What are three ways Tom shows maturity in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer?

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laurniko eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain is in some ways a coming-of-age story about an intelligent boy who has always been able to manipulate others for his own purposes. He changes as a result of several encounters and incidents, all of which lead him to become a more mature boy.

Tom Sawyer begins his tale as a careless, reckless boy who is used to getting what he wants and is rarely punished for his misdeeds in any serious way. As a result, he's not able to relate to the people around him and is more likely to manipulate people to achieve his desired ends. As the book progresses, Tom learns to empathize with the people around him. His willingness to change for his aunt Poll, his friend Becky, and the town drunk, Muff Potter, illustrate the way Tom matures during the course of the story.

Tom's relationship with Polly is a positive one. She's raising him with good values, and he knows she loves him. Even when she punishes him, he knows she doesn't enjoy it. Because she loves him, he's able to take advantage of her good nature to achieve his ends.

Tom's heedlessness is illustrated in his relationship with Becky, a new girl in town. He convinces her that they should seal the proposal she's accepted from him with a kiss—before telling her about his former attachment to a girl in their class. She has no interest in him after that, though he continues to hope she will forgive him.

The first time Tom experiences real anxiety in his life is when he and Huck Finn witness the murder of Dr. Robinson at the hands of Injun Joe. Potter is framed for the crime, and he himself believes he committed it—thanks to a faulty memory caused by alcohol and injury. When Potter is sent to jail and will be tried for the crime, Tom is depressed and anxious about his unwillingness to help. This unwillingness stems from his fear of Injun Joe, the real killer.

His anxiety spurs Tom to run away with two other boys. They sneak back into town to see what their actions have caused, and Tom is able to see the pain he's caused Polly. He returns and apologizes, recognizing the pain she felt when she says that he ought to have let her know. Twain writes: " 'I wish now I'd thought,' said Tom, with a repentant tone; 'but I dreamt about you, anyway. That's something, ain't it?' " He goes on to explain that he dreamed he kissed her and left her a note—showing Polly that he had remorse and that he does love her.

Later, Tom takes the blame for a page that Becky tore in a school book. She forgives him for his past misdeeds because he's mature enough to take the blame for something—after a lifetime of avoiding deserved blame. This is one of the reasons why they're in the cave together near the end of the story. In the cave, Tom cares for Becky and eventually finds a way out so they can survive the ordeal.

Finally, Tom testifies against Injun Joe so that Potter won't be executed for a crime he didn't commit. Tom knows that Injun Joe will want revenge on him for coming forward, but he does the right thing anyway. The show of selflessness and civic duty are another way that Twain illustrates the increasing maturity of Tom Sawyer.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To say that Tom matures is not to say that he becomes mature in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (or afterwards).

The first example of Tom’s maturity is when he visits her aunt during his funeral.  He realizes that he has hurt her, and he feels bad.  For once Tom actually feels empathy for others.  He also feels sorry for Huck when he does not seem to have someone to miss him.

This was a new aspect of the thing. His smartness of the morning had seemed to Tom a good joke before, and very ingenious. It merely looked mean and shabby now. He hung his head and could not think of anything to say for a moment. Then he said: “Auntie, I wish I hadn't done it—but I didn't think.” (ch 19, p. 88)

The second example of Tom’s maturity is when he lies to the schoolmaster for Becky Thatcher.  When Tom jumps up to claim he was the one who ripped the schoolbook, taking Becky’s punishment, he surprises everyone- even himself!

The school stared in perplexity at this incredible folly. Tom stood a moment, to gather his dismembered faculties; and when he stepped forward to go to his punishment the surprise, the gratitude, the adoration that shone upon him out of poor Becky's eyes seemed pay enough for a hundred floggings. (ch 20, p. 92)

The final example of Tom’s maturity is when he tells the prosecutor about what really happened in the cemetery, despite his fear of Injun Joe.  Tom does the right thing, and tells the truth, because his conscience tells him to.

Since Tom's harassed conscience had managed to drive him to the lawyer's house by night and wring a dread tale from lips that had been sealed with the dismalest and most formidable of oaths, Huck's confidence in the human race was well-nigh obliterated. (Ch 24, p. 104)

teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Three ways Tom shows maturity are as follows:

The first example is when he stands up for Muff Potter, the town vagrant and drunk. Muff is going to be executed for a crime he did not commit. Tom knows what really happened and shows courage and integrity when he risks his own safety by inviting retaliation from Injun Joe in telling the truth to save Potter. Truth-telling is one sign of Tom's growing maturity, as he begins the book by lying.

A second instance in which he shows signs of maturity are in his demonstrations of courage and a willingness to risk himself for others. In this case, he helps Becky when they are trapped in the cave. (He shows these traits too in standing up for Potter.)

Finally, Tom shows a growing maturity when he urges Huck to return to Widow Douglas at the end of the novel. This reveals he is beginning to understand the importance of community and authority. The book overall shows him moving from self-centeredness to increasing concern for others, an important sign of maturity. 

amhbas | Student

Tom Sawyer is a journey through a life of a young boy that goes from being a mischievous daredevil to a kind and caring human being. He is one that always acts in a capricious manner, and probably always will, but we can see hints of his maturity and growth as we read the words to the story.

We first see a hint of maturity in Tom when he does something "nice" for Becky amidst their young "love affair". He takes the blame for her, which is not something someone who is lacking maturity would usually do for another. Some would say that this still lacks some maturity, because he is not telling the truth, which is true, but it shows a sense of maturity in that he is starting to recognize he needs to protect those he cares about. Learning and maturing along the way are all parts of growing into and becoming a young adult.  

The treasure hunt begins to show a new level of maturity in both boys, though I think it is safe top point out that there were aspects of this adventure that could have been handled with more maturity than what the boys show. They decide to stay close to the character they find is the murderer, as they want to catch him in the act (yes, this does show some level of maturity) but they could have taken it a step further and gone for help and not done it on their.  Part of maturing is learning when to ask for help and knowing when help is needed. 

The last place that we can see Tom mature throughout the story is with his punishment and chores at home, sure at the beginning and throughout he ran or had others do things for him, but as we read the store we can see a progression of his character becoming more understanding and beginning to mature as he accepts what is dealt to him. 

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

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