The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Characters
The main characters in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer are Tom Sawyer, Aunt Polly, Huckleberry Finn, Becky Thatcher, and Injun Joe.
Tom Sawyer is a mischievous boy who demonstrates generosity and goodness in spite of his pranks.
Aunt Polly is a nurturing character who fails to influence Tom’s behavior.
Huckleberry Finn is Tom’s good friend. His freedom is the envy of the other boys.
Becky Thatcher is the object of Tom’s affection.
Injun Joe is a murderous fugitive who targets Tom but ultimately dies of starvation in a cave.
Last Updated on May 12, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 654
Tom Sawyer, the mischievous ringleader of countless boyish adventures, who almost drives his long-suffering aunt to distraction with his pranks. When not fighting with other village urchins, the indolent boy plans numerous romantic and impractical escapades, many of which cost him hours of conscience-stricken torment. If he is not planning misdemeanors on the high seas, he is looking for buried treasure. Although unthinking, he is not really a bad boy; he is capable of generosity and occasionally surprises even himself with magnanimous acts.
Aunt Polly, Tom’s warm, tenderhearted aunt. Sometimes this simple scripture-quoting old soul does not understand her mischievous charge. She uses Tom’s brother Sid as an example of a model youth. Her frequent admonitions, emphasized by repeated thumps on the head with a thimble, fail to have a lasting effect on Tom. Believing herself endowed with subtle guile, she often tries to trap the boy into admitting his pranks. Rarely, however, is she successful. Tom usually manages to outwit her if Sid does not call her attention to certain inexactnesses in Tom’s excuses.
Huckleberry Finn, one of Tom’s best friends and a social pariah to the village mothers, but not to their sons. In the self-sufficient outcast, the boys see everything they want to be. They long for his freedom to do as he pleases. Sometimes, to their regret, the other boys try to emulate their individualistic hero. Carefully, they mark the way he smokes strong tobacco in smelly old pipes and sleeps in empty hogsheads. Although he is not accepted by the mothers, Huck, even if he is vulgar, is a decent, honest lad. Happy only when he can sleep and eat where he pleases, Huck feels uncomfortable when the Widow Douglas takes him into her home.
Becky Thatcher, Tom’s sweetheart. With her blue eyes, golden hair, and winsome smile, she captures his rather fickle heart at their first meeting. A little coquette, she, like Tom, alternately suffers from and enjoys their innocent love. Tom proves his generosity and love for her when he admits to the schoolteacher a crime he did not commit, thus astounding the rest of the class by his incredible folly.
Injun Joe, a half-breed, a murderous, sinister figure who lurks mysteriously in the background. The savagely vindictive killer stabs young Dr. Robinson and is subsequently exposed by Tom. Injun Joe, who had leaped from the courtroom window during Muff Potter’s trial, almost has his revenge against the boy in a cave. Finally, he pays for his many crimes when he is trapped in the cave and dies of starvation.
Muff Potter, a local ne’er-do-well and town drunk, a crony of Pap Finn. After helping Injun Joe and Dr. Robinson rob a grave, Muff Potter is accused of killing the doctor and almost pays with his worthless life. Had Tom not belatedly intervened, he would have been hanged and Injun Joe would have gone free. When the boys see a stray dog howling at the newly released Potter, asleep in a drunken stupor, they know that he is still doomed.
Sid, Tom’s half brother and one of the model boys in the community. A quiet, rather calculating child, he exposes Tom’s tricks whenever possible. When Tom is presumed drowned, however, Sid manages a few snuffles. To Tom, Sid’s behavior is reprehensible; he keeps clean, goes to school regularly, and behaves well in church.
Mary, Tom’s cousin. She is a sweet, lovable girl who often irritates him by insisting that he wash and dress carefully for church.
Judge Thatcher, Becky’s pompous but kindhearted father and the local celebrity.
Joe Harper, who runs away with Tom and Huck to Jackson’s Island. Pretending to be pirates, they remain there for several days while the townspeople search for their bodies.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 631
Tom Sawyer is a trickster figure who challenges the rules of conventional society. He and his younger half-brother Sid are wards of their highly conventional Aunt Polly, and Tom engages in a variety of ruses to escape from the impositions of adult society, particularly work and school. Although Sid cleverly sees through Tom's antics, his aunt is more easily fooled. Secretly indulgent of Tom's faults, she nonetheless punishes him dutifully when she discovers his deceptions.
Tom lives in a world defined by the customs and values of boys. He defends his territory, testing newcomers in fights, and participates in ritual exchanges of valueless, even repugnant, goods such as the dead cat he acquires from Huck. Bored by the solemnity of church, he disrupts the service with a pinchbug and trades to get tickets meant to be earned by memorizing Scripture. Subject to childhood romance, he falls in love with Becky Thatcher, a judge's daughter. His attempts to gain her approval, along with his general desire to be the center of attention, inspire him to show off unabashedly. Ultimately, however, he assumes a hero's role, first taking the blame when Becky accidentally damages the schoolmaster's anatomy book, then rescuing her from the cave.
Huckleberry Finn appears in this book as a secondary character. Like Tom, Huck has lost a parent; unlike Tom, he lives a homeless life, sleeping at an old slaughterhouse. Further removed from social convention, Huck shares Tom's enjoyment of pranks and sharp dealing while lacking Tom's regard for respectability. At the end of the novel Tom demands that Huck accept "civilization" in order to remain a member of his gang, which he governs according to rules he interprets from adventure books.
The boys' world is haunted by superstition and governed by biblical injunctions. When they visit the graveyard, they fear ghosts and devils, but they encounter Injun Joe, Muff Potter, and Dr. Robinson robbing a grave. Joe plays the role of a melodramatic villain, killing the doctor and blaming the murder on the alcoholic Muff. Although ignorant enough of conventional Christian history to identify the first disciples as "David and Goliath," Tom and Huck are so conditioned by conventional morality that they expect Joe to be struck down by lightning for his lie. When he is not, the boys assume he has sold himself to the devil. Indeed, he is a demonic character seeking revenge against ordered society.
Tom and Huck run away with another boy, Joe Harper, to escape from the murder they have witnessed. They live in freedom on Jackson's Island, enjoying boyish adventures until conscience intrudes. Their imaginations governed both by books and standard morality, they want to be pirates without violating the Biblical injunction against theft, and Tom feels guilty about the innocent Muff Potter's arrest. Presumed dead, the boys enjoy the center of the town's attention when they return for their own funeral. This return suggests a pattern of death and resurrection, retreat from society and reunion. Tom's return marks a greater sense of responsibility when, racked by conscience, he reveals what he knows of the murder.
Adventure now becomes a reality for the boys as they discover that Joe has hidden a fortune and is plotting revenge against the Widow Douglas. The treasure hunt and Tom's romance with Becky merge in a mazelike cave where Tom and Becky get lost and find Injun Joe hiding out with his stolen money. While Joe dies in the cave, sealed in by unwitting townspeople, Tom and Becky emerge to community recognition, and Tom and Huck share in the treasure retrieved from the cave.
The book ends happily with a unified society freed of a menace. Huck finds a guardian in the Widow Douglas, whom he has saved from Joe, and Tom gains recognition for genuine heroism.
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