The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Summary

Mark Twain

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Summary

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer summary

In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Tom and his friend Huck witness a murder in a cemetery. The culprit, Injun Joe, makes an attempt on Tom's life. In the end, Tom and Huck trap Injun Joe inside of a cave and recover his stolen gold, making themselves rich.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer summary key points:

  • Tom Sawyer becomes infatuated with a new girl at school, but their brief romance ends when he admits his previous ties to Amy Lawrence.

  • Tom and his friend Huckleberry Finn witness a murder in the cemetery.

  • Tom, Huck, and Joseph Harper run away from home and convince their families that they are dead, then surprise them at their own funerals.

  • Tom testifies against Injun Joe at the murder trial, and Injun Joe escapes.

  • Tom and Huck help to capture Injun Joe by trapping him inside a cave.


(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Tom Sawyer lives securely with the knowledge that his Aunt Polly loves him dearly. When she scolds him or whips him, he knows that inside her breast lurks a hidden remorse. Often he deserves the punishment he receives, but there are times when he is the victim of his tattletale half brother, Sid. Tom’s cousin Mary is kinder to him. Her worst duty toward him is to see to it that he washes and puts on clean clothes, so that he will look respectable when Aunt Polly takes the children to Sunday school.

When a new family moves into town, Tom sees a pretty, blue-eyed girl with lacy pantalettes. Instantly the fervent love he has felt for Amy Lawrence flees from his faithless bosom, replaced by devotion to this new girl. At Sunday school, Tom learns that her name is Becky Thatcher. She is in school the next day, sitting on the girls’ side of the room with an empty seat beside her. Tom comes late to school that morning. When the schoolmaster asks Tom why he is late, the empty seat beside Becky catches his eye. Recklessly he confesses he stopped to talk with Huckleberry Finn, son of the town drunk. Huck wears cast-off clothing, never attends school, smokes and fishes as often as he pleases, and sleeps wherever he can. For associating with Huckleberry Finn, Tom is whipped by the schoolmaster and ordered to sit on the girls’ side of the room. Amid the snickers of the entire class, he takes the empty seat next to Becky.

Tom first attracts Becky’s attention with a series of drawings on his slate. At length, he writes the words, “I love you,” and Becky blushes. Tom persuades her to meet him at lunch. Sitting with her on a fence, he explains the possibilities of an engagement between them. Innocently, she accepts his proposal, which Tom insists must be sealed by a kiss. In coy resistance she allows Tom a brief chase before she yields to his embrace. Tom’s happiness is unbounded. When he mentions his previous tie with Amy Lawrence, however, the brief romance ends, and Becky leaves with a toss of her head.

That night, Tom hears Huck’s whistle below his bedroom window. Sneaking out, Tom joins his friend, and the two go off to the cemetery. They are about to try a new method for curing warts. The gloomy atmosphere of the burial ground fills the boys with apprehension, and their fears increase when they spy three figures—Injun Joe, Muff Potter, and Doctor Robinson. Evidently they have come to rob a grave. When the two robbers exhume the body, they begin to quarrel with the doctor about money. In the quarrel, the drunken Potter is knocked out. Then Injun Joe takes Potter’s knife and kills the doctor. When Potter recovers from his blow, he thinks he has killed Robinson, and Injun Joe allows him to believe himself guilty. Terrified, Tom and Huck slip away from the scene, afraid that if Injun Joe discovers them he will kill them, too.

Becky has not come to school since the day she broke Tom’s heart. According to rumor, she is ill. Tom loses all interest in life, brooding over what he and Huck saw in the graveyard. Convinced that Tom is ill, Aunt Polly doses him with a quack painkiller and keeps him in bed, but he does not seem to recover. When Becky finally returns to school, she cuts Tom coldly. Feeling that there is nothing else for him to do, Tom decides to run away. He meets Joe Harper and Huck Finn, and they go to Jackson’s Island and pretend to be pirates. For a few days they are happy on the island and learn from Huck how to smoke and swear. They are beginning to get homesick when they hear a cannon being fired over the river from a steamboat. Then the boys realize that the townspeople are searching for their bodies. This discovery puts a new aspect on their adventure; the people at home think they were dead. Gleeful, Tom cannot resist the temptation to see how Aunt Polly is reacting to his death. He slips back to the mainland one night and into his aunt’s house, where Mrs. Harper and Aunt Polly are mourning the deaths of their mischievous but good-hearted children. When Tom returns to the island, he finds Joe and Huck tired of their game and ready to go home. Tom proposes to them an attractive plan which they immediately decide to carry out.

With a heavy gloom overhanging the town, funeral services are held for the deceased Thomas Sawyer, Joseph Harper, and Huckleberry Finn. The minister pronounces a lengthy eulogy about the respective good characters of the unfortunate boys. When the funeral procession is about to start, Tom, Joe, and Huck march down the aisle of the church into the arms of the startled mourners. For a while, Tom is the hero of all the boys in the town. They whisper about him and eye him with awe in the schoolyard. Becky, however, ignores him until the day she accidentally tears a page in the schoolmaster’s anatomy book. When the irate teacher demands to know who tore his book, Tom confesses to save Becky from a whipping. Becky’s gratitude and forgiveness are his reward.

After Muff Potter is jailed for the murder of the doctor in the graveyard, Tom and Huck swear to each other they will never utter a word about what they saw. Afraid that Injun Joe will murder them in revenge, they furtively sneak behind the prison and bring Muff food and other cheer; but Tom cannot let an innocent man be condemned. At the trial, he appears to tell what he saw on the night of the murder. While Tom speaks, Injun Joe, a witness at the trial, springs through the window of the courtroom and escapes. For days Tom worries, convinced that Injun Joe will come back to murder him. As time goes by and nothing happens, he gradually loses his fears. With Becky looking upon him as a hero, his world is filled with sunshine.

Huck and Tom decide to hunt for pirates’ treasure near an old abandoned house. One night, they watch, unseen, while Injun Joe—who returns to town disguised as a mute Spaniard—and a companion unearth a chest of money buried under the floorboards of the house. The two frightened boys flee before they are discovered. The next day, they begin a steady watch for Injun Joe and his accomplice, for they are bent on finding the hidden treasure.

Becky’s parents give a picnic for all the young people in town, after which Becky is supposed to spend the night with Mrs. Harper. One of the biggest excitements of the merrymaking comes when the children go into the cave by the river. The next day, Mrs. Thatcher and Aunt Polly learn that Tom and Becky are missing. No one remembers having seen Tom and Becky after the picnickers left the cave. Meanwhile, Tom and Becky lose their bearings and wander through the cave’s labyrinthine passages until their last candle burns out beside a freshwater spring. To add to Tom’s terror, he discovers that Injun Joe is also in the cave.

Meanwhile, Huck keeps his vigil at Injun Joe’s lodgings in town until the disguised murderer emerges. He then follows Injun Joe and his accomplice and overhears them planning to assault the Widow Douglas. After warning a neighbor named Jones in time for the man and his sons to save the widow and chase away her would-be attackers, Huck collapses in a fever. He later recovers to learn that he is a public hero.

After Tom and Becky have been inside the cave for five days, Tom finds a way out—at a spot five miles from the main entrance. He and Becky then miraculously reappear in town, where Tom is again acclaimed a hero. To prevent others from getting lost in the cave, Judge Thatcher installs a heavy iron door at its entrance. When Tom recovers from his exhausting ordeal two weeks later and hears about the iron door, he announces that Injun Joe is inside the cave. Townspeople then rush to the cave, where they find Injun Joe lying behind the new door, dead of starvation.

Using the secret entry that he discovers, Tom later takes Huck back to the cave, where they find the treasure chest hidden by Injun Joe. It contains twelve thousand dollars in gold coins. Huck, who now has an income of a dollar a day for the rest of his life, is informally adopted by the Widow Douglas. He never would have stayed with the Widow or consented to learn her prim, tidy ways if Tom had not promised that he would form a pirate gang and make Huck one of the bold buccaneers.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Summary

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is Twain’s finest study of a boy’s character and his best novel, but it is The Adventures of Tom Sawyer that is the more popular boy’s tale with the public. Its simplicity, lack of psychological density, and single-minded celebration of the joys of childhood are the reasons for its attraction and the affection with which it is remembered by adults who have not read it for years and never intend to read it again. It is the American dream of ideal childhood written with unmitigated joy.

Much of its success lies with Tom, a child of lively curiosity with a mildly anarchic personality and an imagination fueled by reading (and often misreading) everything from fairy tales to the classics. He is also a boy capable of disarming affection. His relationship with Aunt Polly, swinging as it does between angry frustration and tears of loving joy, is one of the memorable child-adult confrontations in literature. For all of his strutting imitations of maleness, he has no inhibitions in his courting of Becky Thatcher. Twain has a rather crude way with feelings, but in Tom he found a character who acts out his emotions with a comic bravado that often saves the book from falling into sentimental excess.

The Tom Sawyer confidence tricks are part of the folklore of American life. The famous fence-painting game has developed a life of its own that goes beyond the novel. Tom’s systematic accumulation of those yellow tickets awarded for memorizing Bible passages leads to one of those lovely moments of exposure that fall regularly into Tom’s life of precarious mischief.

Beyond the individual incidents of comic chicanery, however, the novel has a strength which is often not noticed because it is carried on with such ease: It has a complicated plot that comes seemingly out of nowhere and increases in dramatic energy from its inception until the very end. The chance encounter of Tom and Huck that leads to the visit to the graveyard for the purpose of trying out a new method for curing warts leads them right into witnessing Injun Joe’s murder of Doctor Robinson. Terrified by possessing a secret which they do not want, they vow to keep quiet, even after Muff Potter, a stupid, drunken companion of Injun Joe, is accused of the murder.

Tom’s failure at love when Becky finds out that he had another girlfriend, his depression over the murder, and his feeling that he can do nothing right lead him to run off with Huck, but only to a nearby island, and the boys are thought to have drowned. The tale becomes complicated further as Tom and his friends return to their own funeral and Tom manages to get away with his nonsense, but the murder still hangs fire. Add to that the trial, the hunt for the pirates treasure, the discovery of Injun Joe, the picnic, Tom and Becky’s misadventure in the cave, and the discovery of the hidden money, as well as the uproar that is caused in the town and the happy ending, and the reader has a deftly organized example of how adventure literature works at its very best.

At this stage in his career, Twain was most interested in telling the tale and in turning the simplicities of universal childhood play-acting into a tale of intrigue and heroism. What he never does, and this may be part of the secret of the novel’s success, is expect Tom or his companions to do anything that might not be credible.

Everything that happens is probable (if unlikely to happen). More to the point, Tom is not a morally perfect character. He is hardly the ideal child: He is superstitious, he is often ignorant, boastful, and devious, and he is slow to come to Muff Potter’s defense. He does, eventually, do the right thing, however, even in the face of the fact that he is still terrified of Injun Joe. What Twain has brought into children’s literature is the flawed, unfocused moral sensibility of the American boy who only wants to have fun but who has in some mysterious way—through breeding, through education which he ignores and religion which he despises, through social contacts which he finds boring, and through a natural, if embryonic, fineness of character—the capacity ultimately to act with courage and firmness. Do not count on him being changed forever, however; one suspects that Tom is still susceptible to getting in and out of trouble for a long time to come.

The careful reader of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer will be able to watch the structure—the way Twain pulls the threads together; the way he puts on the dramatic pressure, then releases it, and puts it on again; the way seemingly separate occurrences come together in surprising ways and lead to the marvelous and dangerous discovery in the caves. Tom and Huck become rich boys, but they are not yet tamed, as Huck will prove in his own novel in which Tom once again spins a marvelous yarn of sheer comic trickery. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer may have the requisite happy ending necessary in juvenile fiction, but there is a slight opening left—in Huck’s reluctance to settle down—which will allow Twain to go on to a more ambitious fiction.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Summary

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer depicts the life of an imaginative, troublesome boy in the American West of the 1840s. The novel is...

(The entire section is 1333 words.)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Chapter Summaries

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Chapter 1 Summary

As Tom Sawyer begins, Tom’s aunt, Polly, calls his name. She looks all over her house and yard, but she cannot find him. When he finally appears, she realizes that he has been in the closet eating jam he was not supposed to touch. She gets out a switch to whip him for disobeying—but at the last moment before she strikes, Tom tells her to watch out behind her. As soon as she turns to look, he runs out the door and hops over the fence.

Aunt Polly laughs to herself and puts the switch away. She tells herself that Tom will not grow up properly if she continues to let him get away with everything he does wrong. But he is her dear sister’s son, and she “ain’t got the heart to lash him somehow.” She...

(The entire section is 461 words.)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Chapter 2 Summary

On Saturday morning, the summer sun is out, and everything looks bright and beautiful—but all is not well in Tom’s world. Tom carries a brush and a bucket of whitewash into the yard and glumly surveys the fence. It is long and high, and Aunt Polly has said that he has to whitewash the whole thing. His life feels “hollow, and existence but a burden.” He spends a minute or two swabbing whitewash on the fence, and then, when he realizes how much he still has to do, he sits down in disgust.

Jim, the slave boy, comes out the gate with a bucket, clearly going to the pump for water. Normally Tom hates carrying water , but now he thinks Jim’s job is much better than his own. He asks to trade, but Jim says that Polly...

(The entire section is 578 words.)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Chapter 3 Summary

In the early afternoon, Tom approaches Aunt Polly, who is dozing over her knitting. She is surprised to see him, because she secretly suspected that he would sneak away and leave his chore unfinished. When he says he is done, she does not believe it. However, when she sees that the fence is covered with several coats of whitewash, she is thrilled. Not only does she tell Tom that he can go out to play; she also rewards him with an apple. When she gives it to him, she delivers “an improving lecture” about how treats taste better when they are earned “through virtuous effort.” During this speech, Tom steals a doughnut.

Free from work for the rest of the day, Tom pelts Sid with dirt clods to get revenge for the...

(The entire section is 562 words.)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Chapter 4 Summary

On Sunday morning, Sid recites all of his Bible verses perfectly. Tom, on the other hand, has not even begun learning his. He struggles over his verses for half an hour, but he cannot recite them. His cousin Mary promises that she will give him a prize if he manages to learn his verses properly. He studies for half an hour longer, and this time he manages to recite the lesson. Mary gives him a Barlow knife—a gift that delights him greatly.

Tom plays with the knife until it is time to get ready for church. Mary sends him to wash his face, but he only pretends to obey. When Mary scolds him, he gets his face wet and soapy, but he leaves “an expanse of unirrigated soil” around his neck. Mary takes him by the hand and...

(The entire section is 516 words.)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Chapter 5 Summary

When Sunday school is over, the church service begins. Tom, Sid, and Mary go to sit with Aunt Polly, who places Tom by the aisle to keep his daydream-prone mind as far as possible from the window. The other church members enter, including the rich and generous Widow Douglas, the mayor and his wife, and the justice of the peace. The town’s model boy, Willie Mufferson, escorts his mother to her pew as always. Tom and the rest of the boys hate Willie because he acts perfect all the time, and because their parents always tell them to act like him.

The Reverend Mr. Sprague reads a hymn, allowing his voice to rise ever upward and then drop “as if from a spring-board” at the ends of his sentences. This is his strange...

(The entire section is 508 words.)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Chapter 6 Summary

On Monday morning, Tom is very unhappy. The weekend is over, and he is feeling daunted by the prospect of a whole week of sitting still. He lies in bed thinking that it would be nice to stay home sick. He tries to convince himself he has colic, but it does not work. He feels hopeful about the pain from a loose tooth, but then he realizes that Aunt Polly will pull it out if he complains. Eventually he remembers that he has a sore toe. This seems a likely excuse, and he begins to wail in pain.

Tom lies in bed clutching his toe and howling. He begs Sid not to tell Aunt Polly that he is unwell. This frightens Sid, who fetches Aunt Polly, who comes running to see what is wrong. Tom shouts, “My sore toe’s mortified!”...

(The entire section is 534 words.)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Chapter 7 Summary

The morning in school seems incredibly long. Eventually Tom gives up trying to focus on his schoolwork. He searches his pockets for entertainment and finds the tick he bought from Huck Finn. He sets it on his desk and begins to play with it by prodding it with a pin to make it change directions.

Tom shares a desk with his best friend, Joe Harper, who is just as bored as he is. When Joe sees Tom’s tick, he is glad. He gets out a pin and begins to play too. Tom draws a line down the center of his slate and makes a rule that each boy gets to play with the tick only when it is on his side of the line. That works well for a while until Joe manages to keep the tick on his side for so long that Tom gets impatient. He reaches...

(The entire section is 420 words.)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Chapter 8 Summary

Tom runs into a private spot in the forest and broods for a long time. He feels that Becky has treated him horribly, and that it might be better to be dead. This gets him wondering whether Becky would be sorry if he died, but of course there would be no way to find out. He wishes desperately that he could “die temporarily.” He knows that this is impossible, so he resolves instead to run away in hopes that he will someday come home and find out if Becky is sorry about treating him so badly. He considers and rejects the idea of becoming a circus clown, a soldier, and an Indian chief. Eventually he settles on being a pirate. When this is decided, he sets about preparing for his adventure.

Firstly, Tom needs to...

(The entire section is 438 words.)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Chapter 9 Summary

Tom and Sid say their prayers and get into bed at the same time. Tom tries to stay awake, but he drops off to sleep around eleven. When Huck Finn sneaks into the yard and makes the boys’ secret signal—the meowing sound of a cat—Tom is so deeply asleep that he almost misses it. Luckily, however, a sleepy neighbor throws a bottle at the “cat.” The resulting shattering sound wakes Tom, who quickly pulls on his clothes and slips out to meet his friend.

The boys walk to the graveyard and find the newest grave, which belongs to a man who was called Hoss Williams. The silent, creepy place frightens them a little, so they do not start working on Huck’s cure for warts right away. They whisper back and forth about...

(The entire section is 449 words.)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Chapter 10 Summary

Tom and Huck run until they are unable to run any longer. When they need to stop, they sneak into an old tannery building to catch their breath. Huck guesses that Injun Joe will be hung if Dr. Robinson dies. Tom agrees, but points out that Muff Potter was probably knocked out at the time of the stabbing. He wonders who will tell. After discussing for a while, both boys agree that it would be foolish of them to do it. If they tell and then Injun Joe escapes, he will surely kill them both.

Tom and Huck decide to swear an oath that they will never tell anyone what they have seen. Tom suggests shaking on it, but Huck says that there “orter be writing about a big thing like this.” He adds that they should seal the deal...

(The entire section is 518 words.)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Chapter 11 Summary

By noon, the people of the town find Dr. Robinson’s body. Tom’s teacher cancels school for the afternoon, and Tom soon finds himself wandering toward the graveyard with the rest of the curious. He does not want to go, but he cannot seem to stay away. When he arrives, he sees Huck Finn, but after a single scared glance at each other, the two do not interact.

Everyone in town knows that the knife found next to Dr. Robinson’s body belongs to Muff Potter. Moreover, a witness claims to have seen Potter scrubbing himself in a stream—a suspicious activity by a man who normally avoids washing. These two pieces of evidence serve to convict Potter in the minds of the public, and everyone joins in the search for him.


(The entire section is 455 words.)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Chapter 12 Summary

Eventually Tom stops thinking about Injun Joe and Muff Potter. Instead he worries about Becky Thatcher, who has stopped coming to school. He hangs around her house in the afternoons to find out if she is ill, but he never learns anything. This makes him so depressed that Aunt Polly notices and decides to try to cure him.

Aunt Polly subscribes to many health magazines and diligently follows their advice about diet, exercise, sleep, and so on. She never seems to notice that the health advice she reads is constantly contradicting itself. She is so simple and honest herself that she is an easy target for swindlers. Because of this, she always buys fancy new medicines and follows bogus advice, tormenting everyone she knows...

(The entire section is 493 words.)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Chapter 13 Summary

Tom wanders into the woods weeping and feeling that the world has finally pushed him to the brink. This time he is going to run away, once and for all. He soon meets Joe Harper, who is similarly downcast. His mother has just whipped him for drinking some cream he never knew existed, and he is as convinced as Tom is that the world is out to get him.

Joe is planning to run away and be a hermit, but Tom soon convinces him to be a pirate instead. They find Huck Finn and invite him to join them, which he quickly does. They all agree to meet at midnight on the river, at a spot where they know of a raft they can take. Tom, who now calls himself the Black Avenger of the Spanish Main, brings a ham. Joe, the Terror of the Seas,...

(The entire section is 617 words.)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Chapter 14 Summary

In the morning, Tom awakes and peacefully watches the natural world for a while. He enjoys inchworms, ladybugs, ants, squirrels, birds, and so on, until he gets bored and wakes Huck and Joe. The boys run happily down to the river for a swim, and they discover that their raft has drifted away in the night. None of them minds this because it makes them feel farther from home. After the swim, the boys return to their camp feeling hungry. Joe cuts up bacon, and Tom and Huck catch a few fish. These are their breakfast, and they are all astounded at how good it tastes.

After breakfast, the boys set out to investigate their new home, which is three miles long and a quarter of a mile wide. They stop for a swim every hour, so it...

(The entire section is 468 words.)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Chapter 15 Summary

Tom swims across a channel to a ferry, stowing himself away out of sight just before it makes its final passage across the river for the night. When it arrives in town, he creeps through the streets, careful to prevent anyone from noticing him. He peeks through the window of his house and sees Aunt Polly sitting with Sid, Mary, and Joe Harper’s mother. He sneaks inside and crawls under a bed to listen to what they have to say.

Aunt Polly says that Tom “warn’t bad, so to say—only mischeevous.” She says that he had a wonderful heart, in spite of his tendency to misbehave. Mrs. Harper says much the same about Joe. She grieves over the fact that she whipped Joe wrongly the last time she saw him,...

(The entire section is 434 words.)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Chapter 16 Summary

After dinner the boys dig up turtle eggs, which they eat for both supper and breakfast. In the morning they go for a swim and play a few games, and then everyone goes quiet, homesick again. Tom finds himself writing “Becky” in the sand with his toe—but he scratches it out and curses himself for being so weak. Joe, meanwhile, gets so homesick that he cannot be cheered up. Even Huck is rather lonely and sad. Tom tries to distract them with plans for digging up treasure, but neither shows any interest.

Suddenly Joe says he is going to go home. He gets up and begins to gather his things. Tom tries teasing him and arguing with him, but nothing he says changes Joe’s mind. He turns on Huck, begging him at least to...

(The entire section is 441 words.)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Chapter 17 Summary

That night at midnight, Joe wakes up with the feeling that something is wrong. He awakens the others, who agree that the air feels strange. As they sit, huddled together, they see lightning and hear thunder. Winds rise, and rain begins to fall hard. Tom shouts to the others to go to the tent—which happens to be a little scrap of sail they have tied up in the bushes to cover their possessions. They all run, tripping and fearful, in opposite directions. By the time they each reach the tent, they are wet and miserable, and their only comfort is the fact that they are not alone. They cannot talk over the noise of the storm, so they sit shivering to wait it out.

The storm is unusually violent. The wind whips past the boys...

(The entire section is 451 words.)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Chapter 18 Summary

Saturday in town is not nearly as happy as Saturday out on the island. Tom’s and Joe’s families both spend the day crying and preparing for a funeral. The streets, which are normally quiet in this sleepy town, seem even quieter than usual. The adults go about their business looking upset. The children mope instead of playing.

That afternoon, Becky Thatcher wanders to the school and finds the place where she and Tom became engaged. She wishes she still had his brass knob to remember him by, and she regrets the fact that the last words she said to him were so unkind. Soon the other children find their way to the schoolyard, and they discuss Tom’s and Joe’s last appearances there. Many of the children retell their...

(The entire section is 523 words.)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Chapter 19 Summary

On Monday morning, Aunt Polly claims that Tom does not love her much. She says that if he did, he would not have put her through so much worry; he would have given her some sign that he was not dead. Mary defends Tom, saying that he would have given his family a message if he had thought of it. She says, “It’s only Tom’s giddy way—he is always in such a rush that the never thinks of anything.”

Aunt Polly’s accusations make Tom feel guilty. He does not want to admit that he came home, so he claims that he dreamed of the family while he was gone. He describes the night he spent eavesdropping on his family and Mrs. Thatcher. Aunt Polly, gullible as ever, hears Tom’s accurate descriptions of that evening’s...

(The entire section is 545 words.)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Chapter 20 Summary

Tom is feeling gloomy when he heads home for lunch. When he arrives, the first thing Aunt Polly says is, “Tom, I’ve a notion to skin you alive.” Tom, whose troubles with Becky have put all other thoughts out of his head, asks why. Aunt Polly explains that she has made a fool of herself, believing Tom’s lies about a prophetic dream and bragging to Mrs. Harper about it. Joe has mentioned to Mrs. Harper that Tom sneaked home to listen to their conversation on the night in question.

This gives Tom a whole new reason to feel bad. His story about the dream seemed clever in the morning, but now he realizes it was mean. He admits that he lied without thinking, but this time Aunt Polly is not so quick to forgive him. She...

(The entire section is 418 words.)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Chapter 21 Summary

After kissing Aunt Polly good-bye, Tom feels much better. On his way back to school, he sees Becky Thatcher and decides, on impulse, to apologize. He says that he has been mean, and he asks to be friends again. Becky shouts an insult and runs away. This makes Tom furious, and he wishes she were a boy so that he could beat her up. This being impossible, he settles on insulting her, and Becky’s hatred for him is confirmed before the lunch recess is over. She longs for the afternoon’s classes to begin so that she can see Tom whipped for ruining his spelling book.

The town’s teacher, Mr. Dobbins, has always wanted to be a doctor. However, he never had enough money to pursue a degree in medicine, so he has only managed...

(The entire section is 691 words.)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Chapter 22 Summary

Summer vacation is approaching, but for now this means misery for the children at Tom’s school. Mr. Dobbins is nervous about “Examination” day, when the children will perform before the whole town to show what they have learned throughout the year. Because of this, he whips the students more frequently than ever. Although he is totally bald beneath his wig, he is not the least bit frail.

The smallest boys bear the brunt of Mr. Dobbins’s anger, and they are soon extremely angry at him. They take every opportunity to play pranks, but Mr. Dobbins always gets back at them with yet more whippings. The boys cannot stand the way he always comes out on top. They discuss the problem, and soon they make a brilliant plan...

(The entire section is 479 words.)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Chapter 23 Summary

As summer begins, Tom joins a group called the Cadets of Temperance. He gets to march in formation and wear a red sash, but he has to promise not to drink or smoke or swear as long as he is a member. As soon as he makes this oath, he is overwhelmed by an intense urge to do all of these things. However, he wants badly to wear his red sash in public, so he sticks to his oath.

After two days, it is clear to Tom that he will never make it to the Fourth of July without drinking or swearing. He decides to quit the Cadets right after marching at the funeral of Judge Frazer—but the sick old man refuses to die. Tom waits and watches the judge’s condition, trying on his sash in front of a mirror whenever the illness looks...

(The entire section is 475 words.)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Chapter 24 Summary

The day of Muff Potter’s trial approaches, and Tom lives in constant fear. Whenever people bring up the murder, he feels guilty and wonders if they are trying to make him confess something. He knows that nobody can know that he witnessed the crime, but he is in an agony of guilt. He finds Huck in a similar condition, and the two of them go off to a quiet spot to talk.

Tom and Huck feel badly for Potter. The man “ain’t no account,” but he is kind. When he was free, he sometimes shared food with Huck even when he did not have enough for himself. He was also nice to Tom, helping him mend kites and put hooks onto fishing lines. Both boys wish they could find a way to free Potter, but they know that the townspeople...

(The entire section is 479 words.)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Chapter 25 Summary

Once again, Tom has become “a glittering hero.” The children all envy him, and the adults all praise him. His name appears in the town paper—a fact which makes him truly famous in the eyes of the world. People begin to mutter that he will be president someday, unless his mischievous nature causes him to commit some crime that gets him hung.

Now that Muff Potter is known to be innocent, the “fickle unreasoning world” embraces him. Potter is praised and cared for with great enthusiasm—just as he was recently condemned with great enthusiasm. In this case, however, the world’s good side is showing, so there is no point faulting anyone for it.

Tom spends his days in glory and his nights in terror....

(The entire section is 436 words.)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Chapter 26 Summary

At some point in life, every “rightly constructed” boy feels a deep longing to dig for buried treasure. One day this desire strikes Tom, and he goes out to look for a partner in his new plan. He cannot find Joe Harper, and Ben Rogers is busy. Tom searches out Huck Finn, who immediately agrees to join him. Huck always agrees to every plan, as long as it sounds fun and does not require money, because he has “a troublesome superabundance of that sort of time which is not money.”

Probably because of his lack of schooling, Huck is woefully uneducated about hidden treasure. He demands to know who buries treasure and what prevents them from coming back for it. Tom says that robbers bury treasure. He cannot...

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Chapter 27 Summary

In the morning, Tom and Huck set out for the haunted house, but then Huck remembers that it is Friday. They decide not to risk entering the haunted house on such an unlucky day. The next morning they gather their courage and take their pick and shovel to the haunted house. Inside they spend a little time exploring the crannies and closets. Curious about what they might find upstairs, they climb to the second floor. Soon they hear voices, and they both freeze in terror.

Two men enter the haunted house. One is a ragged tramp they do not recognize, and the other is a Spaniard who has been hanging around town lately, a man they perceive to be deaf and dumb. Tom and Huck watch and listen through knotholes in the floor as the...

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Chapter 28 Summary

When Tom wakes up the next morning, he begins to suspect that the adventure in the haunted house was only a dream. This would explain why there was so much gold, more gold than could possibly be expected to exist in real life. Tom has never before seen even fifty dollars at once. To him, words like “hundreds” and “thousands” are “mere fanciful forms of speech.” He has never imagined that any actual person could possess a hundred dollars. If people really analyzed what he thought hidden treasure would be, they would find him imagining “a handful of real dimes, and a bushel of vague, splendid, ungraspable ones.”

After breakfast, Tom decides to find out whether or not the treasure was real. He finds Huck...

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Chapter 29 Summary

The boys watch the tavern for several days, but they do not see Injun Joe or his friend. For a long time the weather is good, and the nights are so clear that it never gets really dark. The boys do not dare to try to sneak into the inn under these conditions. When a cloudy and gloomy day finally arrives, Tom sneaks out of the house at night, bringing a lantern and a towel to cover its light. He and Huck sneak over to the tavern, and Huck stands watch while Tom sneaks into the back alley to try his keys in the door of room two.

While Huck stands watch, he grows very nervous. It is very dark and quiet, and he cannot see Tom or hear anything happening. After what seems like hours, he begins to wonder if his friend might...

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Chapter 30 Summary

On Friday, Becky returns to town. Tom is delighted, and he forgets about Injun Joe and the treasure for a while. Becky’s mother has been promising for ages to hold a picnic, and now she says that it will happen tomorrow. All that night, Tom hopes to hear Huck meowing at the window. He thinks it would be amazing to have a death-defying story of murder and treasure to tell the other picnickers in the morning.

Huck does not meow, but Tom does not mind. He knows the picnic will be wonderful anyway. The adults have chartered a ferry to take the children to the picnic spot. On the way, Tom learns that Becky is supposed to stay the night with the Harper family, who live near the ferry landing. He tells her it would be much...

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Chapter 31 Summary

Before dawn the next morning, Huck Finn knocks again at the Welshman’s door. When he answers Huck, the Welshman cries out that he will open his door to him any time. He welcomes a startled Huck inside and invites him to breakfast. As the Welshman and his sons prepare the food, he describes the encounter with the attempted burglars in the night. He and his sons exchanged gunshots with the criminals, but nobody was hit, and the criminals got away. He asks Huck if he knows who it was, and Huck says it was the deaf-dumb Spaniard and his raggedy friend. Hearing this, the Welshman sends his sons to tell the sheriff. Before they go, Huck begs them not to tell anyone who gave them this information.

When the young men are...

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Chapter 32 Summary

On the day of the picnic, Tom and Becky go into the cave with the other children. They quickly get tired of the hide-and-seek game everyone else is playing, and they decide to explore instead. Tom goes behind a waterfall and finds a downward passageway, much like a staircase. The two of them poke around for a while, marking their turns with smoke from a candle. Soon they find themselves in a magnificent world of stalactites and stalagmites. They come into a large chamber and disturb a family of bats, which chase them, putting out Becky’s candle. Tom relights it with his own candle, but when the two of them decide to turn back, he suggests taking a different route. They have no matches, so he does not want to go past the bats and...

(The entire section is 699 words.)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Chapter 33 Summary

By Tuesday afternoon, the townspeople have begun to think that Tom and Becky will never be found. Mrs. Thatcher is so worried that she gets sick, and Aunt Polly seems to age years over the course of a few days. Then, late on Tuesday night, bells begin to ring. Townspeople run out into the streets shouting, “They’re found!”

A carriage comes forward with Tom and Becky inside. The families of the two children run forward, joyously crying, to hug them and welcome them home. Tom tells the story of their adventure, adding details here and there to make it more exciting. He explains how he continued exploring passages for a long time, always traveling to the very end of his kite string. Once, when he got to the end of...

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Chapter 34 Summary

Tom, Judge Thatcher, and a large group of men row up the river toward the cave. When the new metal doors are opened, they find Injun Joe, dead. They can see how he tried to cut through the doors, and how he ate candle wax and bats to stave off starvation. The townspeople bury Injun Joe next to the cave, and people from all around the countryside come in wagons and boats for the event. Everyone agrees that the funeral is almost as much fun as a hanging would have been.

Not long after Injun Joe’s funeral, Tom and Huck meet up and share the stories of their respective adventures. Huck says that somebody must have “nipped” the money from room number two, but Tom disagrees. He says the money is in the cave, and that he...

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Chapter 35 Summary

As soon as the widow leaves, Huck suggests sneaking out the window. He says he cannot stand to be around so many people, especially if he has to wear brand-new clothes. Tom promises to take care of Huck and tells him not to worry. Just then, Sid comes in and says that he knows what the party is about. Mr. Jones, the Welshman, is planning to tell everyone in town that Huck saved the Widow Douglas on the night of the attempted robbery. Laughing, Sid explains that Mr. Jones thinks this is a surprise, but everyone else already knows. Tom realizes that Sid was probably responsible for spoiling the surprise for everyone, so he calls Sid mean and kicks him out of the room.

By now Huck is even more nervous than before, but Tom...

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Chapter 36 Summary

The story of Tom’s and Huck’s adventure causes a huge stir among the townspeople. Grown men go around ripping up every haunted house for miles, looking for more treasure—but nobody finds any. Tom’s and Huck’s guardians invest the money, and soon each boy has an income of a dollar every day. This is more money than even the minister earns. Moreover, people treat the boys with respect; they repeat everything the boys say as if it is important. Neither Tom nor Huck can remember being able to say anything of worth before, but now they have “evidently lost the power of doing and saying commonplace things.”

Tom gets along quite well with his new high status. Judge Thatcher takes an interest in him, especially...

(The entire section is 536 words.)