In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, what is the relationship with adults and kids? 

In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, what is the relationship with adults and kids?


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emilyknight7 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

On the surface, the relationship between adults and kids is primarily adversarial. Tom is constantly trying to outmaneuver Aunt Polly so he can play all day without consequences, the school children orchestrate a prank against an angry and somewhat sadistic teacher, and so on. Still, the adults also show a certain degree of indulgence and concern, for Tom especially. Aunt Polly is not afraid to have a good laugh when Tom gets the better of her and likewise engages tricks and traps to catch him in bad behavior. In these exchanges, her love and concern shows through her scolding. Likewise, the town's outpouring of grief when they think the boys have died is both comedic and sweet. Though the adults scold and punish the children, they are still beloved. 

Because the novel also includes satire and social commentary, it is important to note that much of Twain's satire is directed at institutions of the adult world, such as religion and school. It can seem at first that the adult world is corrupt, insincere, and useless, while the world of childhood is straight-forward, practical, and fun. However, Tom and his friends often adopt elements of the adult world into their own. Consider, for example, Huck and Tom's strict adherence to the rules of superstition. Despite evidence that it's all foolish, Tom and Huck cling to these rituals, much like religious adults do. Even though adult and kids (and the worlds of each) seem like opposites, they actually have quite a bit in common.   

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

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