The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Summary

Mark Twain

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Summary

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is a novel written by Mark Twain and published in 1876. The novel is largely based in Twain’s own memories of his childhood hometown, Hannibal, a river town in Missouri. The novel isn’t quite as successful as its sequel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which skyrocketed Twain to the role of noteworthy American author. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer includes themes of youth, race, religion, visions of America, the supernatural, language and communication, morality and maturity, and the hopes, plans, and dreams of the young boys who are its protagonists.

The story begins with an imaginative, clever, and mischievous boy named Tom Sawyer. He lives with his Aunt Polly and half-brother Sid in the fictional town of St. Petersburg, Missouri. One Friday, after playing hooky from school and being caught messing up his clothes in a fight, Tom must face a punishment: he must whitewash the fence on Saturday. Through a series of clever tricks, though, Tom manages to convince other local boys to pay him small treasures for the honour of doing his work for him. He wins himself a Bible in Sunday school for these treasures, but answers a Bible question incorrectly, and makes a fool of himself in the process.

Tom begins showing off to a new girl in town, Becky Thatcher, whom he has fallen in love with. He convinces her to get engaged to him, but when Tom accidentally brings up his past love—a girl named Amy Lawrence—things don’t work out, and Becky shuns him.

Tom follows Huckleberry Finn, the town pariah and son of a drunk, into a graveyard at night to try finding a cure for warts. Because he has no mother, Huck gets to do whatever he wants, and all the other boys are jealous of him. But the two boys witness a murder in the graveyard; Dr. Robinson is killed by the “Native-American half-breed” Injun Joe. The boys run away from the scene and swear themselves to secrecy. Injun Joe blames Muff Potter, a drunk, for the murder, and Potter is arrested. Tom feels his guilt and anxiety grow.

Tom, Huck, and another boy named Joe run away to an island to become pirates. After abandoning civilization, they notice people in boats along the river. The community is looking for their bodies, thinking that the boys have drowned. This excites them, although Joe is homesick. Tom sneaks back into the town, watches the pain of his family, and overhears his Aunt Polly praising him. He has an idea, and returns to the other boys to explain his plan. The three boys sneak back into town and make a grand reappearance during their own funerals, to the delight of their families.

There is a murder trial, where Potter sits accused. Tom, guilt growing, testifies against Injun Joe. Potter is acquitted, but Joe flees and escapes.

Tom and Huck go hunting for buried treasure in a haunted house. While upstairs they see a disguised Injun Joe enter the abandoned house with a companion. The boys hear Injun Joe speak about another hiding place, called “Number Two, under the cross.” This, they determine, is a particular room at the local tavern. Injun Joe and his companion plan to bury their own treasure, but they see Tom and Huck’s tools and are scared away. The boys follow Injun Joe to the tavern, where they see him passed out drunk on the floor. Huck begins tracking Injun Joe, waiting to steal his gold. Huck overhears Joe’s plan to attack the kind Widow Douglas, but runs to get help, and saves the day anonymously.

Meanwhile, Tom takes the blame for Becky after she rips a book at school, and wins back her friendship. A group of children go for a picnic near some caves. Tom and Becky end up lost in a cave and are not missed until the next morning, when the men begin to look for them. The children run out of food and candles, and Tom is further terrified when he runs into Injun Joe, hiding out in the cave. Finally, against all hope, Tom manages to find an escape route, and the two children return home. The town is once again overjoyed. Weeks later, to prevent future children from getting lost inside, Becky’s father, Judge Thatcher, tells Tom that he has sealed the entrances to the cave. Tom reveals that Injun Joe had been inside, and the townspeople rush to the cave. Inside, Injun Joe has starved to death.

Soon after this, Tom and Huck return to the cave and explore Injun Joe’s hideout. In a secret chamber, under a cross, is the treasure they had seen previously. On their way back, the man who saved the Widow Douglas thanks to Huck’s warning sees them, and brings Huck to the Widow. Grateful to the boy, she says she will take care of him from now on.

Tom takes the “treasure” money and splits it into two shares, and both boys get a considerable reward for their part. Tom also manages to convince Huck to stay with the Widow after the boy begins to tire of her.