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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Ben Rogers is an adventurous, imaginative, outgoing boy like Tom Sawyer and therefore a rival. When Tom has to whitewash his aunt's fence as a punishment from Aunt Polly instead of playing as he wishes, he is filled with dread when Ben comes by. Tom feels vulnerable. He doesn't want Ben to ridicule him. Tom wants to be the top dog.

Ben, munching on an apple that Tom wishes he could eat and pretending to be a steamboat in a happy, carefree manner, represents everything that Tom wishes he could be that beautiful morning. He doesn't wanted to be taunted or humiliated by this rival. Therefore, as Ben goes by, Tom pretends not to see him. It appears his first wish is for Ben to pass by without greeting him at all.

That doesn't work. Ben stops and begins to jeer at Tom for having to work. Tom won't have that and responds with, "What do you call work?"

Tom goes on to respond to Ben's making fun of him by pretending that he wants to whitewash as a privileged activity he doesn't get to do everyday. He treats it as if he is painting a picture. Soon enough, Ben is feeling envious and wanting to paint himself, even offering Tom his apple if he can be allowed to paint.

This is a classic trickster tale in which Tom, at a disadvantage, uses his wits to best a rival boy.

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