steam ferry and multiple skiffs are upon the river.
They figure out that they’re being searched for, and feel validated in their choices. They revel in the thought that everyone misses them, and eventually have dinner and lay down. The mood darkens again though as they begin to realize how everyone back home is feeling sad. Joe attempts to bring up the idea of going back, but is shot down. Tom stays up as the others go to sleep, then writes two notes. He places one in Joe’s hat, along with various other trinkets of his, and then keeps the other note for himself. He then sneaks off and runs to the shore.
Tom swims over to the Illinois side of the Mississippi as it’s much closer than the Missouri one, and sneaks aboard a skiff. The skiff travels over the river, and Tom sneaks out again. He creeps on over to his house, where his aunt, Joe Harper’s mom, Mary and Sid are all sitting in a room.
He manages to sneak into the house and under a bed near them, where he catches their conversation. He hears them speak about how much they miss them and hears them crying, and it takes much of his will to refrain from jumping out and announcing himself. He learns that people think they drowned because the missing raft they had taken was found underwater. If the bodies of the boys aren’t found by Sunday, the church will hold a service for them that day.
As everyone begins to go to sleep, Tom is about to leave the note he wrote earlier on Aunt Polly’s bed stand. He decides against it though, and returns to the island by taking a skiff to the other side, away from the island. He gets back to base in the morning just in time to hear Joe and Huck discussing whether Tom has abandoned them or not. Tom bursts in and then tells them of what he did on the shore.
The boys spend the day running around naked and playing games, swimming. Once evening arrives though, Joe finally decides he wants to head back home. Tom tries to convince them to get excited about the island by suggesting treasure is buried there, but can’t get them into it. After much quarreling, Huck decides he wants to leave as well and gets ready along with Joe. Tom is left with no choice but to reveal a plan he has been hatching. The boys get excited about the idea and decide to stay on the island.
Tom and Joe attempt to learn how to smoke from Huck, and though they enjoy the activity at first, they soon grow sick. Joe makes up an excuse about losing his knife, giving the boys a chance to split up. When Huck goes to look for them a while later, he finds them asleep. When Huck starts preparing their after dinner smokes, Tom and Joe make excuses about eating bad food.
A storm hits the area during the night, and the boys- unprepared for rain- have to find shelter under a tarp they had brought. After it passes, they start up another fire and discuss the storm, unable to sleep on any of the wet ground. Once morning hits, they sleep on the drier sand. After a late lunch, the boys start to get homesick again, so Tom distracts them with the idea of playing as Indians. After running around and returning for dinner, they hesitantly share a peace pipe, as the rules of living as an Indian demand them to.
While the boys are off playing on Jackson Island, the town is mourning their absence. Becky cries over missing Tom. The other schoolmates reminisce on what was the last thing they saw of Tom and Joe.
The next day, the church holds its service for the boys. The minister ascribes only positive traits to their memories and everyone is in tears over the eulogy, including the minister himself. In the midst of the service, the three boys come walking down the aisle. They had been watching the entire thing from an unused gallery. Everybody begins to celebrate their appearance, with Tom and Joe receiving affection from their respective guardians. Tom insists that Huck receive affection as well, though Huck prefers no one to pay attention to him.
The next morning, Tom is at the breakfast table with his family as Aunt Polly starts to make him feel guilty about not having left them a message that they were okay, noting that Sid would have done so. Tom then begins to describe how he had a dream and recounts what he saw the night he came to leave a note. Aunt Polly doesn’t see through the fraud, thinking that Tom was having a prophetic dream and admiring him for it.
At school, Tom is the center of attention along with Joe, and they both celebrate it. Becky attempts to get Tom’s attention, but he pretends to be as indifferent to her as she was to him the last time they met. Becky eventually changes tactics and begins to spend time with another boy in the class- Alfred Temple. Alfred is the same boy that Tom got into a fight with earlier in the book. Tom is sufficiently jealous of her actions and goes off during lunchtime in a fit of rage. Becky realizes her actions went too far, and leaves Alfred by himself in confusion. After some time, Alfred realizes that Becky had used him to make Tom jealous, and his hate for Tom grows. He wonders about an opportunity to get Tom in trouble, and notices Tom’s spelling book as he is walking in. He spills ink on the day’s homework. Becky sees him do it and decides to tell Tom as a way to reconcile their relationship. She changes her mind though and decides to let him get in trouble as revenge for making her feel terrible earlier.
Returning home for lunch, Aunt Polly begins scolding him as she finds out through Joe Harper’s mother that Tom’s “dream” was actually just him recounting what had happened the night he snuck over. Tom attempts to explain that he still came to comfort her, though she doesn’t initially believe it. After some coercing, she accepts it and tells him to run off to school. She finds the jacket that Tom took to the island and is torn between whether to confirm his story about the note on the piece of bark. After much debate, she checks and finds that his story was true as the piece of bark that said they were okay was still in one of the pockets.
The encounter with Aunt Polly lifts Tom’s spirits, and he even apologizes to Becky on his way back to class. Becky doesn’t take it though, making Tom angry again. Walking into class, Becky sees the opportunity to sneak a peek at a secret book that their teacher has kept locked up but often reads to himself. Becky takes the chance and finds that the book is one on human anatomy. Tom sneaks up behind her, surprising her and causing her to rip half of a page. Becky runs away, convinced that Tom will tattle on her, though Tom doesn’t have any inclination not to.
Once the class was seated, Tom’s ruined notebook comes out, and he is punished for it. Tom doesn’t think much of it though. When the teacher soon discovers his book has been ripped, he goes through asking each child. As he is asking Becky, her nervousness is easily evident. Tom steps and takes the blame before she cracks, causing him to be held after school for two hours. Becky waits for him, and they reconcile as she tells him that it was Alfred that spilled the ink on his work. Tom vows revenge.
As summer vacation comes near, the schoolmaster becomes stricter as he wants them all to perform well during the ‘Examination.’ The Examination is a sort of performance for the entire town where the schoolchildren show off their knowledge through recitations and competitions. The youngest children of the school are getting the worst of it, so they group together and try to figure out some way to get back at the teacher.
On the day of the Examination, the students begin go on about the business of displaying what they’ve learned. Tom attempts to recite the ‘Give Me Liberty, Or Give Me Death’ speech, but falls halfway through to stage fright. The awful poetry goes on until the teacher decides to draw a map of America on the chalkboard for the geography challenge. It’s at this point that the boys unleash their plan: a cat tied up and gagged is lowered from above the teacher and steals his wig. The entire crowd erupts in laughter, ending the Examination and starting off summer vacation.
Tom joins the Cadets of Temperance as he enjoys their outfits, but is finding it hard to abide by the group’s laws. As the Fourth of July parade is too far away for him to stick to the rules, he pins his hopes on the dying Judge Frazer. After wavering health, it seems the judge is going to recover, forcing Tom to resign from the group. Right after, Judge Frazer then dies, letting the Cadets take part in the procession and annoying Tom in that he wasn’t able to participate.
The dullness of summer vacation starts to hit Tom, though it’s broken up every now and then by travelling shows and performers. All the while, Tom continues to think of the murder.
The measles take Tom to bed for two weeks, during which a religious revival hits town. When Tom gets better, he finds that all his friends- including Huckleberry- are up to charity and scripture quoting, leaving him with no one to play with. He relapses and is in bed for three more weeks. Once he is well again, he finds that Joe and Huck have returned to their old ways, eating a stolen watermelon.
The trial over the murder begins in earnest, and Tom feels as if every remark about it made in his presence is made to get him to confess what he knows. He confers with Huck on the matter, making sure again that they’ll never tell. Both boys discuss how bad they feel about Muff Potter being wrongly treated as the man has been kind in the past to the boys. As they continue their habit of sneaking him things through his cell, one particular moment hits their guilt hard. He thanks them sincerely for their little gifts and warns them of the dangers of drinking. He seems ready to take punishment for a crime he didn’t commit.
On the last day of the trial, witnesses were called to confirm the circumstantial evidence that made Potter look guilty. Potter’s lawyer did no cross questioning, giving the impression that he wasn’t interested in defending the man. The lawyer then calls Tom Sawyer to the stand, to everyone’s surprise. After nervously eyeing Injun Joe, Tom begins to tell the tale of what actually happened during the night of the murder. At the climax of his telling, Injun Joe manages to rush out and escape.
Muff Potter is let go and embraced by the community. Though Tom is joyed at the recognition people give him, he is also scared as Injun Joe remains loose. Tom had told Muff’s lawyer his tale the night before he testified, and though Huck’s involvement was known, Injun Joe’s quick escape had kept his involvement secret. Though rewards are offered and a detective is brought, no sign of Injun Joe is found, leaving Tom anxious.
Tom gets the inclination to dig up some treasure and enlists Huck to join him. After a misinformed discussion about treasure burying tactics, the value of jewelry, and the Kings of Europe, they decide to start digging under the many trees of a hill some three miles away. They begin to discuss what they’ll do with the treasure, with Huck saying he’d spend it all before his father got a hold of it and Tom saying he’d use it to get married. After many fruitless digging efforts, the boys decide that they’ve gone about the whole thing wrong and need to come back at midnight.
After another failed attempt during the night, Huck is on the verge of giving up. He then suggests looking in the haunted house nearby. They argue a bit about it and decide to do it. Once overlooking the house though, they become instantly scared and decide to head home instead.
Returning the next day to get their tools, the boys are anxious to get to the house. Huck points out that it’s Friday though, and apparently it’s an unlucky day. They instead play Robin Hood, and head home. The following morning, the boys head into the house to explore. After exploring the upstairs for a bit, they hear noises downstairs and begin to hide. They spot two men come in and notice that one of the men is a deaf and dumb Spaniard who has been seen around town lately. The Spaniard speaks- to the boys’ surprise- and it turns out to be Injun Joe. He’s speaking with the other man about committing a crime, and how they couldn’t get work done the day before because of the two boys up on the hill.
The men sleep until sundown, and while the boys make one attempt to leave, the creaky floor prevents any further tries. When sunset hits, the men stir up. They reveal they have six hundred dollars worth of silver buried under a rock in the house, which makes the boys forget their fears as they grow excited. As the second man is grabbing a bit of money, he hits upon another box and paws a bit of gold. Injun Joe notes that he saw some digging tools earlier and brings them by. They dig up thousands of dollars worth of gold, exponentially increasing the boys’ excitement. Injun Joe suddenly realizes that the pick had fresh dirt on it and becomes immediately paranoid. He tries to go upstairs, but the rotting wood of the staircase collapses under his weight. The men decide to take the treasure to a different location.
Heading home, they realize that the ‘revenge job’ Injun Joe had mentioned in the house may have been meant as taking his revenge on Tom.
Tom spends the night dreaming so often about the money that he convinces himself that none of the events even happened. He talks to Huck the next morning, letting him bring up the subject so as to affirm the truth of the matter. He does, and the boys express considerable regret at the loss of the treasure. Tom becomes insistent on finding out where location ‘Number 2’ that Injun Joe had said he would take the money is. The boys deduce that it may be a room number in a tavern, and Tom goes by himself to check out the two taverns in town. One claims that a lawyer occupies the number 2 room, and the other claims that their number 2 room is locked up because it’s haunted. This piques Tom’s suspicions and works with Huck to figure out how they’re going to get in. They figure to pick up as many keys as they can and try to get into the room through a back entrance. Tom then tells Huck to keep an eye out for Injun Joe and to follow him if spotted.
The night is too clear for them to attempt to sneak in for a couple of days, but they finally get a dark night where they feel confident enough to sneak in. Huck stands watch while Tom goes down the alley to where the entrance is. After some time passes, Huck gets nervous as he has seen no sign of Tom. Tom then comes running out of the alley, telling Huck to run, as well.
Tom then describes that while the keys were making too much noise, he discovered that the door to the place wasn’t locked at all. Upon opening it, he finds Injun Joe blacked out from drinking. The room is filled with barrels of whiskey. The boys decide that that must be the place where the money is hidden, and decide to wait until they’re sure Injun Joe is out before they try to go in again.
Becky returns to town and her and Tom spend time together. She plans the picnic party she promised long ago, and a group of the children take a trip aboard a steamer. Becky’s mom suggests she stay over at someone’s house, and Becky decides on the Harper home. Tom convinces her instead to go get ice cream at Widow Dogulas’ home instead. The thought of possibly missing out on hearing Huck call him up if he spotted something is troublesome, but he puts the thought aside. After frolicking and eating, the group explores McDougal’s cave, a large systems of underground tunnels by the river.
Huck was standing watch while the party’s steamer came passed by. He had almost given up hope on the effort when he hears a door closing. He spies the two men carrying a box and decides to follow them, suspecting that they’re moving the treasure. He follows them quite a ways until he thinks he has lost them. Suddenly he realizes they’re extremely near, close to Widow Douglas’ house. He hears Injun Joe talk about how her dead husband was the one that had him whipped and mistreated. He decides to get revenge on the man by hurting her, cutting off parts of her face and head. While the partner thinks it a bit gruesome, Injun Joe is intent on doing it and threatens to kill his partner if he doesn’t come along. They can’t act now though as it seems the Widow has visitors.
Huck manages to quietly sneak away and ends up running to a nearby house owned by the Welshman. Making them promise not to tell anyone he told them this, he informs them of what he heard. The Welshman and his three sons rush off armed with Huck back to the spot. As Huck waits behind a boulder, he hears the guns fire off and a yell. He runs away.
The following morning just before Dawn, Huck goes back to the Welshman’s house. He is happily invited in and learns that while shots were fired, no one on either side was hurt, and the two criminals managed to get away. Huck is asked for a description of the two men, and the Welshman quickly recognizes that they’ve been spotted before on the Widow’s property. The Welshman’s boys are sent out to get the sheriff and find a posse, and Huck is asked for a more detailed description of how he came upon the men. Huck doesn’t want to let out that he knows it was Injun Joe, so he continues to describe him as the deaf and dumb Spaniard that’s been seen around town. His story fails though as he reveals he heard the Spaniard speak. Huck hesitantly reveals that the Spaniard is Injun Joe.
Huck also learns that the box they were carrying with them wasn’t the gold at all, but burglarizing tools. He hides as Widow Douglas, and other visitors come in to thank the Welshman. He tells them that thanks go to someone else, but won’t reveal Huck’s identity as promised.
Being Sunday morning, the mothers gather to talk and learn that Tom and Becky aren’t at each other’s houses. No one noticed them missing from the boat, and someone suggests that they may still be in the cave system. A large search party spends all day and night looking for them without success. The Welshman returns after the first day’s search to find that Huck has a fever. He gets the Widow Douglas to look after him as he returns to the search. Three days of searching continue without any success. At one point, Huck gets up and asks the Widow if anything was found in the tavern where Injun Joe was staying. He finds out there was, but it was only liquor. He asks if Tom had been the one to find it, and the Widow begins crying, though Huck doesn’t know why. He goes back to sleep, wondering if the treasure has been officially lost.
The book goes back to the day of the picnic and focuses on Tom and Becky. They explored the caves like everyone else had, going with no one but each other down the various tunnels. They happen upon a crevice that leads deeper downward into the system, and they follow it, leaving smoke markings upon the cave walls to remember their way. They run into a nest of bats that are stirred up by their arrival and are forced to run away. In the panic, they didn’t get a chance to keep track of which way they had gone, officially getting themselves lost. After some despair, they begin to try to find a way out, attempting to conserve the few candles they took with them.
Hours go by, and they can’t find a way out. Tom insists on finding a place for water, and they do so. There, Tom reveals that they’re on their last candle. Becky weeps and they watch the last bit burn away. Waiting they hear some shouting and Tom attempts to shout back with no reply. Time continues to pass, and their despair grows. Tom takes a piece of kite string, ties it to an outcropping, then attempts to do some further exploration by himself as Becky seems resigned to die by the water. At one point, he sees a light and a hand up ahead and shouts. The light reveals itself to be owned by Injun Joe though, running away from the sound of the voice. Tom is terrified and returns to Becky, explaining the shout was just for luck. Though still scared of running into Injun Joe, his fear of being stuck there is greater, so Tom head off once again with kite string in hand.
As Tuesday afternoon hits, the town is convinced that the kids have been lost. Most all the folks looking in the caves have given up save for Becky’s father and a few men. That same night though, a carriage comes into town announcing that the children have been found. The town rejoices. Tom explains that after searching various tunnels, he just happened to spot daylight in one of them. Going forward, he sees a way out onto Mississippi River shore. He returns to get Becky, and they hail down a raft with some men. They learn that they are five miles from the cave’s entrance, and the folks on the ship get them food and make them rest a bit before returning into town.
The children end up in bed for a few days as the adventure has worn them out quite a bit. Tom visits Huck once he’s better, but isn’t allowed to tell any exciting stories as Huck is still sick. The body of Injun Joe’s accomplice had been found drowned. On his way to visit his friend, Tom stops by Becky’s house were Judge Thatcher and a few friends converse with him. Here, Tom finds out that the Judge has had the entrance door to cave laden with iron and triple-locked so as to prevent further accidents like this one. Shocked, Tom reveals that Injun Joe was in the caves.
As it turns out, Injun Joe had made it back to the entrance to the cave but had already been locked out. His starved corpse is found next to that of some bats he had presumably eaten. His bowie knife was broken, and there were scratches along the door, implying he had tried to cut his way out, though the effort would have been futile as a large rock also barred his way. He is buried near the cave, and his grave becomes part of the place’s attraction.
Tom visits Huck the day after the funeral and they explain each to each other what had happened on their individual adventures. As their conversation continues, Tom exclaims that the treasure wasn’t in room Number 2 of the tavern, but remains in the cave. They outfit themselves and head back to where Tom managed to escape the tunnels. He leads them back to the spot where he saw Injun Joe and finds a cross there as they had thought. They dig around and find that a stone was covering up a chasm at the end of which holds the treasure, a keg, and some guns. The boys leave the guns and kegs for future robbing expeditions and pack up the money. Once home, they borrow a wagon and head towards the Widow Douglas’ house, where they plan to hide it.
Passing the Welshman’s house, the boys are stopped by the man and told to follow him up to Widow Dogulas’ house. He carries their wagon for them, convinced it’s just old, heavy metal that they’ve gathered up to sell. Once at the house, family and friends meet them. They’re told to clean up and put on the new suits that have been bought for them.
As the boys are left to dress, Huck suggests escaping, since he has no desire for large crowds. Tom reassures him though. It’s at this point that Sid comes in. He reveals to them that the Welshman is planning to reveal a secret, and most everybody knows that it’s going to be revealed that Huck was the one that informed the Welshman about the robbers. At the dinner table, this is exactly what happens, making Huck even more uncomfortable at the attention he is receiving. The Widow Douglas expresses her gratitude, proclaiming she plans to take Huck into her house to educate him and save up money to put him in business one day. Tom says this won’t be necessary, since Huck is already rich. The jokes are quickly silenced as Tom brings in the bags of gold from the wagon. After explaining how they acquired it, the money is counted up to $12,000.
The boys’ fortune made public, many townsfolk start tearing up haunted houses and caves in search for their own. The found money is invested for the boys, giving them a dollar a day. Judge Thatcher’s admiration for Tom after saving his daughter grows ever more once he hears how he took a whipping for her when she had ripped the schoolmaster’s book. Judge Thatcher aims to make sure Tom has admission to both the military academy and a good law school, should the boy choose to employ himself in either or both professions.
Huck is taken in by the Widow Douglas. His life becomes ordered, clean, and he sleeps on cleans sheets and a soft bed. Unsurprisingly, Huck despises this life and goes missing for two days. The river is searched for his body, the town is scoured, but no one can find him. Tom sneaks to an empty hog shed behind the old slaughterhouse, and finds Huck there. Huck hates living with the Widow and wants to give up his share of the money if being rich requires changing his life. Tom then describes how Huck can’t be part of the robber’s gang if he isn’t respectable, as though politeness may not be a characteristic of a pirate, it certainly is one of robbers. The threat of not being included in the gang frightens Huck enough to go live with the Widow until he’s proper enough to become a criminal.
Edna arrives at Adele’s home at the beginning of her labor. The latter is dramatically denouncing the doctor and questioning why everyone has abandoned her. Doctor Mandelet arrives to help Adele and takes the situation as lightly as the nurse, despite Adele’s panic. Edna stays throughout the entire thing and feels uncomfortable at having to remember her own childbirth.
The birth finished, Edna bids Adele farewell by kissing her forehead. While leaning in, Adele- without provocation or context- tells Edna to “think of the children.”
Dazed from the event, Edna turns down Mandelet’s offer of a ride, choosing instead to walk. Mandelet directs his car to her house to meet him there and accompanies her. She thinks out loud about what Adele said, how it’s better to be awake than asleep but perhaps not at the price of children. Understanding Edna’s jumbled words, Mandelet offers himself as someone that can be trusted, and tells Edna that they can talk of things she never thought she’d talk about.
After Mandelet leaves, Edna stops short of going inside and instead sits on the porch. She lets her negative emotions dissipate as she thinks of Robert and fantasizes about touching him. Though Adele’s words struck her intensely, Edna decides that tomorrow will be the appropriate time to consider the consequences of her action regarding her children.
Upon entering, she finds that Robert is gone, having left only a note that reads “I love you. Good-by- because I love you.” Edna’s heart is broken and lies down on the sofa. She spends the entire night awake.
On Grand Isle, Victor is doing some repairs while flirting with Mariequita and describing the dinner party he attended at Edna’s house. As they talk, Edna herself comes from around the corner, disheveled and dirty. Edna has come by boat to the island with no company and notes that the place seemed “dreary and deserted.” Victor quickly offers her his own room, as it’s the only place ready to house people. Edna asks when dinner will be ready, as she is hungry, and says she would like to take a swim. While both Victor and Mariequita think the idea is foolish as the water is cold, Edna insists and asks them to bring her towels.
Walking to the beach, Edna doesn’t think of anything, as her night spent on the couch was where she had done all the thinking she needed to do. She had thought about how neither Leonce nor Alcee mattered, and that the only person she wanted near her was Robert. She realized that it was inevitable that she would forget Robert and move on, but she also knew that her children were shackling her to a life that she didn’t want. The narrator notes, “she knew a way to elude them.”
Along the way to the shore, the giant sea stretches before her, and she sees a bird with a broken wing floating down towards the water. Instead of changing into her swimsuit, Edna chooses to go naked instead and feels like a new person. She starts swimming out and doesn’t stop nor look back. She thinks about how Robert didn’t understand her nor ever would. Possibly Mandelet would’ve, but it was already too late. She continues to swim- growing ever more tired- and as she recalls childhood memories of the Kentucky meadow of tall grass and the colonel she was infatuated with as a child, she lets the sea embrace her.
Straff Venture is angry that Zane sent a group of his allomancers to their deaths while Vin still lives. Zane promises that he has a plan to take care of her. Meanwhile, Straff meets with Penrod, the new king of Luthadel. Penrod is planning to give Luthadel to Straff, opening the gates to him and handing over the kingship. Straff, on the other hand, doesn’t want to enter the city while Vin still lives. Later, Zane tells Straff that he has been poisoned again. Zane leaves, and Straff is forced to ride hard back into the camp so his mistress can make him another antidote tea.
Vin awakes to see that Elend is with her. He tells her that he is not king, and he reports that OreSeur, who was badly hurt in the fight, is currently digesting a new set of bones. Vin feels that Elend is now scared of her somehow because of the way she fought those allomancers. Vin goes back to sleep, and awakes to find Zane there. He accuses her, saying that she could have killed those attackers easily had she not been so distracted with protecting Elend and other innocents. Later, OreSeur visits Vin, in another dog’s body. They talk more about the Contract that binds all kandra. Vin uses brass and duralumin to push strongly on OreSeur’s emotions. Even though he at first does not react at all, with enough force, Vin hurts him very badly, and she felt like she were controlling him for a moment. She apologizes for hurting OreSeur, and he leaves to get some rest. Vin promise to never tell anyone what she’s discovered about kandra.
Sazed and Tindwyl continue to talk about the things they are learning. Something doesn’t make sense about the rubbings, written by Kwaan. It seems that Kwaan did not trust Alendi, but he also knew Alendi was a good man. But if Kwaan knew Alendi was good, why did he have his nephew, Rashek, to mislead or even kill Alendi? Elend comes in and asks for advice. After a discussion, he decides that being king isn’t about a title, but about doing something to help others. He returns to his closet and retrieves the white suite, the one made for a king.
Elend is hard at work, helping the people. He’s sending men out to dismantle the wooden parts of keeps and houses to use as firewood. The many refugees are cold and hungry, and he wants to help them. Someone comes with news that one of the gates under the river has been broken. That is how someone has been getting into the city and poisoning the wells. Also, other reports say that an Inquisitor is lurking about the city. Elend decides to go out and talk to Jastes, with the koloss army, himself. He rides out and meets Jastes, unable to make any kind of deal. On the way out, Elend manages to fight and kill one smaller koloss, earning the sword and pouch as his own. He looks into the pouch and discovers how Jastes is controlling the koloss. He’s paying them.
Vin sees Elend, now returned from his meet with the koloss army, inured and resting. Zanes comes and says that Cett was the one that planed the attack at the voting ceremony. Vin gets angry and decides to attack Cett. Zane and Vin attack the keep that Cett has been staying at in Luthadel. Together, they kill guards and hazekillers. Fueled by rage, Vin kills quickly, working her way to Cett’s room. She realizes that Zane is using atium, while she has none, and yet she’s killing just as easily as he is. They finally get to Cett’s room, where he is with his son. Vin fights them at first, but when she discovers that neither of them is an allomancer and that Cett doesn’t have a single allomancer with him, she leaves them behind, injured and scared.
The crew sees that Cett’s army is now leaving, a result of Vin’s attack on his keep the night before. Elend does not know why Vin attacked Cett like that. Some in the crew think she’s crazy, but Elend just sees her as determined. They also discover that the “coins” Jastes has been using to control the koloss are fake, wooden coins painted gold. Elend goes to find Vin, who is hiding in the city. He finds her with OreSeur’s help. She says she must leave Luthadel and go north, to Terris. Elend says he trust her to do the right thing. They have one large bead of atium, and Vin gives it to OreSeur to hold for her.
Sazed and Tindwyl compare notes, studying the rubbing and other references they’ve managed to find. Tindwyl admits that she doesn’t believe in these prophecies, her interest in them being purely academic. Sazed, on the other hand, thinks Vin might actually be the next Hero of the Ages. While they talk, they discover that someone–or something–has torn a piece from one of the transcription pages. Vin comes in, while they try to figure out at what point were they both gone or occupied to not have seen an intruder going through their things. Vin asks Sazed how she can know if she’s in love. They talk about trust. After Vin leaves, Elend comes in and starts asking similar questions. Elend thinks he and Vin are too different to make a couple, but Sazed says that, to him, they are more alike than they think. After Elend leaves, Sazed realizes that Luthadel is going to fall soon; he needs to get both Elend and Vin out of the city before that happens.
Sazed calls a meeting with the members of the crew: Dockson, Breeze, Ham, and Clubs. He doesn’t invite Elend, Vin, or Spook. They talk about how the city is sure to fall. Straff apparently is in no hurry to take Luthadel. Instead, he’ll back off and let the koloss attack the city first. The koloss will win and enter the city, pillaging as they go. Then, with the koloss weakened and tired from the fight, Venture will ride in like a hero and save the city, defeating the koloss and taking Luthadel for himself. Sazed says that Elend and Vin need to get out of the city before these things happen. He wants Spook and Tindwyl to go with them. The rest of the group will have to stay and fight and die. Meanwhile, Vin feels she must follow the drumming she hears all the time. In Straff’s camp, Zane is attacked by his father’s men. He defeats them, but spares his father. He leaves, saying that tonight he will take Vin with him and leave Luthadel. He tells Straff that he should wait for the koloss to attack and then take the city.
Vin is in her room with OreSeur when Zane visits. He wants her to come with him, but she says she can’t because she doesn’t want to leave Elend. When Zane sees that she won’t go, he attacks her. They fight. When Zane starts to burn atium, Vin asks OreSeur for the large bead, a bead Zan had given her before. OreSeur doesn’t respond to her command. Vin discovers that OreSeur is not OreSeur. He is TenSoon, Zane’s kandra. Of course! There was no other spy. The bones they found were TenSoon’s and he had killed OreSeur! Zane corners Vin, but Vin uses a massive soothing to take control of OreSeur/TenSoon and attack Zane from behind. She then cuts the bead of atium fro TenSoon. But this is another trick. The bead is lead, with only a thin layer of atium. Soon, Vin is left helpless against a Mistborn killer with atium. Vin decides that Zane can see what she’s about to do, or, rather, what she plans on doing. If she attacks without thinking, though, she can, see in Zane’s reaction what she is going to do, only to change it at the last possible second. The trick works, and Vin defeats Zane. After Zane dies, she thanks OreSeur/TenSoon for helping her win. His contract is void, and he must return to his people. Vin goes to find Elend.
Elend is in his study when Vin comes in, bloody from her fight with Zane. She tells him that she killed him. He calls for Sazed, who comes to help with the wounds. While she is there, on the ground, she asks Sazed if he knows any wedding ceremonies. Of course, he knows hundreds. Vin asks which one is the shortest, and Sazed recalls one that only requires a declaration of love between the bride and groom before an ordained witness. Vin and Elend both say that they love each other, and Sazed declares them married. The wounds are clean, and Sazed sends Vin to get some rest. He also gives them a fake map to find the Well of Ascension. If the couple follows the map, they’ll be gone from Luthadel for a long time.
Elend and Vin prepare to ride out of the city. Tindwyl decides to stay in Luthadel. Spooks gets ready to go, and Allrianne will ride out, at Breeze’s insistence. So the four of them ride out, Vin quickly having to fight pursuers from Straff’s army. Once they are free, Allrianne breaks off to find her father’s army. Meanwhile, some of the crew watch as the escape, now sure of their own coming doom. Straff Venture hears of the escapes, but he has problems of his own now. He’s getting sick, which he knows is the result of poisoning from his son, Zane. He sends for his mistress, Amaranta, to fix him an antidote, but he discovers that she isn’t preparing what she normally does. She is actually killing, as she has for a long time. There never was any poison. Zane never tried to kill his father. But Amaranta, in her constant fixing of teas for Straff, has been causing him to become addicted to a rare drug. Without that drug, Straff will die. Straff, in a rage, kills Amaranta and then swallows as much powder from her medicine cabnet as he can, hoping to accidentally swallow some of the drug he needs before he loses consciousness.
Allrianne has made her way to her father’s camp, with the help of some bandits she’s tamed with her rioting. Her father, Cett, is not happy to see her. She convinces him to go back and join the winning party in the battle that is to come, although Cett promises that will likely be Straff. Meanwhile, Elend wakes up on the third morning out of Luthadel. He and Vin share a tent now, and he finds himself surprisingly comfortable on the hard ground, with Vin next to him. They get up and prepare the fire. It’s just the three of them: Elend, Vin, and Spook. Meanwhile Straff wakes up in bed. His men have taken care of him, and they’ve isolated the plant he needs to stay alive. When he hears that Vin and Elend have left the city, the men ask if they should attack now. Straff says no; they should pull back and wait for the koloss. Sazed meets with the others to plan a strategy for when the koloss attack. They plan to have a group of men at each gate. Saze and Tindwyl get a little time together, but then the warning drums begin to beat.
Vin is thinking about how the mist is staying later and later every day, instead of just disappearing with dawn, when she feels the pulsing of the mist spirit coming from Elend’s tent. She runs in, just in time to see the outline of that spirit lift some kind of knife to attack Elend, who is sleeping on the ground. She attacks the spirit and it disappears. Elend wakes up and never knows what was happening. She leaves Elend to sleep a little more and goes out to speak with Spook. He thinks someone is following them. Meanwhile, Sazed and the crew get ready, since it looks like the Koloss are about to attack. Men are at each gate, with one crewmember there to help. Straff sees that the koloss are attacking, but he tells his men to wait. Vin and Elend attack the camp of people that have been following them. It turns out to be Jastes. He’s lost control of the koloss, so he just left them. Elend kills Jastes because of his crimes against Luthadel. Vin discovers that the drumming sounds are getting softer, meaning the well is to the south, in Luthadel, and not in the Terris mountains.
Breeze works at his assigned gate, soothing soldiers by the dozen, helping them to be brave and fight well. The koloss pound at the door, while men atop the wall rain arrows down on the attackers. The koloss throw rocks up in return, smashing archers. Meanwhile, Vin runs towards Luthadel, burning pewter. She knows she will run out of pewter long before reaching Luthadel, and she wonders if the effect will kill her. But still she keeps running. Breeze and Clubs talk while the koloss continue to beat the gate. They blame themselves for being stupid enough to be in this mess, and they blame Kelsier for getting them into such responsibilities. Just then, the gates burst open. Meanwhile, Sazed gets word that Breeze’s gate had fallen. He doesn’t think he can really help. He notices that there is a crowd of skaa standing behind the defense force. When Sazed confronts them, telling them that they should flee to safety inside the city, the skaa answer that they are there to witness the fall of the koloss at the hands of Vin, who they are sure will return and make her appearance at Sazed’s gate. Then the gate breaks. Sazed musters his stored strength, growing in size, and faces the lead koloss, shouting for the men to fight. Vin, half collapsing and out of pewter, reaching a small village. At first she thinks to ask for pewter, but then she remembers how she used to travel with Kelsier on a path of metal bars in the ground. She asks for horseshoes, using them to “walk” by leaping, placing horseshoes ahead of her and pulling the ones behind to place further. In this way, she uses the horseshoes like stilts to help her travel in the air.
Outside Luthadel, Straff Venture sees that the koloss have now broken into the city gates. His men are ready to attack the koloss from the rear, but Straff decides to wait longer. Sazed, fighting the koloss, realizes that they need to get the gate closed again in order to survive. Using strength and weight, he manages to fight off the koloss and get the gate closed again. While getting a little break, a messenger comes and says that Tindwyl’s gate fell over an hour ago. Meanwhile, Clubs and Breeze are attacked and forced to run. Clubs is killed, while Breeze hides in a building. Dockson contemplates the root of their failure. He attacks a koloss, only to be cut down. Straff decides not to swoop in a save the city while the koloss are weak. Instead, he’d rather wait for the koloss to kill everyone and burn the city. Then Straff will move in. Meanwhile, Sazed fights on, wondering what happened to Tindwyl. He feels he is going to die, but then Vin arrives and starts killing koloss. Breeze is found by Ham and some others. They want to try to escape.
Vin continues killing koloss, several at a time. Sazed, outside Lord Penrod’s keep, begs the newly appointed king to go with them as they try to escape. Penrod insists on staying inside his keep. Vin continues to fight the koloss, but now she is almost completely out of pewter, steel, and almost every other metal. In desperation, to save some skaa from certain death, she super-soothes them, like she’d done to TenSoon, controlling the koloss with her mind. Sazed is standing outside Penrod’s keep when Vin walks up with koloss in tow. She orders Penrod to gather his men and put out the fires in Luthadel. Vin will take care of the koloss throughout the city. Later, Sazed finds Tindwyl’s dead body among the slain soldiers. He feels that all the faith, all the religions, he has always treasured is now useless. His life, he believes, has been a sham.
Straff wakes up and takes a sample of the drug he needs to stay alive. He gathers his men, expecting to be able to take the city now. But the koloss come out with the remaining soldiers of Luthadel. Vin jumps from among the koloss, sailing through the sky with a giant sword, cleaving Straff and his horse in half on impact. Allrianne watches these events from her father’s camp. She charges after them to help Luthadel’s army, forcing her father and his men to ride after her. Straff’s army surrenders, and Janarle, Straff’s general, is named the new Lord of the Venture army. Janarle, Penrod, and Cett all swear loyalty to Elend as their Emperor. Vin, needing rest, leaves Sazed in charge of the Empire until Elend can return to Luthadel.