Home » The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer revolves around the youthful adventures of the novel’s schoolboy protagonist, Thomas Sawyer, whose reputation precedes him for causing mischief and strife. Tom lives with his Aunt Polly, half- brother Sid, and cousin Mary in the quaint town of St. Petersburg Unlike his brother Sid, Tom receives “lickings” from his Aunt Polly; ever the mischief-maker, would rather play hooky than attend school and often sneaks out his bedroom window at night to adventure with his friend, Huckleberry Finn the town’s social outcast.

Tom, despite his dread of chooling, is extremely clever and would normally get away with his pranks if Sid were not such a “tattle-tale. ” As punishment for skipping school to go swimming, Aunt Polly assigns Tom the chore of whitewashing the fence surrounding the house. In a brilliant scheme, Tom is able to con the neighborhood boys into completing the chore for him, managing to convince them of the joys of whitewashing. With his usual antics, Tom attempts to catch the eye of one girl in particular: Becky Thatcher, the Judge’s daughter.

When he first sees her, Tom immediately falls in love with Becky. After winning her over, Tom suggests that they “get engaged. ” But when Tom accidentally blurts that he has been engaged before to Amy Lawrence, he ruins his relationship with Becky and becomes heartbroken. One night, Huck and Tom sneak off at midnight to the town’s graveyard, where they are planning to carry out a special ritual used to cure warts. Injun Joe grabs Muff’s knife and stabs the doctor to death. The boys run away from the graveyard before they learn that Injun Joe is planning on framing Muff for the doctor’s murder.

Fearful of Injun Joe and horrified at hat they have witnessed, Huck and Tom vow to keep silent regarding the night’s events. Hurt and angry, Tom assembles a “gang” of pirates: himself, Joe Harper, and Huck. The three boys decide that they have had enough of normal society and run away to Jackson Island, in the middle of the Mississippi River. When the boys are missing, the whole town assumes that they have drowned in the river and villagers drag the river for their bodies. In the darkness of the night, Tom sneaks off the island to return home and leave a note for Aunt Polly informing her that he is not dead.

Instead, he overhears Polly nd Mrs. Harper making plans for their funerals. The boys then wait until the morning of their own funeral, sneak back into town and attend their own funerals before revealing to the congregation that they are alive! After school is let out for the summer, Muff Potter’s trial begins. Tom and Huck are both racked by their guilty consciences, and are made to feel even worse when Muff Potter thanks them for being kind to him. When the trial begins, the defense council calls Tom Sawyer to the witness stand.

To the surprise of Huck, Muff Potter, and all those who are in the audience, Tom divulges all he knows about the murder, naming Injun Joe as Dr. Robinson’s killer. Before the trial ends, Injun Joe sprints out of the courtroom before anybody can catch him. Becky, who has been out-of-town, returns to St. Petersburg and holds a picnic for all of her friends. As part of the picnic festivities, the children go exploring in MacDougal’s cave: a large cave with secret underground passageways.

Unbeknownst to the other picnickers and adults, Tom and Becky lose themselves within the depths of the cave. Deep within the cave, Tom and Becky have lost all sense of direction. With the last of their candle burnt out and no food to eat, the two are aware that they may starve to death. Tom attempts to comfort Becky, and continues to explore the cave’s passages in hoping of finding a way out. Winding down one passageway, Tom sees a man and shouts to him; to his surprise, the figure belongs to Injun Joe! Frightened by Tom’s shouts (and not recognizing the boy’s voice), Injun Joe runs away.

Tom never tells Becky of this incident, for fear that we would cause her even more worries. Eventually, Tom’s persistence pays off when he discovers a tiny hole that the children manage o crawl through and escape peril. Analysis The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is considered one of the greatest works of American literature partly because it reflects so perfectly the culture of mid-1800s America. In a period where thoughts of gold and silver drove men West and industrialization had not yet begun, Twain was able to describe small-town life in detail.

St. Petersburg is portrayed as a small, tight- knit community on the riverfront where the frontier culture and the classic Southern tradition meet. Tom, who is initially portrayed as an incorrigible youth, is able to ake commentary on relative nature of “work” and “play. ” Tom not only loves to fight and play in the dirt, but also has a profound knowledge of human nature that is astounding for his young age. Using his “smarts,” he is able to fool his peers as well as outsmart Aunt Polly and other authority figures.

Tom may behave like a little boy, but he is able to think greater than perhaps any adult. Both Tom and Huck are believers of the mysterious. They believe in witches’ spells, bad luck, and try to cure everyday ailments like warts by performing strange incantations. No matter how far-fetched their ideas sound, Tom and Huck discuss their secret rituals and chants with the utmost seriousness. In one sense, their belief in the unbelievable reflects their impressionability and naivet.

The two boys still think and act with a kind of immaturity, and this scene seems to remind the reader that Tom and Huck are, after all, just children Tom and Becky Their flirtatious behavior can be seen as comical, for both Tom and Becky are not much older than ten years old. Funny enough, their conversation turns from the discussion of chewing gum and circuses to arriage and love. It is ironic that throughout the entire novel, Tom backlashes against authoritative figures, yet in this scene, he is eager to act “adult-like” by becoming engaged.

Twain also seems to imply that adult relationships are more child-like than most think. Tom and Becky feel jealousy and anger; their trivial feuds are commonplace in most adult relationships. Just as the two children in love seem to act like adults, adults in a relationship sometimes seem to behave like children. we also see that Tom truly cares for Aunt Polly. Despite the trouble he ay get himself into, Tom never means to hurt the old woman. “This was worse than a thousand whippings,” thinks Tom as Aunt Polly cries over him.

When he cries and pleads for his forgiveness, the reader is given no doubt of Tom’s sincerity. Similarly, we see that neither Aunt Polly nor Sid is able to realize Tom’s sincerity and his better qualities. Like most other young boys, Tom is attracted to mischief but he is still a good boy at heart. When Injun Joe openly lies and frames Muff Potter for the murder, both Tom and Huck half expect “God’s lightening upon [Injun Joe’s] ead” as punishment. ” they begin to learn that one’s conscience can provide a more powerful form of punishment.

Tom’s conscience slowly begins to pervade his mind, and in an attempt to silence it, Tom visits Muff potter in jail. In fact, we see that Injun Joe is not the only guilty villain; Twain depicts two other crimes. First, there is the town of St. Petersburg, whose inhabitants are quick to assume and punish the innocent. Second, there is Tom and Huck who ignore their conscience and fail to tell the truth. While the town and the boys are guilty of being “passive” in omparison to Injun Joe’s brutality, Twain juxtaposes them to point out that each misdeed is equally serious.

When Tom returns home and sees Aunt Polly crying over his death, he realizes that one of his fantasies of being “dead temporarily” has been fulfilled. Previously, Tom had wished to be dead when he had been full of self-pity. His idea was to make those who had hurt him suffer in guilt and regret for treating him in the wrong manner. He gets exactly what he wished for: Aunt Polly is heartbroken over mistreating him, and even Sid seems sorrowful. But Tom realizes that this scene provides him little comfort, for he feels nothing but pity for Aunt Polly and her sufferings.

When Aunt Polly confronts Tom about his lie, Tom is surprised how his “joke” from that morning could look so “mean and shabby” when seen from Polly’s perspective. Although Tom is not as selfish as Polly first claims, she is correct in saying that the child never thinks. Tom’s conscience kicks in only in retrospect; he often finds himself lost in guilt or remorse for having committed some grave sin or having not told the truth. Part of growing up is learning how to become accountable for one’s actions, a lesson that Tom has not yet learned.

Tom seems to have a good understanding of human nature, with his ability to assess characters and situations. In this chapter, we see the more noble side of Tom when he is willing to take the whippings from Mr. Dobbins simply to save Becky from embarrassment. He does so partly because he knows Becky will forever be in debt to him, but also because he truly cares for her. Meanwhile, the reader is informed that Tom and Becky are missing, lost in McDougal’s Cave.

Again, Tom “dies” for a second time and the idea of the cave as labyrinth for finding oneself comes into play when the Widow says to herself: “Pity but somebody could find Tom Sawyer! ” In analyzing her statement, the reader should be clued that Tom’s adventures within the cave is not only a physical trial, but also an emotional one. It is MacDougal’s Cave where Tom must “find himself. ” One thing that is important to consider is how Tom reacts to seeing Injun Joe inside the cave. Unlike a few days ago, Tom seems less worried that Injun will seek evenge on him.

Despite his own fears, he realizes that starvation is a much more pressing problem. Thus, in the face of peril, Tom learns to overcome his fear of Injun Joe. Tom Sawyer: The young protagonist of the novel. Living with his aunt St. Petersburg, Missouri, Tom has a penchant for adventure and “showing off. ” Constantly getting into mischief, he plays hooky from school and would rather go swimming than tend to his Sunday school lessons. Blessed with an active imagination, Tom dreams to be a noble robber such as Robin Hood or a pirate.

Hungry for attention, Tom is obsessed with appearing noble and obtaining the envy of his peers. However, Tom is extremely clever and possesses an incredible insight on human nature. Throughout the novel, Tom must learn to listen to his conscience and become accountable for his actions Huckleberry Finn: The town’s social pariah. Son of an abusive and drunkard father who left town, Huck has failed to have been raised with any parental guidance or authority figures. Because he can smoke a pipe and never has to attend church or school, he is the envy of every schoolboy and he nightmare of every mother in town.

Huck and Tom often have adventures and both believe in various superstitions. Although disregarded by the “sociables,” Huck possesses a kind spirit and consideration for others Becky Thatcher: The daughter of Judge Thatcher. Becky is Tom’s age and has recently moved into town. Prim and proper, Becky is the opposite of Tom: she has never been in trouble and is used to obeying her mother’s words. With blonde hair and dressy frocks, she quickly wins Tom’s affection and attention.

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this essay please select a referencing style below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Home » The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

The narrator (later identified as Huckleberry Finn) begins Chapter One by stating that the reader may know of him from another book, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by “Mr. Mark Twain,” but it “ain’t t no matter” if you have not. According to Huck, Twain mostly told the truth, with some “stretchers” thrown in, though everyone–except Tom’s Aunt Polly, the widow, and maybe Mary–lies once in a while. The other book ended with Tom and Huckleberry finding the gold some robbers had hidden in a cave.

They got six thousand dollars apiece, which Judge Thatcher put in trust, so that they each got a dollar a day from interest. The Widow Douglas adopted and tried to “civilise” Huck. But Huck couldn’t stand it so he threw on his old rags and ran away. But he went back when Tom Sawyer told him he could join his new band of robbers if he would return to the Widow “and be respectable. ” The Widow lamented over her failure with Huck, tried to stuff him into cramped clothing, and before every meal had to “grumble” over the food before they could eat it.

She tried to teach him about Moses, until Huck found out he was dead and lost interest. Meanwhile, she would not let him smoke; typically, she disapproved of it because she had never tried it, but approved of snuff since she used it herself. Her slim sister who wears glasses, Miss Watson, tried to give him spelling lessons. Meanwhile, Huck was going stir-crazy, made especially restless by the sisters’ constant reminders to improve his behavior. When Miss Watson told him about the “bad place,” Hell, he burst out that he would like to go there, as a change of scenery.

Secretly, Huck really does not see the point in going to “the good place” and resolved then not to bother trying to get there. When Huck asked, Miss Watson told him there was no chance Tom Sawyer would end up in Heaven. Huck was glad “because I wanted him and me to be together. ” One night, after Miss Watson’s prayer session with him and the slaves, Huck goes to bed feeling “so lonesome I wished I was dead. ” He gets shivers hearing the sounds of nature through his window. Huck accidentally flicks a spider into a candle, and is frightened by the bad omen.

Just after midnight, Huck hears movement below the window, and a “me-yow” sound, that he responds to with another “me-yow. ” Climbing out the window onto the shed, Huck finds Tom Sawyer waiting for him. In a few short dense pages, Twain manages to accomplish a great deal. Most importantly, the two introductory notes and the first chapter establish the author’s use of humor and irony, the character of Huckleberry Finn, the novel’s theme, narration, and the use of dialect. One hateful word the characters use has brought occasional condemnation onto the book and its author.

The characters of the Widow Douglas and Miss Watson are also established. As well, the author establishes that the reader needs no familiarity with his previous work, Tom Sawyer, to understand Huckleberry Finn, though he fills the reader in on the pertinent information from the previous work. The brief “Notice” that introduces the book has been reprinted above in its entirety. In humorously highfalutin language, it states that the reader must not seek plot, “moral,” or “motive”– the last two of which likely correspond to the present-day concepts of theme and character development.

Of course, what the author really means by this notice is that the book does in fact contain all these things–that it is more than just a children’s, adventure, or humor book. Twain is using irony, saying one thing but meaning the opposite of its literal definition. He is using this irony humorously, covering this declaration of the book’s seriousness in a joke. The joke pokes fun at the seriousness of adult American society, with its rules and officials, especially with the citation to “G. G. , Chief of Ordinance.

Twain will use humor and irony throughout the book, most often combining the two. Indeed, humor usually occurs as a result of irony, with the gap between the expected and the actual provoking a startled reaction in the recipient, that, if done right, is humor. But Twain’s humor has the purpose not just of entertainment, but of conveying a serious message, as in the Notice. Twain also uses ironic humor in Chapter One, in recording Huckleberry’s reactions to the Widow Douglas’s attempts at “civilization,” especially religion.

When the Widow says grace, Huckleberry views it as unnecessary “grumbling. ” He finds the nice clothes she gives him stifling. He thinks Heaven (“the good place”) dull and would prefer to go to Hell (“the bad place”- the word “Hell” would likely be thought impolite in a “civilized” house like the sisters’) if his friend Tom is there. Huck’s views are all completely naturalistic, free of any of the pretensions toward refinement that mark the Widow Douglas and her sister Miss Watson.

Huckleberry is rough, rustic–a truly “uncivilized” boy. He rebels against the restraints of “civilization”–artificial, middle-class society– and its delusions, represented by “cramped” clothing and religion, respectively. Huckleberry’s complete sincerity, which leads to his dislike for hypocritical “civilization,” is his defining quality. The Widow Douglas and her sister Miss Watson, meanwhile, are the representatives of the society Huck rejects.

They both immerse themselves in the values of “civilization,” feeling righteous by punishing themselves with tight clothing and delaying their meals to say grace, which only appears as “grumbling” to the more sincere Huck. Above all, they adhere to hypocritical and absurd religious values. Miss Watson describes her Heaven as a place where the inhabitants spend their days playing harps and singing; again, Huck more sincerely realizes that this place is dull rather than desirable. But the utter moral emptiness of Miss Watson’s religion is best demonstrated by her prayer meeting with the slaves.

Miss Watson dutifully respects the religious custom of evening prayer, yet at the same time sees nothing wrong with “owning” other people. The two sisters’ one redeeming quality is their concern for Huck, which, though it possesses moralistic overtones, includes an element of sincerity, giving them some patience in dealing with the “uncivilized” Huck. Other than this, the sisters’ role is to represent the artificial, empty civilization to which Huck stands in contrast. Thus, they serve as foils to the character of Huckleberry.

Their artifice and hypocrisy contrast sharply with Huck’s natural sincerity, and so serve to highlight Huck’s qualities. Huck’s recognition of the hypocrisies and absurdities of the society represented by the Widow and Miss Watson, and his preference for nature and his own natural impulses, bring out the novel’s theme. Huckleberry Finn is about how society tends to corrupt true morality, freedom, and justice, which exist in nature, and how the individual must follow his or her own conscience. Chapter One establishes the corruption of the society in which Huck lives.

That society stifles freedom–in a small sense through its restrictive clothing and manners, and in a larger sense through the institution of slavery–and also morality and justice, with its absurd religion, hypocritical taboos, and, again, the institution of slavery. Quite a few critics have characterized Twain’s deep distrust in society as “pessimistic. ” Yet it is important to remember that Twain maintains full confidence in the existence of morality, freedom, justice, and other absolutes. In fact, they transcend society’s most flagrant transgressions of them, awaiting proper recognition by the attuned individual.

Huckleberry is not only the protagonist, but the narrator of the entire book. That is, the book uses first-person narration. The reader only finds out about anything once Huck does (though this does not preclude the possibility of the reader understanding something that Huck does not). This way, the reader also gets Huck’s impressions of the world, which, as explained above, are important to the theme. In the “Explanatory” note, Twain advises the reader that his characters will all speak in dialects– that is, regional, ethnic, and class variants of English.

As Twain notes, there are several different dialects used in Huckleberry Finn. This may make the book somewhat more of a challenge to read, but if the reader sticks with it, the added detail will make the book more involving and believable. The added detail is also part of the book’s realism–that is, its unromantic attempt at an accurate depiction of the world. In particular, there is one word all the characters use that contributes to the novel’s accurate depiction of the world in which it is set.

Yet this word is so hateful that over the years it has brought charges of racism onto the book and its author, and even some attempts to keep the book away from young people. The word is “nigger”. It is first used in Chapter One, as it will be throughout the book, to refer to all African Americans and especially those held as slaves. It is important to remember that the word is used as part of the language of a corrupt, racist society. That society used that word as surely as it held human beings in slavery. Both facts are described in the novel; it is important to remember that the author condemns both.

Huck and Tom tiptoe through the garden. Huck trips on a root as he passes the kitchen. Jim, a “big” slave, hears him from inside. Tom and Huck crouch down, trying to stay still. But Huck is struck by an uncontrollable itch, as always happens when he is in a situation, like when he’s “with the quality,” where it is bad to scratch. Jim says aloud that he will stay put until he discovers the source of the sound, but after several minutes falls asleep. Tom plays a trick on Jim–putting his hat on a tree branch over his head–and takes candles from the kitchen, over Huck’s objections that they will risk getting caught.

Later, Jim will say that some witches flew him around the state and put the hat above his head as a calling card. He expands the tale further, becoming a local celebrity among the slaves, who enjoy witch stories. He wears around his neck the five-cent piece Tom left for the candles, calling it a charm from the devil with the power to cure sickness. Jim nearly becomes so stuck-up from his newfound celebrity that he is unfit to be a servant. Meanwhile, Tom and Huck meet up with a few other boys, and take a boat to a large cave.

There, Tom declares his new band of robbers, “Tom Sawyer’s Gang. ” All must sign in blood an oath vowing, among other things, to kill the family of any member who reveals the gang’s secrets. The boys think it “a real beautiful oath. ” Tom admits he got part of it from books. The boys nearly disqualify Huck, who has no family but a drunken father who can never be found, until Huck offers Miss Watson. Tom says the gang must capture and ransom people, though nobody knows what “ransom” means. Tom assumes it means to kill them. But anyway, it must be done since all the books say so.

When one boy cries to go home and threatens to tell the group’s secrets, Tom bribes him with five cents. They agree to meet again someday, just not Sunday, which would be blasphemous. Huckleberry makes it back into bed just before dawn. Miss Watson tries to explain prayer to Huckleberry in Chapter Three. Huckleberry gives up on it after not getting what he prays for. Miss Watson calls him a fool, and explains prayer bestows spiritual gifts like selflessness to help others. Huck cannot see any advantage in this, except for the others one helps. So he resolves to forget it.

Widow Douglas describes a wonderful God, while Miss Watson’s is terrible. Huck concludes there are two Gods. He would like to belong to Widow Douglas’s, if He would take him – unlikely because of Huck’s bad qualities. Meanwhile, a rumor circulates that Huck’s Pap, who has not been seen in a year, is dead. A corpse was found in the river, thought to be Pap because of its “ragged” appearance, though the face is unrecognizable. At first Huck is relieved. His father had been a drunk who beat him when he was sober, though Huck stayed hidden from him most of the time.

Soon, however, Huck doubts his father’s death, and expects to see him again. After a month in Tom’s gang, Huck quit along with the rest of the boys. There was no point to it, without any robbery or killing, their activities being all pretend. Once, Tom pretended a caravan of Arabs and Spaniards were going to encamp nearby with hundreds of camels and elephants. It turned out to be a Sunday school picnic. Tom explained it really was a caravan of Arabs and Spaniards – only they were enchanted, like in Don Quixote. Huckleberry judged Tom’s stories of genies to be lies, after rubbing old lamps and rings with no result.

These two chapters develop the characters of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. The two are, in several respects, foils. But they still have some things in common. Through the character of Tom, Twain also pokes fun at romantic (non-realistic) literature. Tom insists that all his make-believe adventures be conducted “by the book. ” As Tom himself admits in regarding his gang’s oath, he gets many of his ideas from fiction. In particular, Tom tries to emulate the romantic (that is, not realistic) novels that were mostly imported from Europe and achieved enormous popularity in nineteenth-century North America.

Tom will be identified with this genre throughout the novel (though he will not appear in most of it). Twain detested this category of literature, an opinion that is developed more fully in the last chapters of Huckleberry Finn. Ironically, the book that Tom explicitly mentions as a model in these chapters is Cervantes’s Don Quixote. Cervantes actually satirized romantic adventure stories in his masterpiece, as Twain does here and elsewhere in Huckleberry Finn. Tom apparently didn’t get the satire.

But with this allusion, Twain may be giving a literary tip of the hat to an earlier satirist and observer of human nature. But beyond simply using Tom’s connection to the romance novels to satirize the genre, Twain also seems to be associating Tom with the “civilization” that the genre represents. Tom further interests himself in contracts, codes of conduct, fancy language, and other made-up ideas. He also seems to embody some of the negative qualities associated with civilization in the novel. Most importantly, Tom is insensitive to others, particularly the slaves.

In Chapter Two, Tom actually wants to tie Jim up for the fun of it. He settles for playing a trick on him. Tom’s insensitivity, especially toward slaves, will reach a peak in the book’s final chapters. Tom also seems to possess a tendency in favor of the hypocrisy of “civilized society” that Twain pokes at. For instance, Tom makes his “gang” sign an oath in blood not to divulge the group’s secrets, but when a boy threatens to do this, Tom simply bribes him. Tom’s above-mentioned character traits contrast sharply with Huckleberry’s corresponding traits.

While Tom puts great stock in the literature of civilization, Huck is as skeptical of it as he is of religion. For both literature and religion, Huck refuses to accept much on faith. In Chapter Three, he rejects both genies and prayers once they do not produce the promised results. (Twain is making an irreverent statement on popular religious beliefs by showing Huck’s similar rejection of both prayer and genies. ) Again, since both religion and romantic literature are products of civilization, Huck’s doubt towards them hints at his separation from civilization.

Also, where Tom is insensitive to others, Huckleberry is naturally considerate, advising his friend against tying Jim up or playing tricks on him. Tom’s tendency toward hypocrisy also contrasts sharply with Huck’s sincerity, discussed in the critical reading of the last chapter. Thus, the two characters of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn are foils to each other: certain traits of one character serve to highlight the contrasting traits of the other. Nonetheless, though the important contrasting traits of the two characters make them foils, they still share some traits in common.

These shared traits are enough to preserve the friendship between Tom and Huckleberry throughout the novel. Most importantly, the two characters share a kind of “boyishness”– that is, the characteristic embodied in the phrase, “boys will be boys,” and expounded upon in the first novel, Tom Sawyer. In the Preface to that book, the author wrote that he hoped the novel would rekindle its readers’ memories of their own childhood impishness, “of how they felt and thought and talked, and what queer enterprises they sometimes engaged in.

That theme is continued as something of a motif, a topic of interest, in Huckleberry Finn. Both Huck and Tom, in their own ways, delight in the dirty language and pranks that adults shun. On the whole, though, Huck’s separation from the world of adults and their “civilization” is more complete, and more serious. Still, throughout the novel, Huck maintains some admiration for Tom’s romantic adventures, and often wonders what he would do in certain situations. Thus, Huck’s character has some connection to Tom’s less desirable traits.

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this essay please select a referencing style below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Leave a Comment