The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Questions and Answers
by Mark Twain

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer book cover
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What is a character sketch of Tom Sawyer in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer?    

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Tom's main characteristic is undoubtedly his mischievousness. He's always getting into trouble of one kind or another, whether it's playing hooky or trying to help runaway slaves escape from captivity.

Tom's not a bad kid, and he doesn't mean anyone any harm. It's just that he's blessed—or cursed, depending on how you look at it—with a deeply romantic streak that gives him an insatiable hunger for adventure. Just about everyone else sees Tom as an impudent young rascal; he, on the other hand, sees himself as a pirate or brave warrior king. Tom's nothing if not imaginative, and his already vivid imagination is fired up by the adventure stories of old.

Like most boys of his age, Tom is very superstitious and believes in all kinds of weird things that may make little or no sense to us, but which to him are deadly serious. For instance, Tom believes that a bizarre ritual involving a dead cat can cure warts. It can't, of course, but what it can do is lead Tom—and Huck this time—into even more trouble, as out in the graveyard one night they witness Injun Joe carry out a wicked murder.

Despite his penchant for superstition, Tom's actually quite a smart kid. Not book smart, maybe—he really hates going to school—but certainly street smart. Tom's intelligence is more practical than intellectual. His mind is always going in several different directions at once, forever cooking up all kinds of plans; some good, some bad.

An example of the former would be when he shows remarkable ingenuity in saving himself and Becky Thatcher from almost certain death in the caves where they get lost. An example of a bad plan would be when Tom gets some of the neighborhood kids to whitewash the fence for him, which was his punishment from Aunt Polly for skipping school to go swimming.

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Tom Sawyer is a young, upstanding boy with a vivid imagination and a heart of gold.  We learn about Tom thoroughly in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.  A smart young lad, Tom is no stranger to mischief.  Particularly well known is the event when Tom tricks his friends into doing one of his most hated chores with glee, specifically the famous whitewashing of the fence.  Another bit of mischief presents itself when Tom Sawyer remains hidden while he watches his own memorial service (which isn't real, of course).  Although Tom's Aunt Polly does her best to bring Tom up in a proper way, Tom can't deny his desire for adventure and imagination.  He finds himself escaping from home in order to meet up with his comrade, Huckleberry Finn, in order to pursue their dreams of becoming either thieves or pirates.  Another aspect of Tom's personality is the typical fashion with which he treats Becky Thatcher, a young girl in town who Tom truly wants to impress.  How do young boys try to impress a girl?  By showing off!  Tom is no exception.  Luckily, Tom's attempts to impress Becky at least once involve her rescue.  This proves Tom to be quite worthy of her attention as well as ours.

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