The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Questions and Answers
by Mark Twain

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer book cover
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Character sketch of Tom Sawyer

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Kale Emmerich eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Tom Sawyer is the archetypal adventurous boy. Mark Twain is a master of character description, creating some of the most iconic American characters—like Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.

Tom is, first and foremost, enterprising and creative. On prominent display when he convinces multiple other children to whitewash the fence on his behalf, Tom Sawyer is clearly clever and very creative. Due to some of his other traits, however, this is not put to good use.

Tom Sawyer is also very adventurous. He is a child who wishes to explore and discover things, as many children do. He is frequently shown leaving his responsibilities to go run around on adventures and is frequently bored by tedious events.

Finally, Tom is caring. In spite of his recklessness and carelessness at times, Tom cares about the people around him. He is shown to be a very archetypal adolescent boy, who is kind but also rambunctious.

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Characterization is the art of bringing characters on the page to life of which Mark Twain is truly a master.  Characters can be flat, or one-dimensional, round in which the reader knows what truly makes the character tick. Characters can be static, meaning they don't change from the beginning to the end, or dynamic, meaning they transform by the end of the sotry. A character is created through actions, through dialogue, through conflict, and reactions to situations.

Tom Sawyer is a mischevious but loving boy, and one who is fascinated by adventure.  When he manipulates a situation, as in the fence painting scene, for his own personal gain, we chastise his actions but secretly root for his success.  When he is tormented by his love for Becky wearing his emotions on his sleeve, we root for him even more.  When he struggles between right and wrong, we cheer him in the right direction.  Tom Sawyer is a round and dynamic character, one with whom the audience can love and despise all at the same time which is truly the magic Twain brings to the reader. 

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