"They hain't no right to shut him up! Shove!--and don't you lose a minute. Turn him loose! He ain't no slave; he's as free as any cretur that walks this earth!" (pg:316)
This is Tom's quote, admitting that he has known all along that Jim is set free. After reading this line, I saw Tom as malicious and manipulating--he purposely put all the characters through hell just for an 'adventure.' The whole thing was a sham. What kind of children are these? Tom, especially. He will risk anything and everything to pursue the venture. I hate to say it, but Tom deserved getting shot in the leg. He even wears the bullet as a trophy now! He also offers Jim money compensation for his troubles. The sad part is that no one chastises Tom or tries to set him straight; he's already thinking of his next adventure with the 'injuns.'
Basically, this quote shows a new side of Tom: his true cruelty. He treats Jim almost no better than slaveholders do--he is just a plaything to him. By now, it seems as though Tom is beyond any type of reformation. He obviously does not have the morale or level of compassion of Huck. I liked that Huck decided to move on and reject becoming 'sivilized,' considering the actions of those people who claim to be civilized. It shows his growth as a character, emphasized by the use of Tom as a foil for him.