Illustration of a hand holding a paintbrush that is painting a fence white

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

by Mark Twain
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What is Tom’s point of view on ignoring Ben in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer?

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Chapter 1 of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer finds the title character being punished for skipping school. He is forced to paint thirty yards of a fence. Tom would clearly rather be out on one of his Saturday adventures. When Ben Rogers comes along to tease him, Tom hatches a plan.

Tom decides to ignore Ben's taunting. He focuses intently on the task of painting the fence as if there is nothing else in the world he would rather be doing. Even when Ben gets right up next to him chewing on an apple, Tom ignores him. He would love a bite of that apple, but he remains focused on his subterfuge. From Tom's point of view, for his ruse to work, Ben must feel as though nothing is as interesting or thrilling as whitewashing a fence. When Tom finally does acknowledge Ben, he pretends to be surprised to see him and acts as though he had not noticed him before.

Tom's plan works. It convinces Ben that there is nothing more enjoyable to do on a hot summer day than paint a fence. Ben even trades Tom his apple for the opportunity to take over the whitewashing. Before too long, Tom has convinced a number of boys to take over this chore.

Tom is greatly pleased with himself. He clearly has some sort of rivalry with Ben; he would have liked to have responded directly to Ben's taunts. Instead, this episode of Tom ignoring Ben shows the reader that Tom is a patient and strategic thinker. He knows that he can use his skills in acting and persuasion to manipulate Ben and the other boys. In the end, it pays off.

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