Study Guide

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Quotes

  • Manipulation

    Chapter 1

    Aunt Polly asked him questions that were full of guile, and very deep -- for she wanted to trap him into damaging revealments. Like many other simple-hearted souls, it was her pet vanity to believe she was endowed with a talent for dark and mysterious diplomacy, and she loved to contemplate her most transparent devices as marvels of low cunning. (1.25)

    Aunt Polly's faith in her own ingenuity, the very thing that keeps Tom going, is her undoing.

    Chapter 2
    Tom Sawyer

    ""Ben, I'd like to, honest injun; but Aunt Polly -- well, Jim wanted to do it, but she wouldn't let him; Sid wanted to do it, and she wouldn't let Sid. Now don't you see how I'm fixed? If you was to tackle this fence and anything was to happen to it --"

    "Oh, shucks, I'll be just as careful. Now lemme try." (2.40-1)

    Tom's trick, however clever or charming it may be, is still a form of manipulation.

    Chapter 4

    The boys were all eaten up with envy -- but those that suffered the bitterest pangs were those who perceived too late that they themselves had contributed to this hated splendor by trading tickets to Tom for the wealth he had amassed in selling whitewashing privileges. (4.43)

    Though Tom's whitewashing scheme is ingenious, his ability to quickly "flip" his loot and turn it into an entirely different kind of prize – both a Bible and the recognition of adults – represents a unique kind of cunning.

    Chapter 6
    Tom Sawyer

    Tom was about to take refuge in a lie, when he saw two long tails of yellow hair hanging down a back that he recognized by the electric sympathy of love; and by that form was the only vacant place on the girls' side of the school-house. He instantly said:

    "I stopped to talk with Huckleberry Finn!" (6.118-9)

    Here, Tom demonstrates that even telling the truth can be a form of manipulation.

    Now Tom began to scrawl something on the slate, hiding the words from the girl. But she was not backward this time. She begged to see. Tom said:

    "Oh, it ain't anything."

    "Yes it is."

    "No it ain't. You don't want to see." (6.143-6)

    Tom's tricks aren't all first-class; sometimes he simply resorts to classic ruses to get what he wants.

    Chapter 9

    Then he [Injun Joe] put the fatal knife in Potter's open right hand, and sat down on the dismantled coffin. Three -- four -- five minutes passed, and then Potter began to stir and moan. His hand closed upon the knife; he raised it, glanced at it, and let it fall, with a shudder. Then he sat up, pushing the body from him, and gazed at it, and then around him, confusedly. His eyes met Joe's. (9.53)

    Though Joe's crime is in an entirely different league from Tom's little ploys, the same principles of trickery and cunning still apply.

    Chapter 11

    [Injun Joe] had been careful to begin both of his inquest-statements with the fight, without confessing the grave-robbery that preceded it; therefore it was deemed wisest not to try the case in the courts at present. (11.36)

    Injun Joe reveals himself to be just as skilled a manipulator as Tom – he can lie about a murder without slipping up or cracking under pressure. But Injun Joe's abilities are in no way admirable.

    Chapter 18

    Then [Becky] sat moody, with wounded pride until the bell rang. She roused up, now, with a vindictive cast in her eye, and gave her plaited tails a shake and said she knew what she'd do. (18.78)

    Even Becky, the picture of innocence, turns to manipulation when Tom ignores her – and she gets what she wants as a result. Tom, it must be remembered, does not have a monopoly on trickery.

    Chapter 30
    Tom Sawyer

    "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. (30.30-32)

    Here, even as Tom sacrifices himself, the manipulative aspect of his actions should be acknowledged. He is putting himself on the line in order to help Becky, yes, but also to win her back.

    Chapter 35
    Huckleberry Finn

    Tom saw his opportunity—

    "Lookyhere, Huck, being rich ain't going to keep me back from turning robber."

    "No! Oh, good-licks; are you in real dead-wood earnest, Tom?"

    "Just as dead earnest as I'm sitting here. But Huck, we can't let you into the gang if you ain't respectable, you know." (35.12-15)

    Tom's nimble imagination – and the fact that most of his schemes have no basis in reality – allows him to coax Huck in to going back to the Widow Douglas.

  • Youth

    Chapter 1

    There comes a time in every rightly-constructed boy's life when he has a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure. This desire suddenly came upon Tom one day. […] Presently he stumbled upon Huck Finn the Red-Handed. Huck would answer. Tom took him to a private place and opened the matter to him confidentially. Huck was willing. (1.1)

    Searching for treasure, Twain suggests, is as much a part of being a boy as, well, going through puberty. Both involve raging desires; the objects of those desires are simply different.

    Chapter 6

    In a word, everything that goes to make life precious that boy [Huck Finn] had. So thought every harassed, hampered, respectable boy in St. Petersburg. (6.44)

    Though the children envy Huck his freedom, they don't understand what price he has to pay for it.

    Chapter 7
    Tom Sawyer

    "Say, Becky, was you ever engaged?"

    "What's that?"

    "Why, engaged to be married."

    "No."

    "Would you like to?"

    "I reckon so. I don't know. What is it like?"

    "Like? Why it ain't like anything. You only just tell a boy you won't ever have anybody but him, ever ever ever, and then you kiss and that's all. Anybody can do it." (7.32-8)

    Though Tom is evidently more knowledgeable than Becky when it comes to terminology, he's still too young to really understand the way love and marriage work.

    Chapter 8

    Now as to this girl. What had he done? Nothing. He had meant the best in the world, and been treated like a dog -- like a very dog. She would be sorry some day -- maybe when it was too late. Ah, if he could only die temporarily! (8.1)

    Tom, still young, can think of death and, instead of shuddering or having an existential crisis, simply wish it could work a bit differently for once.

    But the elastic heart of youth cannot be compressed into one constrained shape long at a time. Tom presently began to drift insensibly back into the concerns of this life again. What if he turned his back, now, and disappeared mysteriously? What if he went away -- ever so far away, into unknown countries beyond the seas -- and never came back any more! How would she feel then! (8.2)

    With most of his life still ahead of him, Tom can dream himself up any future – he has enough time to do anything.

    Chapter 11

    It seemed to Tom that his schoolmates never would get done holding inquests on dead cats, and thus keeping his trouble present to his mind. Sid noticed that Tom never was coroner at one of these inquiries, though it had been his habit to take the lead in all new enterprises; he noticed, too, that Tom never acted as a witness -- and that was strange; and Sid did not overlook the fact that Tom even showed a marked aversion to these inquests, and always avoided them when he could. Sid marveled, but said nothing. However, even inquests went out of vogue at last, and ceased to torture Tom's conscience. (11.35)

    First and foremost, this is an affirmation of Twain's statement about the "queer enterprises" children sometimes embark upon. Second, Tom is unable to take part in the strange ritual because he has become more acutely aware of human death; he has no time for a sham inquest when he should, really, be taking part in a real one.

    Chapter 14
    Tom Sawyer

    "Boys, I know who's drownded -- it's us!"

    They felt like heroes in an instant. Here was a gorgeous triumph; they were missed; they were mourned; hearts were breaking on their account; tears were being shed; accusing memories of unkindness to these poor lost lads were rising up, and unavailing regrets and remorse were being indulged; and best of all, the departed were the talk of the whole town, and the envy of all the boys, as far as this dazzling notoriety was concerned. (14.25-6)

    Children, and only children, could exalt in such a situation – in being thought dead by friends and loved ones – without being touched by the stranger, eerier implications of it.

    Chapter 35
    Tom Sawyer

    "The eats by a bell, she goes to bed by a bell; she gits up by a bell—everything's so awful reglar a body can't stand it.

    "Well, everybody does it that way, Huck." (35.7-8)

    Tom seems to be coming to terms with the adult way of life. He certainly hasn't become one, yet, but he might just be starting to see the light at the end of childhood's long tunnel.

    Although my book is intended mainly for the entertainment of boys and girls, I hope it will not be shunned by men and women on that account, for part of my plan has been to try to pleasantly remind adults of what they once were themselves, and of how they felt and thought and talked, and what queer enterprises they sometimes engaged in. (Preface.3)

    Twain lets you know right off the bat that being a kid isn't all fun and games. Sometimes it's just plain weird.

  • Hopes, Plans, and Dreams

    Chapter 1

    There comes a time in every rightly-constructed boy's life when he has a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure. This desire suddenly came upon Tom one day. […] Presently he stumbled upon Huck Finn the Red-Handed. Huck would answer. Tom took him to a private place and opened the matter to him confidentially. Huck was willing. (1.1)

    Here, again, we see that Tom has the same fantasies that most any boy of his age would have. Thing is, he ends up fulfilling this one.

    Chapter 8

    What if he turned his back, now, and disappeared mysteriously? What if he went away -- ever so far away, into unknown countries beyond the seas -- and never came back any more! How would she feel then! […] No, he would be a soldier, and return after long years, all war-worn and illustrious. No -- better still, he would join the Indians, and hunt buffaloes and go on the warpath […] and away in the future come back a great chief, bristling with feathers, hideous with paint, and prance into Sunday-school, some drowsy summer morning, with a blood-curdling war-whoop, and sear the eyeballs of all his companions with unappeasable envy. But no, there was something gaudier even than this. He would be a pirate! That was it! (8.5)

    Though Tom's ideas are pretty standard-issue schoolboy stuff, the speed with which he cycles through them suggests he has a very active imagination.

    The boys dressed themselves, hid their accoutrements, and went off grieving that there were no outlaws any more, and wondering what modern civilization could claim to have done to compensate for their loss. They said they would rather be outlaws a year in Sherwood Forest than President of the United States forever. (8.35)

    Twain perfectly captures the tone and form of a child's wish. The "I'd rather be X for a year than Y forever" is classic.

    Now as to this girl. What had he done? Nothing. He had meant the best in the world, and been treated like a dog -- like a very dog. She would be sorry some day -- maybe when it was too late. Ah, if he could only die temporarily! (8.1)

    Though Tom generally sticks to the usual fantasies – pirates, robbers – he occasionally has stranger, more serious thoughts. In this case, he articulates a dream that most human beings have had, albeit it in a childish way.

    Chapter 12

    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 any more. (12.1)

    Even Tom's imagination is not unquenchable, however, and – as can and does happen all too often – life's sadness dampens his creativity.

    Chapter 13

    As the two boys walked sorrowing along, they made a new compact to stand by each other and be brothers and never separate till death relieved them of their troubles. Then they began to lay their plans. Joe was for being a hermit, and living on crusts in a remote cave, and dying, some time, of cold and want and grief; but after listening to Tom, he conceded that there were some conspicuous advantages about a life of crime, and so he consented to be a pirate. (13.5)

    Joe's desire to become a child-hermit, like Tom's earlier one to die "temporarily," feels oddly profound and adult.

    Chapter 14
    Tom Sawyer

    "Boys, I know who's drownded -- it's us!"

    They felt like heroes in an instant. Here was a gorgeous triumph; they were missed; they were mourned; hearts were breaking on their account; tears were being shed; accusing memories of unkindness to these poor lost lads were rising up, and unavailing regrets and remorse were being indulged; and best of all, the departed were the talk of the whole town, and the envy of all the boys, as far as this dazzling notoriety was concerned. (14.25-26)

    Here, we see Tom's desire to die temporarily actually come true – or, well, begin to come true. When he finally returns to town the cycle is complete.

    Chapter 25
    Huckleberry Finn

    "Say, Huck, if we find a treasure here, what you going to do with your share?"

    "Well, I'll have pie and a glass of soda every day, and I'll go to every circus that comes along. I bet I'll have a gay time."

    "What you going to do with yourn, Tom?"

    "I'm going to buy a new drum, and a sure-'nough sword, and a red necktie and a bull pup, and get married." (25.48-9; 53-4)

    The childishness of Tom's dream is only emphasized by his inclusion of marriage in what is otherwise a rather silly list of desires.

    Chapter 35

    Judge Thatcher hoped to see Tom a great lawyer or a great soldier some day. He said he meant to look to it that Tom should be admitted to the National Military Academy and afterward trained in the best law school in the country, in order that he might be ready for either career or both. (35.4)

    Judge Thatcher's hopes for Tom are rather childish and unreasonable in their own way; he wants Tom to have the best of everything, regardless of what Tom wants.

    Huckleberry Finn

    "Tom, I wouldn't ever got into all this trouble if it hadn't 'a' ben for that money; now you just take my sheer of it along with your'n, and gimme a ten-center sometimes -- not many times, becuz I don't give a dern for a thing 'thout it's tollable hard to git -- and you go and beg off for me with the widder." (35.9)

    Huck finds out that, sometimes, getting just what you had hoped for is actually the last thing you ever want.

  • Language and Communication

    Chapter 2

    "Oh I dasn't, Mars Tom. Ole missis she'd take an' tar de head off'n me. 'Deed she would." (2.7)

    However crude Twain's attempt to render Jim's manner of speaking may seem, his commitment to capturing different dialects is noteworthy.

    Chapter 3
    Aunt Polly

    "Umf! Well, you didn't get a lick amiss, I reckon. You been into some owdacious mischief when I wasn't around, right enough." (3.22)

    Twain's ability to capture the sound of speech on the page becomes more evident when you compare the different ways characters speak. Here you can see how Aunt Polly's voice compares to Jim's.

    Chapter 8
    Joe Harper

    "Hold! Who comes here into Sherwood Forest without my pass?"

    "Guy of Guisborne wants no man's pass. Who art thou that -- that --"

    "Dares to hold such language," said Tom, prompting -- for they talked "by the book," from memory. (8.17-19)

    Here we see that Tom and Joe Harper are actually able to change their manner of speaking to suit their role-playing; they, like Twain, understand what a difference "voice" can make. (It should also be noticed that Tom has no trouble remembering lines from Robin Hood, but he can't even memorize the smallest bit of the Sermon on the Mount for Sunday school.)

    Chapter 10

    He picked up a clean pine shingle that lay in the moonlight, took a little fragment of "red keel" out of his pocket, got the moon on his work, and painfully scrawled these lines, emphasizing each slow down-stroke by clamping his tongue between his teeth, and letting up the pressure on the up-strokes.

    Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer swears they will keep mum about This and They wish They may Drop down dead in Their Tracks if They ever Tell and Rot.

    Huckleberry was filled with admiration of Tom's facility in writing, and the sublimity of his language. (10.25-7)

    Here, Tom demonstrates his mastery of another form of language, this time written: the over-serious oath. The punctuation, replete with unnecessary capital letters, is perfectly suited to the occasion.

    Chapter 11

    "Close upon the hour of noon the whole village was suddenly electrified with the ghastly news. No need of the as yet undreamed-of telegraph; the tale flew from man to man, from group to group, from house to house, with little less than telegraphic speed." (11.1)

    Twain illustrates the speed with which small-town gossip gets around with a droll analogy.

    Chapter 14
    Joe Harper

    "Yes, and they take loaves of bread and put quicksilver in 'em and set 'em afloat, and wherever there's anybody that's drownded, they'll float right there and stop."

    "Yes, I've heard about that," said Joe. "I wonder what makes the bread do that."

    "Oh, it ain't the bread, so much," said Tom; "I reckon it's mostly what they say over it before they start it out." (14.16-8)

    However silly their superstitions may be, the boys do understand the sometimes magical power of words.

    Chapter 21

    It may be remarked, in passing, that the number of compositions in which the word "beauteous" was over-fondled, and human experience referred to as "life's page," was up to the usual average. (21.18)

    In describing the students' speeches, Twain pokes fun at conventional ideas about poetic and beautiful language.

    Chapter 35
    Huckleberry Finn

    "Well, I'd got to talk so nice it wasn't no comfort -- I'd got to go up in the attic and rip out awhile, every day, to git a taste in my mouth, or I'd a died, Tom." (35.9)

    Huck's connection to his own way of speaking is so visceral that it actually affects him physically; his way of talking really is an important part of his personality.

    [Huck] had to talk so properly that speech was become insipid in his mouth; whithersoever he turned, the bars and shackles of civilization shut him in and bound him hand and foot. (35.5)

    By "cleaning up" his language, the Widow Douglas manages to clean up – or take away – Huck's personality; if you were to render some of Huck's earlier dialogue in a clean, polished style, you could get some idea of how damaging such refinement could be.

  • Race

    Chapter 2

    "Can't, Mars Tom. Ole missis, she tole me I got to go an' git dis water an' not stop foolin' roun' wid anybody." (2.5)

    Twain's use of dialect emphasizes the differences between Jim, a slave, and Tom. Is Twain simply attempting to accurately render different dialects here, or is he exaggerating Jim's way of speaking?

    Chapter 6
    Tom Sawyer

    "Well, what of it? They'll all lie. Leastways all but the nigger. I don't know him. But I never see a nigger that wouldn't lie. Shucks!" (6.65)

    Though Tom seems to have no problems with interacting with black slaves – he even learns how to whistle from one – he still distrusts them and doesn't seem them as individual. He seems to assume that all black people are the same.

    Chapter 9
    Tom Sawyer

    "Say Huck, I know another o' them voices; it's Injun Joe."

    "That's so—that murderin' half-breed! I'd ruther they was devils, a dern sight." (9.38)

    Listening to Huck and Tom, it's hard to know if they fear Injun Joe because he's a murderer or because he's a so-called "half-breed"; whether it's because of Joe's reputation or the reputation of people like Injun Joe.

    Injun Joe

    "Did you think I'd forget? The Injun blood ain't in me for nothing. And now I've got you, and you got to settle, you know!" (9.48)

    Injun Joe seems to use stereotypes about his race as a justification for his actions; they offer an excuse for his rage.

    Chapter 10
    Tom Sawyer

    "O, lordy, I'm thankful!" whispered Tom. "I know his voice. It's Bull Harbison."

    (Note: If Mr. Harbison had owned a slave named Bull, Tom would have spoken of him as "Harbison's Bull," but a son or a dog of that name was "Bull Harbison.") (10.42-43)

    Here, something as simple as a naming system emphasizes how demeaning slavery is; slaves, we are told, are referred to like possessions, while dogs are named like sons.

    Chapter 22

    The first of all the negro minstrel shows came to town, and made a sensation. Tom and Joe Harper got up a band of performers and were happy for two days. (22.4)

    Tom and Joe live at a time when African Americans were not only forced into slavery, but were demeaned for the purposes of entertainment.

    Chapter 28
    Huckleberry Finn

    "That's all right. Now, where you going to sleep?"

    "In Ben Rogers's hayloft. He lets me, and so does his pap's nigger man, Uncle Jake. I tote water for Uncle Jake whenever he wants me to, and any time I ask him he gives me a little something to eat if he can spare it. That's a mighty good nigger, Tom. He likes me, becuz I don't ever act as if I was above him. Sometime I've set right down and eat with him. But you needn't tell that. A body's got to do things when he's awful hungry he wouldn't want to do as a steady thing." (28.31-32)

    Here, Huck demonstrates that he is both conscious of racial divisions and that he is able to look past them.

    Chapter 29
    Injun Joe

    "It ain't the millionth part of it! He had me horsewhipped!—horsewhipped in front of the jail, like a nigger!—and with all the town looking on." (29.30)

    Here, Injun Joe shows that he is conscious of his own racial identity and they do suggest that he has been a victim of prejudice.

    Chapter 30
    The Welshman

    ""It's all plain enough, now. When you talked about notching ears and slitting noses I judged that that was your own embellishment, because white men don't take that sort of revenge. But an Injun! That's a different matter altogether." (30.36)

    The Welshman shows just how deeply ingrained racial prejudices can be.

  • The Supernatural

    Chapter 4

    Old beams began to crack mysteriously. The stairs creaked faintly. Evidently spirits were abroad. A measured, muffled snore issued from Aunt Polly's chamber. And now the tiresome chirping of a cricket that no human ingenuity could locate, began. Next the ghastly ticking of a deathwatch in the wall at the bed's head made Tom shudder -- it meant that somebody's days were numbered. (4.1)

    Tom's beliefs, in this case in something called a "deathwatch," seem to come from some combination of overactive imagination and a desire to make sense of the unknown.

    Chapter 6
    Huckleberry Finn

    "Say -- what is dead cats good for, Huck?"

    "Good for? Cure warts with."

    "No! Is that so? I know something that's better."

    "I bet you don't. What is it?"

    "Why, spunk-water."

    "Spunk-water! I wouldn't give a dern for spunk-water." (6.57-61)

    Superstitions function as a kind of street smarts, a way for kids, in this case Tom and Huck, to demonstrate their knowledge.

    Chapter 8

    The truth was, that a superstition of his had failed, here, which he and all his comrades had always looked upon as infallible. If you buried a marble with certain necessary incantations, and left it alone a fortnight, and then opened the place with the incantation he had just used, you would find that all the marbles you had ever lost had gathered themselves together there, meantime, no matter how widely they had been separated. But now, this thing had actually and unquestionably failed. Tom's whole structure of faith was shaken to its foundations. (8.7)

    Here, we see that Tom really does treat his superstitions seriously; they are, as far as he knows, laws that guide daily life.

    Chapter 9
    Huckleberry Finn

    "Say, Hucky -- do you reckon Hoss Williams hears us talking?"

    "O' course he does. Least his sperrit does."

    Tom, after a pause:

    "I wish I'd said Mister Williams. But I never meant any harm. Everybody calls him Hoss."

    "A body can't be too partic'lar how they talk 'bout these-yer dead people, Tom." (9.10-14)

    Even when their fears are normal or understandable – the whole ghost in the graveyard thing is pretty standard – Tom and Huck take things to a new level; they are very serious about the supernatural.

    Chapter 16

    Then a faint moan came sighing through the branches of the forest and the boys felt a fleeting breath upon their cheeks, and shuddered with the fancy that the Spirit of the Night had gone by. There was a pause. Now a weird flash turned night into day and showed every little grass-blade, separate and distinct, that grew about their feet. And it showed three white, startled faces, too. (16.57)

    Here, again, Tom, Huck, and Joe, explain away a surprising natural phenomenon by turning it into a matter of spirits and spooks.

    Chapter 25
    Tom Sawyer

    "I don't want any marks. They always bury it [treasure] under a ha'nted house or on an island, or under a dead tree that's got one limb sticking out. Well, we've tried Jackson's Island a little, and we can try it again some time; and there's the old ha'nted house up the Still-House branch, and there's lots of deadlimb trees -- dead loads of 'em." (25.17)

    In St. Petersburg, no superstition or spooky locale is left unaccounted for; the strange thing is, Tom's logic does work. He watches Injun Joe take treasure from the "haunted" house.

    Huckleberry Finn

    "We can't ever tell the right time, and besides this kind of thing's too awful, here this time of night with witches and ghosts a-fluttering around so." (25.91)

    Considering that Tom and Huck are so young, and that their knowledge of the world is so limited, their belief in strange, otherworldly things is understandable – also, in this case, ghosts and witches provide Huck with a perfect reason to stop digging a hole late at night, an unenviable task if there ever was one.

    Chapter 26
    Huckleberry Finn

    "My! I never once thought of it, Huck!"

    "Well, I didn't neither, but all at once it popped onto me that it was Friday."

    "Blame it, a body can't be too careful, Huck. We might 'a' got into an awful scrape, tackling such a thing on a Friday."

    "Might! Better say we would! There's some lucky days, maybe, but Friday ain't." (26.4-7)

    Here again, superstition gives Huck and Tom the opportunity to delay what is, no doubt, a scary endeavor – they go off and pretend to be Robin Hood instead.

    Chapter 33
    Huckleberry Finn

    "It [Injun Joe's ghost] would hang round the money. I know the ways of ghosts, and so do you."

    Tom began to fear that Huck was right. Misgivings gathered in his mind. But presently an idea occurred to him –

    "Lookyhere, Huck, what fools we're making of ourselves! Injun Joe's ghost ain't a going to come around where there's a cross!"

    The point was well taken. It had its effect. (33.58-61)

    In order to bolster Huck's confidence, Tom trumps one with another. Though they do believe in the craziest things, their system has some order to it.

    The odd superstitions touched upon were all prevalent among children and slaves in the West at the period of this story -- that is to say, thirty or forty years ago. (P.2)

    There must be some common element to the superstitions discussed in the book that appeals to both groups; at one point Tom and Huck discuss a particular belief that has been passed on by a slave.

  • Visions of America

    Chapter 4

    The middle-aged man turned out to be a prodigious personage -- no less a one than the county judge -- altogether the most august creation these children had ever looked upon -- and they wondered what kind of material he was made of -- and they half wanted to hear him roar, and were half afraid he might, too. He was from Constantinople, twelve miles away -- so he had travelled, and seen the world -- these very eyes had looked upon the county court-house -- which was said to have a tin roof. (4.39)

    Though Tom and the children are so used to their small town life that twelve miles might as well be 12,000 miles.

    Chapter 5

    After the hymn had been sung, the Rev. Mr. Sprague turned himself into a bulletin-board, and read off "notices" of meetings and societies and things till it seemed that the list would stretch out to the crack of doom -- a queer custom which is still kept up in America, even in cities, away here in this age of abundant newspapers. (5.6)

    Twain takes pleasure in pointing out some of the more peculiar institutions that have become part of American life. This particular practice, Twain would be pleased to know, continues to this day.

    Chapter 6
    Tom Sawyer

    "Yes, that's it, Huck -- that's it; though when you're burying it if you say 'Down bean; off wart; come no more to bother me!' it's better. That's the way Joe Harper does, and he's been nearly to Coonville and most everywheres. But say -- how do you cure 'em with dead cats?" (6.80)

    Once again, Tom shows that, as far as he's concerned, going anywhere outside of St. Petersburg is the equivalent of going pretty much everywhere. His knowledge of the world is confined to his hometown.

    Chapter 9

    It was a graveyard of the old-fashioned Western kind. It was on a hill, about a mile and a half from the village. It had a crazy board fence around it, which leaned inward in places, and outward the rest of the time, but stood upright nowhere. (9.2)

    Here, Twain emphasizes the typicality of St. Petersburg. It may not be "Anytown, USA," but it is meant to recall Twain's hometown and those of many other readers.

    Chapter 11

    Close upon the hour of noon the whole village was suddenly electrified with the ghastly news. No need of the as yet undreamed-of telegraph; the tale flew from man to man, from group to group, from house to house, with little less than telegraphic speed. (11.1)

    Twain lets us know that gossip spreads like wildfire in the small town and reminds us that Tom Sawyer's story is set firmly in the past.

    Chapter 22

    Even the Glorious Fourth was in some sense a failure, for it rained hard, there was no procession in consequence, and the greatest man in the world (as Tom supposed), Mr. Benton, an actual United States Senator, proved an overwhelming disappointment -- for he was not twenty-five feet high, nor even anywhere in the neighborhood of it. (22.5)

    Tom, young and, clearly, not worldly, seems to have really bought into the myth surrounding great American politicians.

    Chapter 26

    "You don't know me. Least you don't know all about that thing. 'Tain't robbery altogether -- it's revenge!" and a wicked light flamed in his eyes. "I'll need your help in it. When it's finished -- then Texas. Go home to your Nance and your kids, and stand by till you hear from me." (26.78)

    Tom Sawyer is set at a time when Texas was considered wild and unsettled, a perfect place for hiding from the law.

    Chapter 35
    Huckleberry Finn

    The widder eats by a bell; she goes to bed by a bell; she gits up by a bell -- everything's so awful reg'lar a body can't stand it."

    "Well, everybody does that way, Huck." (35.7-8)

    The Widow's regimen, and, most especially, Tom's defense of it, seems curiously at odds with the vision of boyhood, of specifically American boyhood, that Tom has come to represent.

    When [Becky] pleaded grace for the mighty lie which Tom had told in order to shift that whipping from her shoulders to his own, the Judge said with a fine outburst that it was a noble, a generous, a magnanimous lie -- a lie that was worthy to hold up its head and march down through history breast to breast with George Washington's lauded Truth about the hatchet! (35.3)

    By the end of the book, Tom has attained the status of an American hero, at least in the eyes of Judge Thatcher.

  • Religion

    Chapter 4

    Breakfast over, Aunt Polly had family worship: it began with a prayer built from the ground up of solid courses of Scriptural quotations, welded together with a thin mortar of originality; and from the summit of this she delivered a grim chapter of the Mosaic Law, as from Sinai. (4.1)

    For Aunt Polly, religion is serious business; for Twain, Aunty Polly's religious worship is an opportunity for humor.

    Chapter 5

    The minister gave out his text and droned along monotonously through an argument that was so prosy that many a head by and by began to nod -- and yet it was an argument that dealt in limitless fire and brimstone and thinned the predestined elect down to a company so small as to be hardly worth the saving. (5.9)

    Despite the evident fervor of people like Aunt Polly, and the minister himself, the people of St. Petersburg cannot help but nod off.

    And now the minister prayed. A good, generous prayer it was, and went into details: it pleaded for the church, and the little children of the church; for the other churches of the village; for the village itself; for the county; for the State; for the State officers; for the United States; for the churches of the United States; for Congress; for the President; for the officers of the Government; for poor sailors, tossed by stormy seas; for the oppressed millions groaning under the heel of European monarchies and Oriental despotisms; for such as have the light and the good tidings, and yet have not eyes to see nor ears to hear withal; for the heathen in the far islands of the sea; and closed with a supplication that the words he was about to speak might find grace and favor, and be as seed sown in fertile ground, yielding in time a grateful harvest of good. Amen. (5.7)

    The Christianity practiced at Tom's church seems heavily, almost overwhelmingly America-centric.

    Chapter 10
    Huckleberry Finn

    "Oh, Tom, I reckon we're goners. I reckon there ain't no mistake 'bout where I'll go to. I been so wicked."

    "Dad fetch it! This comes of playing hookey and doing everything a feller's told not to do. I might a been good, like Sid, if I'd a tried -- but no, I wouldn't, of course. But if ever I get off this time, I lay I'll just waller in Sunday-schools!" And Tom began to snuffle a little.

    "You bad!" and Huckleberry began to snuffle too. "Consound it, Tom Sawyer, you're just old pie, 'longside o' what I am. Oh, lordy, lordy, lordy, I wisht I only had half your chance." (10.51-53)

    Though Tom and Huck do not much like church or Sunday school – Huck doesn't even attend – they both worry about going to hell.

    Chapter 11

    Then Huckleberry and Tom stood dumb and staring, and heard the stony-hearted liar reel off his serene statement, they expecting every moment that the clear sky would deliver God's lightnings upon his head, and wondering to see how long the stroke was delayed. (11.19)

    Huck and Tom's version of divine judgment is, like much they do, juvenile, but their horror at watching a criminal go unpunished shows they have some moral sense.

    Chapter 13

    The Terror of the Seas and the Black Avenger of the Spanish Main had more difficulty in getting to sleep. They said their prayers inwardly, and lying down, since there was nobody there with authority to make them kneel and recite aloud; in truth, they had a mind not to say them at all, but they were afraid to proceed to such lengths as that, lest they might call down a sudden and special thunderbolt from heaven. (13.62)

    Tom and Injun Joe display that same kind of faith, a kind based on fear of judgment – which is strange, because Tom and Injun Joe have no problem actually being punished.

    Chapter 17

    There was a rustle in the gallery, which nobody noticed; a moment later the church door creaked; the minister raised his streaming eyes above his handkerchief, and stood transfixed! First one and then another pair of eyes followed the minister's, and then almost with one impulse the congregation rose and stared while the three dead boys came marching up the aisle, Tom in the lead, Joe next, and Huck, a ruin of drooping rags, sneaking sheepishly in the rear! They had been hid in the unused gallery listening to their own funeral sermon! (17.12)

    Though the scene is primarily comic, the boys' entrance into church is, in its own way, a resurrection scene. They, as far as the congregation is concerned, have come back from the dead.

    Chapter 22

    There had been a "revival," and everybody had "got religion," not only the adults, but even the boys and girls. Tom went about, hoping against hope for the sight of one blessed sinful face, but disappointment crossed him everywhere. He found Joe Harper studying a Testament, and turned sadly away from the depressing spectacle. […] Every boy he encountered added another ton to his depression; and when, in desperation, he flew for refuge at last to the bosom of Huckleberry Finn and was received with a Scriptural quotation, his heart broke and he crept home and to bed realizing that he alone of all the town was lost, forever and forever. (22.12)

    Twain captures the speed and power with which a "revival" can sweep through a town. Soon enough, though, things are back to business as usual; the old ways creep back in just as fast as they were chased out.

    Chapter 23
    Huckleberry Finn

    "Most always -- most always. He ain't no account; but then he hain't ever done anything to hurt anybody. Just fishes a little, to get money to get drunk on -- and loafs around considerable; but lord, we all do that -- leastways most of us -- preachers and such like." (23.19)

    Here, Huck takes a little jab at the preaching profession – but only so that he can paint Muff Potter in a better light.