Study Guide

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Chapter 5

By Mark Twain

Chapter 5

  • After Sunday school ends, the boys and girls join the larger congregation for the main church service.
  • Twain introduces a number of townsfolk: the justice of the peace, lawyers, clerks, etc.
  • The service begins with a hymn, which is then followed by church "notices" about meetings and societies and all sorts of boring things.
  • Prayers are read – prayers for the church, the village, the county, and the country, for, well, a lot of things. (As you can see, a lot of the service is long, long, long, and not particularly interesting.)
  • When the reverend finally begins to read his sermon, Tom tries his best to pay attention, and does everything he can to resist the urge to swat a fly.
  • Tom, fond of himself as he is, does enjoy it when the reverend tells the congregation that, at the end of time, the lion and the lamb will lie down together and a little child will lead them; he can't help but picture himself as that little child.
  • Soon he loses interest and takes out a small box from his pocket. In the box is a beetle or "pinch-bug."
  • Somehow the beetle ends up in the aisle, flailing wildly, helpless, on its back.
  • The beetle attracts the attention of some other bored churchgoers and that of a stray poodle. (How the stray dog got into church is anyone's guess. Things really were different back then, we guess.)
  • The dog circles around the bug for a moment, then goes in for the attack…well, sort of. He snaps at it for a while before getting bored and following a fly around.
  • In the process, he manages to forget about the beetle and sit down right on top of it. He yelps in agony, runs around the church to the amusement of the crowd, and makes a hasty exit.
  • The service, having been interrupted by laughter, continues halfheartedly, and everyone's happy when the thing is done.
  • On the walk back home, Tom decides he doesn't mind church so much as long as there's a little variety to spice things up.