Chapter 4 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 516

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.

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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 does the job herself. She scrubs his head and neck, combs his hair, and coaxes him into his Sunday clothes and his shoes. By the time he is ready for church, he is as uncomfortable as it is possible to be.

On the way to church, Tom trades several kids for red, blue, and yellow tickets. These tickets are part of a reward system for children who memorize Bible verses. When children have memorized two thousand verses, they receive a copy of the Bible. Mary has won two such prizes. Tom does not care much about the Bible, but he does want the attention the winners always receive.

During Sunday school, a man and woman enter the building with the beautiful girl Tom saw yesterday. The moment Tom sees her, he begins punching people, pulling hair, and making grotesque faces—“in a word, using every art that seemed likely to fascinate a girl, and win her applause.” As it turns out, the girl’s father is the great Judge Thatcher. Everyone in the whole Sunday school is proud just to be in this man's presence, and even the teachers try to show off. Mr. Walters, the Sunday school superintendent, privately wishes that one of the children could win a new Bible today. However, he knows that none of his star pupils are ready, and he is not the type of man to cheat.

At this moment, Tom Sawyer comes forward and asks for a Bible. Mr. Walters is perplexed. He knows that Tom has not memorized so many verses, but he cannot deny that the boy has enough tickets. The other boys watch jealously, cursing themselves for selling Tom their tickets, as he is congratulated before the whole church and allowed to shake Judge Thatcher’s hand. Judge Thatcher gives an elaborate speech about the importance of learning Bible verses as a boy grows up to be “a great man and a good man.” He asks Tom to tell him the names of the first two disciples of Jesus. It is supposed to be an easy question, but Tom does not know the answer. When pressed to give a response, he shouts the names of the only two Biblical characters who come to mind: “DAVID AND GOLIATH!”

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