The narrative goes back in time, to join Tom and Becky exploring the cave with the other children at the picnic. They become separated from the group and are chased by a flock of bats. Then they find that they do not know the way back, Tom having forgotten to make smoke marks on the walls. Becky starts to cry, and Tom tries to comfort her. After some time of unsuccessfully searching for the way out, Tom blows out Becky's candle, to economize on what little light they have left. Becky becomes exhausted, sinks to the ground in tears, and falls asleep. She dreams of a beautiful country and thinks that she and Tom are going there, meaning she believes that they are going to die. They realize that their parents would not even miss them until the following day.
Once, they hear search party nearby, and call out, but the party moves away without finding them. Tom takes a kite line from his pocket, ties it to a projection, and lets the string unwind as they explore the passages, with Tom in the lead. Tom catches sight of a human hand holding a candle, but when he calls out, he sees with horror that the hand belongs to Injun Joe, who flees without recognizing Tom. He does not tell Becky who he has seen, so as not to frighten her.
The time drags on, and Becky sinks into weakness and apathy. She gives him permission to explore the passages using the kite line but makes him promise to come back and sit with her when the time comes for her to die.
By Tuesday afternoon, most of the searchers, except for Judge Thatcher and a few others, have given up. Mrs Thatcher falls ill with grief, and Aunt Polly sinks into melancholy. In the middle of the night, the church bells start to ring, and the people shout that Tom and Becky have been found.
The children are welcomed ecstatically. Tom tells how he left Becky and explored the passages with his kite line until he saw a speck of daylight. He followed it, pushed through a hole and found the Mississippi river flowing by. He went back to Becky, who told him not to bother her as she knew she was going to die. He convinced her to come with him, and they had struggled out through the hole and been picked up by a passing boat. The men did not believe their tale at first, because they were five miles from the place where they entered the cave. But when they realized they were telling the truth, they took them to a house, fed them and made them rest before bringing them home. Becky and Tom are exhausted and spend some days in bed. Huck too is still sick but Tom visits him on Friday. Tom learns about the Cardiff Hill incident and that the drowned body of Injun Joe's companion has been found near the ferry landing.
Two weeks after Tom's rescue from the cave, he visits Becky. Judge Thatcher tells Tom that he has had the cave blocked up so that no one can ever get into it again. Tom is horrified, and tells Judge Thatcher that Injun Joe is still in the cave.
A search party led by Judge Thatcher, accompanied by Tom, goes in boats to the cave. The cave door is unlocked. Tom sees the body of Injun Joe, stretched on the ground, with his face to the crack of the door. Tom is touched, because he knows from experience how Joe suffered, but he also feels immensely relieved that he is out of danger from his revenge. Injun Joe's knife lies near him, and it is obvious that he had been chipping away at the door before he died. He had caught and eaten a few bats, and had scooped a hollow into a stone in which he had caught a spoonful of water a day. He had starved to death. Twain remarks that the stone is now a tourist attraction known as "Injun Joe's cup."
Injun Joe is buried near the mouth of the cave, and people flock to his funeral from miles around. The funeral puts a stop to the petition that has been going around town asking the Governor to pardon Injun Joe, in spite of the fact that Joe was believed to have killed five townspeople.
Tom tells Huck that he believes the money was never in "number two," but that it was in the cave. They borrow a boat and go downriver to the place where Tom escaped from the cave. They go inside the cave. Tom tells Huck that he has always wanted to head a robbers' gang, and that this would make a good hide-out. He suggests that they kidnap people and hold them to ransom until their relatives pay up. Robbers, he claims, do not kill women, but are polite to them, and then the women fall in love with the robbers, and would not leave even if the robbers drove them away.
Tom shows Huck a cross burned on the cave wall with candle smoke. Injun Joe had said that "number two" was "under the cross." This is also the place where Tom had seen Injun Joe carrying the candle. Tom believes that this is where the treasure is buried. Huck is afraid that Injun Joe's ghost will come after them, but Tom points out that no ghost will approach a cross. Huck is reassured. They begin to dig under the rock, and Tom's knife strikes some wooden boards, which they remove, uncovering a chasm. They explore the chasm and find the treasure box, with some guns. They decant the money into bags they have brought with them and decide to hide it in the Widow Douglas's wood-shed. On the way, they meet Mr Jones, who insists that they come with him to the Widow Douglas's house, where everyone is waiting for them. He helps them with the load they are dragging, in the belief that they have been collecting old iron.
Tom and Huck are welcomed by the widow and everyone who has gathered at her house, including the Thatchers, the Harpers, Aunt Polly, Sid, Mary and all the dignitaries of the town. The widow takes them to a bedroom so that they can wash and put on the new clothes she has bought for them.
Analysis for Chapters 32-34
These chapters show Tom at his worst and at his best: indeed, his worst and best qualities seem to be inextricably linked. Tom's success in getting himself and Becky safely out of the cave and triumphant return home mark the third time he has been greeted as a hero. The first time was when he led Huck and Joe Harper into their funeral service after staying on the island; the second time was when he testified against Injun Joe.
All three episodes, while they end positively for Tom, involve him in mischief and morally dubious behavior. The first episode had involved deceiving sorrowing relatives at home into thinking that he and the other boys were dead; the second involved Tom and Huck sneaking to the churchyard at night and staying silent about the murder they saw there. This time, Tom's irresponsibility in becoming detached from the rest of the party in the cave is to blame for their becoming trapped inside. He is also irresponsible in his desertion of Huck - because he is pursuing Becky instead - the very night that Injun Joe appears.
But the other side of this irresponsibility is his unquenchable zest for life and adventure, and his resourcefulness. Becky, whose instinct is to behave well and do what she is told, quickly gives up when she realizes they cannot find their way out of the cave, and falls into apathy and weakness. Because Tom is determined that they will get out, he takes charge of economizing on their meager resources and never gives up exploring the passages. Learning from his mistake in not marking their way in, he unravels a kite line behind him so that he can find his way back. Finally, he succeeds and saves them both.
Because Tom is treated as a hero after each of these episodes, it could be said that he is being rewarded for his bad behavior. But there are two qualifications to this interpretation. The first is that in each case, Tom learns from his bad behavior and genuinely turns the episode to good: even after he comes back from the island to his funeral, he learns from Aunt Polly's grief the effects of his actions, and is made stronger by his exchange of love and forgiveness with his aunt.
The second qualification is that as the Biblical story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15: 11-32) shows, it is human nature for a loving parent to be more glad at the eventual return of a wicked runaway child returns than at the consistent loyalty of a good child. The ease with which condemnation turns into adoration is a target of Twain's gentle satire in this novel. We see it in Aunt Polly's conflict between disciplining Tom and indulging him, and we shall see it again in the townspeople's lionizing of the former outcast, Huck, when his part in saving the Widow Douglas is made public.
Twain is not seriously condemning this trait of hero-worshipping the former target of disapproval. On the contrary, he portrays it as a victory of the heart over the head; he has little sympathy for characters like Sid, who are too calculating to be ruled by love and forgiveness. But Twain does show a less positive example of the trait in the attempts by "sappy women" to have Injun Joe pardoned even though he has been responsible for the deaths of five people. There is justice in the fact that these attempts are foiled by Injun Joe's death, as (unlike the Prodigal Son) he has done nothing to show remorse for his crimes, has learned nothing from them, and does not deserve forgiveness. Injun Joe has evil in his heart; Sid has a kind of calculating malice; but Tom and Huck, like those who forgive them and hero-worship them, have fundamentally good hearts. Ultimately, Twain suggests, what is in the heart is more important than the niceties of a person's behavior.
Tom and Huck finally have the treasure in their possession, symbolizing that they will soon have real power and status in the adult world. Tom shows himself more ready than Huck to enter this world. Huck seems wary of going to Widow Douglas's house for the welcome party, whereas Tom is willing.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer: Novel Summary: Chapter 32 - 34