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What are a few key superstitions from the book, 'Adventures of Tom Sawyer'? Why are...

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babygirl554 | Student | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 21, 2008 at 2:02 AM via web

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What are a few key superstitions from the book, 'Adventures of Tom Sawyer'? Why are they important? 

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sullymonster | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted January 21, 2008 at 3:50 AM (Answer #1)

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1) To remove warts, go to a graveyard at midnight and throw a dead cat at the devil when he appears.

2) Put quicksilver in bread and set the bread to float in a river to find a drowned body.

3) Worm crawling across your legs means you will get new clothes.

4) Bracelet of rattlesnake rattles will protect you from cramps.

5) Friday is an unlucky day.

6) Haunted houses exist.

7) A cross on the wall wil protect you from a ghost.

8) Howling dog = death.

These superstitions are important to Twain's themes in this story.  Consider these words from the preface:

"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.   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."

Twain is painting a portrait of an area and showing all the regional beliefs that control behavior in that area.  He is also demonstrating the hypocrisy and illogical nature of human behavior through the superstitions.  As readers, our attention is called to the fact that these are silly beliefs.  However, they do control the behavior of characters, showing how ridiculous humans can be.

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