At the beginning of the story, the author paints Tom as a cocky yet likable boy whom his aunt has to constantly discipline to keep in check. He steals jam, skips school, and gets into fights. Even when his aunt forces him to spend his Saturday whitewashing a fence, he manages to use his considerable charm to persuade his friends to do the job for him.
However, he tempers this mischievousness with acts of kindness and a genuine love for the underdog. For example, he is one of the few children that dares to befriend the homeless Huckleberry Finn. In fact, his teacher whips Tom when he sees him talking to Huck outside the school. Tom is nothing if not his own person, however, and he continues to see Huck and to go on nightly adventures with him.
We are never in doubt that Tom is a boy of great potential. The problem is that he seems to find it difficult to focus that potential on something worthwhile. Perhaps it's because he struggles with the boredom of small-town life or the confines of a religious upbringing, but at times, it seems he could quite easily fall into unlawful activity.
From that perspective, his witnessing of the murder of the doctor at the hands of Injun Joe changes him for the better. The unhappiness and fear he feels help him to come to the realization that he won't be able to move on with his life until he has put everything right. He finally helps to ease Muff Potter's time in jail and testifies that he saw Injun Joe kill the doctor. He even sticks up for Becky when she gets in trouble with their teacher.
At the end of the book, Tom still has the same exuberant energy, but he manages to direct it into helping out the community. He even helps to find Huck Finn and persuade him to go back to the Widow Douglas.
Throughout the course of the novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Tom grows up and matures significantly, showing character development and change. At the beginning of the novel, Tom is a reckless prankster who doesn’t care about anyone else, his education, or the future in any way. He mainly spends his days trying to get out of responsibility and avoid work, such as in the famous “whitewashed fence” scene in the book.
By the end of the story, however, his experiences have changed him for the better. He is much more responsible for one, caring about others around him. After his funeral, he sneaks back in and feels pity and sorrow when he sees his loved ones mourning him. This, along with his other experiences, changes him and makes him care more about himself and others.
In the beginning of the story, Tom Sawyer is a boy that is defined by his mischievousness and sense of adventure. While he is certainly far from malevolent, he does have a somewhat dubious sense of morality. He is not above using manipulative and underhanded tactics to get what he wants, and often tricks people just for the thrill of it rather than for the tangible reward.
In one of the most famous scenes in all of American literature, Tom utilizes reverse psychology to trick a number of neighborhood boys into not only doing his work that he had received as a punishment for him, but paying him with their treasured possessions for the "joy" of doing so. Tom seems to derive far less happiness from the prizes he receives or the relief from his work than he does from the satisfaction he receives from his successful deception.
In this regard, it is perhaps lucky that Tom is confronted with such a stark display of mortality and the moral questions that accompany it. It forces him to mature quickly. He finds that he has not only a strong sympathy for the innocent, but a somewhat vindictive sense of justice for the wicked. It is Tom who, in the courtroom, breaks a blood oath that he no doubt considers childish compared to the situation at hand. It is perhaps because of his actions alone that Injun Joe is eventually brought to justice.
While Tom does retain his sense of adventure and curiosity for the world, his adventures teach him that all actions have consequences, and he becomes far more mindful of the implications of his own.
At the beginning of the story, Tom Sawyer's a mischievous, fun-loving scamp who doesn't take life too seriously. For Tom, life is an adventure, something to be enjoyed to the full. Possessed with a seemingly boundless imagination, Tom delights in creating his own fantasy world, full of pirate ships, cutthroats, and buried treasure.
Tom's boyish taste for adventure often gets him into trouble, especially with Aunt Polly, but at the same time it also helps him to mature considerably throughout the book. For example, his belief in a bizarre superstition concerning the curative properties of dead cats leads him and Huck to the graveyard one night, where they witness Injun Joe murder Dr. Robinson. The incident is important as it forces Tom to grow up pretty quickly as, for the first time in his life, he has to deal with a serious moral quandary.
Much the same could be said for Tom's ingenious plan to rescue Jim. Again, Tom's showing his taste for adventure, but this time he's also showing how much he's matured over the course of the story, and how he understands the importance of doing the right thing. Tom now has a much greater comprehension of the adult world and how it works, and although he'll never lose his infectious sense of fun, he's ready to take his place in adult society, with all the rules and conventions that had previously been such a source of puzzlement and frustration.