The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Questions and Answers
by Mark Twain

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer book cover
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Why is Aunt Polly taking care of Tom?

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Aunt Polly is the sister of Tom and Sid's deceased mother. The boys are apparently orphaned, so Aunt Polly, who has no children of her own, takes care of them.

Aunt Polly is a loving and maternal figure who wants to tame Tom's wild nature but is too kind and guileless not to be outsmarted by the energetic boy—at least some of the time.

Aunt Polly definitely finds Tom a challenge to raise. He is very high-spirited, doesn't like to go to school, and is always up to something he shouldn't be. She feels it is her duty to discipline him, such as by hitting him with a birch rod or forcing him to work on a Saturday when the other children are free to play, but Tom usually manages to get around her. Partially this is because Aunt Polly's heart truly isn't geared towards the kind of harsh punishment her society says is the right way to raise a child.

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hmassman eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In the book The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer lives with his Aunt Polly.

At the beginning of the book, it is evident that Tom lives with his aunt, instead of his biological mother and father. As the book shows, after his mother passes away, Tom is sent to live with his Aunt Polly. Although Aunt Polly struggles with disciplining Tom, she remains his primary caregiver. For example, Aunt Polly believes that children should be disciplined when they misbehave due to her personal religious convictions. However, she struggles with disciplining Tom because of her compassion and care for him. As Aunt Polly reveals:

“He's my own dead sister's boy, poor thing, and I ain't got the heart to lash him, somehow."

Thus, Aunt Polly takes care of Tom. Although Aunt Polly is often unsure about how to respond to Tom’s actions, she cares for Tom deeply, even though he is not her biological child.

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