The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Questions and Answers
by Mark Twain

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Why did Joey Harper and Tom Sawyer decide to become pirates?

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Tom Sawyer first thinks of becoming a pirate in chapter VIII, when he contemplates running away from St. Petersburg. He considers several other professions, such as clown and soldier, but finally decides on piracy:

He would be a pirate! That was it! now his future lay plain before him, and glowing with unimaginable splendor. How his name would fill the world, and make people shudder! How gloriously he would go plowing the dancing seas, in his long, low, black-hulled racer, the Spirit of the Storm, with his grisly flag flying at the fore!

It is this romantic vision of piracy that leads him to persuade Joe Harper to join him in chapter XIII. Both boys have decided to run away for similar reasons and they are both in search of a career. Joe had decided to be a hermit but bows to Tom's knowledge and enthusiasm, agreeing to join him as a pirate. Tom later explains his reasoning:

"You see a pirate don’t have to do anything, Joe, when he’s ashore, but a hermit he has to be praying considerable, and then he don’t have any fun, anyway, all by himself that way.”

“Oh yes, that’s so,” said Joe, “but I hadn’t thought much about it, you know. I’d a good deal rather be a pirate, now that I’ve tried it.”

“You see,” said Tom, “people don’t go much on hermits, nowadays, like they used to in old times, but a pirate’s always respected."

Tom manages to communicate his romantic vision of piracy to the other boys. A pirate, he tells them, is not only a more picturesque figure than any other—when he is not loafing on shore, he spends his time in exactly the way they would wish. When Huck asks what pirates do, Tom responds:

“Oh, they have just a bully time—take ships and burn them, and get the money and bury it in awful places in their island where there’s ghosts and things to watch it, and kill everybody in the ships—make ’em walk a plank.”

The glamor and excitement of a pirate's career is quickly communicated from Tom to Joe and from both boys to Huck, who is only afraid that he is not well-dressed enough to be a pirate.

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