The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Questions and Answers
by Mark Twain

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer book cover
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In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, what kind of relationship do Tom and Aunt Polly have?

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Aunt Polly loves Tom and does her best to provide him love and support even though he is sometimes difficult.

Tom is a very spirited boy.  He does not fit well into the boundaries of society.  He doesn’t like to follow rules and stick to routines.  He does his best to enjoy himself and avoid the consequences of his playful actions.

Aunt Polly tries to raise Tom with as much love and attention as she can.  She often feels that she is failing him because she doesn’t provide enough structure and discipline. She doesn’t always punish him when he misbehaves because she can’t bring herself to do it.  She feels sorry for him for not having a mother and father.

"Hang the boy, can't I never learn anything? Ain't he played me tricks enough like that for me to be looking out for him by this time? But old fools is the biggest fools there is. … But my goodness, he never plays them alike, two days, and how is a body to know what's coming? (Ch. 1)

Tom is clever, and sometimes too clever for his own good.  When he goes off for a few days to hang out with his friends on the island, Aunt Polly thinks he is dead.  When he returns, he feels bad that he made her so worried.  He was just being the playful Tom, never thinking about the consequences.

His aunt wept over him and asked him how he could go and break her old heart so; and finally told him to go on, and ruin himself and bring her gray hairs with sorrow to the grave, for it was no use for her to try any more. (Ch. 10)

For Tom, his aunt crying over him and telling him how she worried is “worse than a thousand whippings.”  Despite his goofiness, Tom actually has a big heart. He cares what his aunt thinks, and he does not try to worry her.  The same goes for Aunt Polly.  She may exasperate Tom with her home remedies and rules, but she loves him and is just looking out for him.

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