For Tom Sawyer, the difference between work and play is simple: play is fun, and work isn't. Tom is about as work-shy as it gets, whether it's in relation to school-work or chores around the house. After Tom gets caught playing hooky by the ever-vigilant Aunt Polly, he's assigned a punishment that will most certainly represent all work and no play: whitewashing the fence.
But Tom, being the crafty young scamp that he is, comes up with a truly award-winning idea. Instead of whitewashing the fence by himself, he's going to get other children to do it for him. And the way that he does this is by convincing them that it's a whole lot of fun. Tom expertly plays on the fear that most children have of missing out on fun by successfully convincing them that whitewashing a fence is about the most exciting thing there is.
Thanks to Tom's trickery, a punishment based on hard work has been turned into something that's incredibly good fun to do. Tom hasn't so much blurred the distinction between work and play as obliterated it altogether. For the rest of their lives, those children who whitewashed Aunt Polly's fence will believe that they had such good fun that Saturday morning. Tom Sawyer, however, will know better.