What does superstition add to the novel,"The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," in terms of development of character and plot?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

    Superstitions run rampant among Tom and Huck in Mark Twain's novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. The constant references to various kinds of black magic and boyish notions provide constant humor as well as illustrating the illogical beliefs that many people lived by in the mid-19th century Western United States. Tom retraces his steps more than once when he realizes that he has just broken another rule of his irrational world.

    He well knew the futility of trying to contend against witches...

Superstitious behavior adds to the mystery of both the characters and the plot. Tom's reactions are often the result of an unfounded notion, so he can never be counted on to react in a normal, rational manner. After Tom and Huck escape from the murder scene of Dr. Robinson, they nevertheless fear impending death--not at the hands of Injun Joe, but because a stray dog has howled "within ten feet of them." But when they determine that the dog has howled while facing backwards, they breathe a sigh of release.

    "...He's got his back to us!"
    Hucky looked with joy in his heart.
    "Well he has, by jingoes. Did he before?"
    "Yes, he did. But I, like a fool never thought. Oh, this is bully, you know."

Because Tom and Huck's superstitious behavior can be found at nearly every turn, illogical twists are the rule and not the exception. Such unexpected surprises keep the reader guessing about the outcome throughout the novel.



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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

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