The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Questions and Answers
by Mark Twain

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What qualities does Aunt Polly exhibit in her behaviour towards Tom in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer?  

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Aunt Polly is loving and patient with her mischievous nephew Tom.

Aunt Polly is pretty much in over her head with her nephew Tom Sawyer.  Tom is not only mischievous but clever, constantly coming up with new ways to get into trouble.  Polly tries to raise him right, but she loves him so much that she finds it difficult to discipline him in the way she thinks she should.

He 'pears to know just how long he can torment me before I get my dander up, and he knows if he can make out to put me off for a minute or make me laugh, it's all down again and I can't hit him a lick. (Ch. 1)

Polly feels that she isn’t doing her “duty” to Tom because she doesn’t spank him often enough.  Tom does try to avoid getting caught when he gets up to mischief, but Aunt Polly also can’t bring herself to hit him.  She is very loving and compassionate toward him because he has no parents but her.

When Polly does hit Tom for breaking the sugar bowl, he is surprised and upset because it was his brother Sid who actually broke it.  As Tom sulks, Aunt Polly tells Tom he probably deserved the punishment for something he had done that she hadn’t caught him at.  She still feels bad about hitting him though.

Then her conscience reproached her, and she yearned to say something kind and loving; but she judged that this would be construed into a confession that she had been in the wrong, and discipline forbade that. So she kept silence, and went about her affairs with a troubled heart. (Ch. 3)

Aunt Polly believes in home remedies, and often tries to give Tom potions and treatments that aren’t quite reputable.  Tom hates this, of course.  One day he gives his treatment to the cat, and when Aunt Polly sees the cat’s reaction she feels bad for even giving Tom the medicine.  She never realized how awful it was.

When Tom runs away and the whole town thinks he is dead, Aunt Polly is just happy to have him back when he shows up.  She loves him too much and missed him too much to be angry at him for running away.  Even though he is her nephew, she loves him like a son.

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