Study Guide

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Chapter 4

By Mark Twain

Chapter 4

  • The next day, after breakfast, Aunt Polly and Mary try to teach Tom and Sid their bible verses – this is the kind of thing they have to do before Sunday school.
  • Tom isn't much for studying, and can't even remember the very short verses from the Sermon on the Mount ("Blessed are the poor in spirit," etc.).
  • Though he can't recite a thing, Tom receives a knife from Mary, and proceeds to carve up anything in sight. Mary then forces Tom to bathe and get dressed – wearing shoes and everything! – and she and Tom and Sid head off to Sunday school.
  • Tom proceeds to barter with his fellow boys – remember, he's rolling in "dough" – for a bunch of colored tickets. The Sunday school, it seems, has a system for rewarding good pupils: for every bible verse recited, a student receives a ticket; the more bible verses the more tickets, with some tickets being worth, say, five verses, and others ten.
  • Tom manages to collect enough tickets for, well…let's not get ahead of ourselves.
  • Now, eventually, if a student memorizes enough verses and gets enough tickets, they are given a plainly bound Bible in return. We're told that Mary, the reverent studious girl that she is, has collected two – in two years' time – and that this German kid – clearly some kind of automaton – has managed to win five, but that he also lost his mind in the process.
  • In the middle of Sunday-school Superintendent Walters's boring little sermon, the boys and girls begin to whisper to each other: an older, dignified gentleman and lady have entered the room, and with them is…the girl from outside Jeff's house.
  • As usual, Tom is love-struck and starts showing off again.
  • Turns out the man is Becky's father, Judge Thatcher – Judge being his title, not his name – from faraway, or, well, twelve-mile-away, Constantinople.
  • Now other people start showing off: Jeff Thatcher goes up to greet his uncle, the various teachers start making themselves busy scolding their pupils, and the pupils do whatever they can to call attention to themselves.
  • Superintendent Walters decides to really show off and let Judge Thatcher just how good a teacher he is.
  • He asks if any of his students have collected enough tickets to receive a Bible.
  • Out of nowhere, Tom Sawyer comes out of the crowd and presents his tickets; he's collected enough to win a prize.
  • Though Walters is skeptical at first – and rightly so – but the tickets are genuine, and he can only give Tom the Bible.
  • Tom is introduced to the judge, but is too awestruck and tongue-tied to form a coherent sentence.
  • Judge Thatcher compliments him on his dedication and intelligence.
  • After all this he asks, Tom if he wouldn't mind demonstrating some of his knowledge by, say, giving the names of the first two apostles appointed by Jesus.
  • Tom, who probably didn't even know how many apostles there were in the first place, is embarrassed; he can't understand why the Judge would put him on the spot.
  • After some more prodding, Tom blurts out the first two names that come to mind: "David and Goliah!"
  • Twain ends the scene abruptly, saving Tom from any further embarrassment.