The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is the story of a series of loosely connected, often humorous stories involving the titular character. Tom is a dynamic character who learns to adapt to the rules of civilization after he encounters various conflicts.
Tom lives in the village of St. Petersburg, Missouri, with his Aunt Polly. He often gets into trouble for various misdeeds, such as tricking kids into absorbing his own punishment or ironically earning a Bible by being deceptive.
After being forced to sit with the girls after coming to school late, Tom makes plans to meet Becky Thatcher at recess. Becky tells Tom that she loves him, but then, Tom mistakenly mentions Amy Lawrence, another girl he has liked in the past. Becky is livid, so Tom runs off to nurse his wounded pride.
The central conflict of the novel arises when Tom sneaks out to meet Huck Finn one night; he and Huck have planned to try out a cure for warts in a graveyard. From a distance, the boys watch as a horrific sight unfolds in the graveyard: Dr. Robinson is murdered by Injun Joe. The next day, everyone is talking about the murder in their small town. Muff Potter is blamed for the crime, but Huck and Tom have sworn to remain quiet about the truth.
Tom and Huck decide to run away, abandoning civilization, to become pirates on Jackson's Island. They later realize that they have been presumed dead and that their funerals are being planned. Eventually, they decide to return home; their schoolmates treat them like heroes.
Tom finds the courage to save Muff, testifying during the trial on his behalf. He and Huck then realize that Injun Joe has hidden a box of gold coins and concoct a plan to secure the money for themselves. Their plans are successful, and the boys find the coins and split their loot. Tom convinces Huck that living with the Widow Douglas is Huck's best option, proving that he has transformed into a boy who recognizes the benefits of society and civilization.