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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

by Mark Twain
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How is Tom Sawyer a hero?

Tom Sawyer proves himself to be a hero by overcoming his fear and testifying on behalf of the innocent Muff Potter and caring for Becky in the cave and finding a way out.

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At first we might hesitate to classify Tom Sawyer as a hero in Mark Twain's classic The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Tom is, after all, first and foremost a mischievous boy with a knack for getting himself into a lot of trouble. Yet when he needs to, Tom steps up and exhibits, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, heroic characteristics. Let's see how.

When Tom and Huck witness Injun Joe murder Dr. Robinson in the graveyard, they make a pact not to tell anyone. They are terrified that Injun Joe will come after them next if they so much as say a word about what they have seen, and perhaps they are right. Yet Tom's conscience begins to poke at him when Muff Potter is accused of the crime. Tom knows that Muff is telling the truth; he didn't commit the murder. In fact, he was unconscious at the time.

Tom tries to relieve his conscience by bringing Muff a few small comforts, but this doesn't really work. Tom finally decides that he must step up and tell the truth no matter what the consequences may be. He cannot let Muff be convicted of a crime he didn't commit, so Tom testifies in court and explains what really happened that night in the graveyard. Injun Joe confirms Tom's testimony by his act of escaping out the window, and the grateful Muff is acquitted. Tom has conquered his fear in favor of truth, and this is indeed heroic.

The heroic side of Tom's nature appears again when he and Becky are trapped in the cave. Tom comforts, protects, and cares for Becky as well as he can over those days, working hard to keep her spirits up while fighting his own despair. But eventually, Tom finds a way out of the cave through perseverance and more than a bit of stubbornness. Once again, Tom has proven himself a hero, this time because he refused to give up.

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