Why is the idea of "play" so important to Tom and Mark Twain?

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A good question! The idea, and more, the experience of play are so important to these boys because adult life and adult desires seem so heavy and constrictive, and because they often have a lot to escape. Think of  Huck's father. He's a drunk, and a violent drunk. Who wouldn't want to escape from that? Then think of how upright and restrained the good people of the town like Widow Douglas seem. Their rules, and what they want for the boys, probably seem as tight and restrictive as formal clothing.

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