The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Questions and Answers
by Mark Twain

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer book cover
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What is the main conflict of "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer"?

The main external conflict in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is between Tom and Injun Joe over who gets the stolen treasure. The other main conflict is between Tom and the adult world, though this conflict is more internal.

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In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Tom's energetic consciousness collides with adult civilization. Tom is presented against the backdrop of individuals and institutions that try to contain him, including Aunt Polly, school, and more studious boys like Sid.

Tom is torn between extremes. He most admires and feels a yearning for the freedom of the social outcast Huck Finn, yet he keeps this friendship largely under wraps because he knows it's not socially acceptable. He chafes against the constraints imposed by Aunt Polly and school, but, like the trickster he is, works within their confines. His conflict throughout the novel is navigating his relationship with a restrictive adult society that wants to rub away his rough edges. He struggles to be who he is against a system that demands he conform.

Tom shows his boisterous personality, trickster spirit, and ability to adapt when he is able to turn his punishment—whitewashing a fence outside his house—into an enviable game, luring other boys...

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