Tom's the top dog, the king of the hill, the master of his domain. He does what he wants, when he wants, and most of the time he gets away with it. He's the man that makes things happen. Who's the kid who tricks everyone else into doing his chores? Tom Sawyer. Who gets the boys to go to Jackson's Island? Tom Sawyer. Who saves Muff Potter and escapes the caves and gets the girl and the gold? That's right: Tom Sawyer.
Now, the assertiveness that gets Tom out into the world doing so much can be his undoing. He's always playing hooky and stealing sweets behind Aunt Polly's back. The same brilliant plan that allows Tom, Huck, and Joe to attend their own funeral – and it is brilliant – also leaves Aunt Polly, Mrs. Harper, and anyone else who cares deeply for the boys to stew in their tear-filled juices. Tom is, in short, cocky, and a bit of a know-it-all, but we're willing to forgive that, especially when he does things like protect Becky from being beaten by the sadistic schoolmaster. Tom's arrogance is childish, but his courage – as displayed in moments like this – is adult.