Study Guide

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Chapter 2

By Mark Twain

Chapter 2

  • It's another beautiful day in St. Petersburg, Missouri, but Tom Sawyer certainly isn't going to enjoy it.
  • He's got a big bucket of whitewash with him, and big fence to whitewash.
  • Tom attempts to get Jim to do some of his work for him, promising to fetch water from the well in return.
  • When Jim looks skeptical – he doesn't want to get punished – Tom promises to trade him a "white ally" marble, marbles apparently being a hot commodity in St. Petersburg, and, when that fails, to show him his sore toe – sore toes apparently being similarly sought after.
  • Jim takes the bait, but Aunt Polly puts an end to the boys' tomfoolery (heh, get it?), sending Jim to fetch water and Tom to whitewash as told. 
  • So Tom actually sets to work whitewashing the fence, but it's not too long before he gets bored out of his mind and sets about concocting a scheme.
  • He takes his "stash" out from his pockets – toys, marbles, garbage – and puts it by his side; then he puts on his happiest face and goes back to painting.
  • Tom's buddy Ben Rogers, a notorious teaser, comes by.
  • Ben's enjoying his Saturday, pretending to be a big ol' steamboat, but when he finally stops and tries to call attention to Tom's troubles, to his work, Tom pretends that he'd rather be painting fences than anything else, even playing or swimming.
  • This makes Ben very interested indeed and in no time – by pretending that fence-painting really is an art – he's got Ben painting the fence and Ben's prized apple in his hands.
  • By the time Ben's tired out, Tom's already got a new mark lined up, and the process continues – Tom taking payment for the "privilege" of whitewashing – until, before too long, the fence is completely painted.
  • Tom, well rested and considerably wealthier – wealthier, that is, if broken glass, old keys and one-eyed kittens constitute wealth. He heads back to report his good work to Aunt Polly.