Character Analysis in Tom Sawyer

Character Analysis in Tom Sawyer

I will analyze the characters in Samuel Langhorne Clemens' (Mark Twain) book “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”. This book has many characters, and we will cover most of them.

The purpose of the book is to show us how it was like to be a boy during Tom Sawyer's day. The main idea is that even though we are centuries away from the time in which Tom lived, kids are imaginative and adventurous.

The author probably used these literary devices (setting, plot, characters, etc.) because he was writing for people who could probably remember similar adventures when they were children.

In the exposition, we learn about the main characters and the setting, which is a small town in Missouri, in the 19th century. We hear about Tom and his friends' adventures in their small town.

Tom trades with some children for tickets to redeem to get a Bible in Sunday school. He then claims one in front of the whole class to show off to the girl that he was trying to impress earlier. Going to church is a part of Tom's life, even though he doesn't like it.

Tom has to go to school even though he hates it. He finds ways to distract himself there and doesn't listen to the teacher.

The boy goes into the forest, skipping school, and daydreams about becoming a pirate, and then tries to perform magic by summoning marbles out of the dark abyss and plays with Joe Harper, his friend.

The beginning of the rising action is when Tom and Huck Finn go to the graveyard in the middle of the night. There, they witness the murder of Doctor Robinson by Joe. The doctor, Joe, and another man named Muff Potter were trying to rob a grave when an argument broke out between them and Robinson was stabbed by Joe, who blamed Potter for the murder.

Tom and Huck immediately started running down the hill to the village. After getting far enough away from the scene of the murder, they quietly conversed about what to do. They said that they wouldn't tell anyone because if Joe wasn't hanged, he would kill them for telling.

The boys write on a slate that they would never tell about what happened on that night and then sign it with their blood and bury the slate. Then, they go back home.

Tom is treated by his aunt when he becomes sick with worry over Betty Thatcher.

Tom and his friends leave home to become pirates. The leader of the pirate gang sneaks back home and finds out that they will get a funeral for them on Sunday, so he has a great idea.

The next day, Huck, and Joe become tired of being pirates and express their desire to go back home. This makes Tom reveal his secret, which makes the boys want to stay.

[They presently stopped and turned around. When he got to where they were, he began unfolding his secret, and they listened moodily till at last they saw the “point” he was driving at, and then they set up a war-whoop of applause and said it was “splendid!” and said if he had told them at first, they wouldn’t have started away. He made a plausible excuse; but his real reason had been the fear that not even the secret would keep them with him any very great length of time, and so he had meant to hold it in reserve as a last seduction.]
— from the book “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”.

The town holds a funeral for the “recently deceased” Tom, Huck, and Joe. However, this gets interrupted when the “dead” boys appear! Everyone is extremely surprised at this development.

Tom goes to school and is looked up to by all his friends.

As vacation approached, the schoolmaster became more and more violent in his thrashings, and the boys planned revenge against him. They enlisted the signpainter's son, and came up with a great plan.

On the day of the Examination, a grueling test of the children's new skills in front of all their parents, the students are told to recite speeches or songs they learned by heart. Later, the schoolmaster tests the students on geography, and while he was absorbed in the task of drawing a legible map of the United States, a cat was lowered from a garret directly above the schoolmaster's head. It grabbed his wig, and the schoolmaster's bald head was revealed. The signpainter's son painted it while he was asleep.

Later, Muff Potter is taken to court because everyone thought he murdered Doctor Robinson. The attorney called Tom Sawyer, who testified against Joe. The criminal jumped out of a window and escaped.

After saving Muff Potter, Tom gets a sudden desire to look for hidden treasure. He calls upon his friends to come and help him search. Unluckily, none of his friends, except Huck Finn, can come to help him, so the two companions set off in search for gold. They decide to search under all the dead-branched trees around the village and in the haunted house.

First, the boys started digging around some dead trees in the daylight, but after not finding anything decided that they had to come back at midnight and find out where the shadow of the tree fell then. After a fruitless search, they decided on searching the haunted house during the daylight.

On Saturday, the boys go to search the haunted house. They go inside and don't see any ghosts hungry for brains, so they decide to explore awhile. After going upstairs, Joe and another man come into the house and sit down for a picnic. The criminals dig up some treasure and then go away.

That night, Tom is haunted by dreams of what he could have done if he got the money hidden in the haunted house and nightmares of Joe. The next day, he meets Huck, and they mull over what the criminals said the previous day. They heard Joe and the other man saying that they will go to “Number Two”, which they conjectured was a room in an inn. Tom finds out that the Number Two in one of the town's inns is conjectured to be haunted and no one knows who lives there. They decide to sneak in by a back door and start looking for keys.

Huck Finn followed Joe and his partner in crime and saw them going towards the widow's house with the intention to hurt her. He calls a Welshman who lives nearby and tells him what happens. The man and his sons rout the criminals.

Later, Tom goes to a picnic with his friend, Becky Thatcher. He gets lost in a cave with her, but they manage to get out after a few days. During this time, Tom finds Joe in the cavern, but doesn't tell Becky because he doesn't want to scare her.

Tom finds out that the cave in which he was in was blocked up so no one could get lost in it again. He tells Judge Thatcher, the person who ordered it to be sealed, that Joe was inside. When they went to see, they found Joe's body. He died of starvation.

The climax develops when Tom takes Huck to get the treasure, which he found when he was wandering about in the cave. They take it to the widow's wood loft and divide the spoils.

The falling action starts with Tom revealing that he and Huck are wealthy, and they become adored by the whole town. All the haunted houses nearby are torn up for the possibility of treasure. Huck gets adopted by the widow, but doesn't like it there, so he tries running away. Tom tells him that he needs to stay with the widow, so he can become respectable and part of their "robber gang".

The conclusion is that everyone lived happily ever after.

Tom Sawyer

Tom Sawyer is the titular character of the book, and is the most important one. He is portrayed as a rowdy boy having adventures and acting like a boy his age.

In the first chapter, he skips school, learns how to whistle, and then beats up another child in the streets. For this, he gets punished by having to work on Saturday, when he was usually free. He tricks other kids into whitewashing the fence for him by making the chore look desirable.

Later in the book, he sees a girl and starts trying to impress her by doing all sorts of acrobatics and other foolish actions. He also pretends to be a general with his friend Joe Harper.

Tom also hates reciting Bible verses and knows almost nothing about it. When asked what the first two disciples were, he replied, “David and Goliath”.

When Tom goes to church, he has to listen to the pastor's sermon, and we can see from his actions that he isn't interested, but only listens quietly to it and to the preceding prayer because he thinks if he doesn't do so, his soul will instantly be destroyed. During the sermon, he plays with a pinch-bug, but when the inevitable happens, and Tom's fingers get bitten, he throws it in the middle of the aisle, where a dog gets pinched and starts running around the church barking. Even though he's not interested in the sermon, he has a fear of God.

The next day, Tom takes out a loose tooth and then goes to school. On the way, he speaks with another boy named Huckleberry Finn, who tells him ways to get warts off with a dead cat, some rainwater, or a bean. Tom is then reprimanded for being late at his school, and is put to sit with the girls. He manages to get the attention of the girl he was attracted to and then told her that he loved her.

During school, he plays with a tick with his friend Joe Harper before being caught and spanked. During recess, he teaches Betty Thatcher how to draw. Then, he asks her if she wants to be engaged to him, and she agrees after some hesitation. After a while, Tom mentions that he was engaged to someone else, and she stops talking to him. Then, Tom gets furious and leaves school.

Later, Tom makes it across the village where he lives and into a forest on the other side. He has a rich imagination, which can be seen in his dreams about the adventures he would have if he ran away from home. Tom starts thinking about running away from home and going to some faraway land and joining the circus. However, since he viewed himself as a romantic, he thought that being a clown would not fit his character, so he thought about being a soldier or an Indian and finally settles on becoming a famous pirate and then coming back to his hometown to terrorize it.

[…and at the zenith of his fame, how he would suddenly appear at the old village and stalk into church… and hear with swelling ecstasy the whispering, “It’s Tom Sawyer the Pirate! — the Black Avenger of the Spanish Main!”]
— from the book “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”.

Afterwards, he does a ritual where he hides a marble in one place for some days, and after chanting a spell, he expects all the marbles he had ever lost to come back to that place. He is trying his hand at magic, thinking that it works, and after he found it did not work, he blamed the failure of the spell on a witch. Later, he meets with Joe Harper, and enacts parts of the book “Robin Hood” with him.

During the night, Tom sneaks outside to his friend, Huckleberry Finn, who promised to show him a method of curing warts with a dead cat. The boys sneak off to the graveyard. We find out that Tom is superstitious, as he mistakes the wind rustling in the trees for ghosts.

[A faint wind moaned through the trees, and Tom feared it might be the spirits of the dead, complaining of being disturbed.]
— from the book “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”.

They hear voices in the distance and think that there are three spirits coming, until Huckleberry Finn hears that there are people there. They look over the rise and see three people, one of whom is the town's doctor (Robinson), another is an Indian named Joe, and a drunkard named Muff Potter.

The doctor points the other two ruffians to a grave and tells them that that's the one. Then, after digging up the grave and extracting the coffin, they fall to arguing who is going to get the lion's share of the loot. This ends in Muff Potter being knocked out by the doctor, and Joe stabbing him. Then, Joe placed the bloody knife into Muff's hands and convinces him that he will not tell the authorities about the murder. However, Tom and Huck saw the entire proceedings and know what happened.

Tom runs down the hill and promises that he would never tell anyone what happened that night for fear of being killed by the murderer.

[“What are you talking about? S’pose something happened and Injun Joe didn’t hang? Why he’d kill us sometime or other, just as dead sure as we’re a-laying here.”]
— from the book “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”.

The next day, the whole town is in an uproar about the murder of Doctor Robinson. Tom is caught up in the crowd rushing to the site of the murder. He sees the impromptu trial of Muff Potter, and does not tell anyone about what really happened.

Thereafter, Tom is concerned because Betty is not coming to school. He hangs around her house and tries to get her to come outside, but nothing works. Tom is beginning to sicken, and his aunt tries everything to make him feel better.

She gives him cold and hot showers, and other remedies, but Tom is still very sick. Finally, she buys some painkillers and gives the fiery liquid to the poor boy. After some time, he tried to put the painkiller anywhere except his body. Eventually, he gave some painkiller to the cat, which started running around the house and smashing things.

[Becky Thatcher had stopped coming to school. He [Tom] began to find himself hanging around her father’s house, nights, and feeling very miserable. She was ill. What if she should die! There was distraction in the thought. He no longer took an interest in war, nor even in piracy. The charm of life was gone; there was nothing but dreariness left. He put his hoop away, and his bat; there was no joy in them anymore. His aunt was concerned. She began to try all manner of remedies on him.]
— from the book “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”.

However, Tom's fears were unfounded, as the next time he went to school, Betty comes too.

Tom decides to run away from home because he feels that he was mistreated by everyone and wanted to become a pirate. On the way, he meets Joe Harper, who feels the same way and comes with him. They also call Huck Finn, and after Tom steals some provisions, set off to steal a raft.

[Tom’s mind was made up now. He was gloomy and desperate… when they found out what they had driven him to, perhaps they would be sorry… since nothing would do them but to be rid of him, let it be so; let them blame him for the consequences — why shouldn’t they… Yes, they had forced him to it at last: he would lead a life of crime. There was no choice.]
— from the book “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”.

Tom already knew a good place to make camp, a small uninhabited island near the river's bank. He goes there with his companions, and cook their stolen provisions, then go to sleep.

The next day, the merry band explored their island and saw that a ferryboat was firing a cannon to make drowned bodies float to the surface. Tom had the idea that the town was looking for them, and he was delighted to be the center of attention.

That night, the boy sneaked out of camp and went back home, where he heard his aunt talking about how she missed him and crying. He also heard Joe Harper's mother talking about his exploits that she regretted punishing him. Then, Tom went back to his island, and he had a “great idea”.

When Huck and Joe want to leave the island to go home, Tom tells them his secret, and they intend to continue to stay on the island. This shows that Tom can easily influence his friends and is very convincing.

Next, Tom tries smoking, which makes him start drooling uncontrollably, and he runs into the forest on the pretense of finding Joe's knife because he would rather not reveal his weakness to his friends. This shows that he's proud.

Tom and his friends go back to town during their funeral, surprising everyone and generating a lot of attention.

The next day, Tom is extremely well treated by his family. He is scolded by his aunt for not telling her that it was a joke, and he wasn't actually dead. Tom says he had a dream that he went to their house at night, and heard what they said about him and Jim. This makes his aunt believe he was prophesying. However, this was not the case, as Tom visited the house during his absence and he actually heard the conversation. He uses lies to receive praise and rewards, and is successful.

[“Tom! The sperrit was upon you! You was a-prophesying — that’s what you was doing! Land alive, go on, Tom!”]
— from the book “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”.

Tom then goes to school, where he is admired and envied by everyone. He uses this attention to get revenge on Betty Thatcher, whom he is angry at because he thinks she rejected him.

The next day, Tom sees Becky reading one of the professor's private books, and when he comes up behind her, a page is torn. Tom speculates that Becky would be whipped for doing such an awful thing. Later, the schoolmaster finds his book torn and Tom says he did it to get the blame off Becky. She is grateful and becomes his friend once again. Tom is ready to sacrifice himself for Becky because she is his friend.

[“Rebecca Thatcher” [Tom glanced at her face — it was white with terror] — “did you tear — no, look me in the face” [her hands rose in appeal] — “did you tear this book?”

A thought shot like lightning through Tom’s brain. He sprang to his feet and shouted — “I done it!”

The school stared in perplexity at this incredible folly. Tom stood a moment, to gather his dismembered faculties; and when he stepped forward to go to his punishment the surprise, the gratitude, the adoration that shone upon him out of poor Becky’s eyes seemed pay enough for a hundred floggings.]
— from the book “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”.

Tom isn't a religious person, he likes his mischievous ways. During vacation, Tom gets sick and has to stay home. Previously, he heard his friends reciting scripture and was worried about them, but after getting better, finds his friends and is reassured because they continued in their old ways.

Tom does the right thing, testifying against Joe in court, and clearing Muff Potter from the accusation of murder. He is delighted that he saved Muff from being hung, but is terrified that Joe would find and kill him.

[Tom’s days were days of splendor and exultation to him, but his nights were seasons of horror. Injun Joe infested all his dreams, and always with doom in his eye.]
— from the book “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”.

Later, Tom and Huck go looking for treasure. He is very gullible and adventurous, believing in fairy tales about witches, ghosts, and lost treasures just waiting to be dug up.

Tom shows bravery by going into the haunted house even though he thinks that there are ghosts there, but discovers that there are none. He also learns from his experience that ghosts don't exist.

He shows his dedication by agreeing to watch the tavern exit during the night so he and Huck can get the box of treasure. However, Tom neglected his duty when went with Becky to a picnic and had to stay overnight.

Tom is fair and generous because he splits the money he found in the cave with his friend, Huck Finn.

He is kind by including Huck Finn, whom many people count as a dirty, vulgar person, in his games, like pirates or playing as robbers.

Aunt Polly

Aunt Polly is Tom Sawyer's aunt, who takes care of him since his mother died. She often scolds him, but does not have the heart to spank him. Instead, she assigns him chores to do. She has a weak spot for Tom, and typically doesn't even punish him for bad actions, although she does not trust him at all.

Sid Sawyer

Sid is Tom's younger cousin. He is very obedient, but is a snitch and likes to get Tom into trouble. He also lies a lot and constantly gets threats from Tom, informing him on how he's going to get licked (beaten up) one day. Sid likes to show off by learning thousands of Bible verses and then getting rewards in the sight of all the Sunday-school class.

Mary Sawyer

Mary is Tom's older cousin. She treats him very well and helps him grow up. Mary is very kind to Tom and helps him wash his face, put on his shoes, and dress well. She also gave him a knife for memorizing a Bible verse.

Joe Harper

Joe Harper is Tom's best friend. He plays with Tom regularly and is a fellow “General”. He also likes playing with ticks, just like Tom. Joe likes playing in the forest with his friend Tom Sawyer. He knows many parts of “Robin Hood” by heart and reenacts them with Tom. Joe follows Tom in becoming a pirate on the Mississippi River because his mother hit him for drinking spoiled cream.

Huckleberry Finn

Huckleberry (Huck) Finn is another of Tom's friends. He is superstitious, believing that warts can be taken off with incantations. Huck witnessed the murder of Doctor Robinson with Tom. He agrees to become a pirate with his friends because he thinks it's fun to be a pirate.

When the boys are on Joe's trail, Huck shows his bravery by following the criminal and his companion and telling the Welshman about what they were planning to do. He also shows that he really wants the treasure despite his initial attitude of not caring about it because he is always on edge whenever someone mentions finding something.

Betty Thatcher

Betty Thatcher is Tom's girlfriend. She was tricked into getting “engaged” to him and, after Tom revealed that he was engaged before, rejected him. Betty ignores Tom when he tries to get revenge on her, and takes her revenge by being with another boy in his sight.