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.