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...
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.