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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

by Mark Twain

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In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, why does Tom scream "David and Goliath" in Chapter 4?

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In chapter 4 of Mark Twain's novel Tom Sawyer, Tom is getting ready for Sunday school along with his half brother, Mary and he is less than happy to be going. His main problem is that he has tried really hard to memorize verses from the Bible, which is an ongoing competition held during Sunday School. This competition consists on collecting tickets that are given to the kids who win at knowing the most Bible verses from week to week.

Tom is frustrated because, in contrast to Sid, he has a lot of trouble memorizing the verses.In typical Tom fashion, he tries to devise a way by which he can become the winner, especially since Judge Thatcher-a very important man in town- will award the child with the most tickets a luxuriously-bound, brand new Bible in front of all the other children. All this attention is too tempting for Tom.

Therefore, Tom tricks some of the Sunday School boys by convincing them to trade their tickets for silly gifts that he would give them in return. In the end, Tom ends up with the most tickets and wins the competition altogether.

As Tom is called to receive his prize, everyone naturally assumes that Tom would be the child with the most knowledge of the Bible.

No doubt you know the names of all the twelve disciples. Won’t you tell us the names of the first two that were appointed?

However, Tom reveals his ignorance on the topic when, under the pressure, he shouts out the first answer that comes to his head:

David and Goliath!!!

We never know what happens afterwards, as the narrator (to save Tom's least bit of dignity) says:

Let us draw the curtain of charity over the rest of the scene.

We can imagine that Tom does not have a very good day after that occurs.

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Tom was at church during chapter 4. The Sunday school superintendent is eager to give out a bible to the boy who has done a great deal of memorization. In preparation for the moment, the superintendent surely knows that none of the boys have done a very good job of memorizng their verses. The boys would receive tickets for correctly memorized verses. For some reason, Tom has enough tickets to earn the bible, not that he actually did do all the memorization he was supposed to do. The superintentdent decided that Tom should get the bible. So, in front of everyone, Judge Thatcher asks Tom an ever important but simple question: Name the first two disciples of Jesus. The correct answer would have been James and John. But Tom didn't really memorize his verses, nor does he put much effort into learning about the bible. He shouted out "David and Goliath" in answer to the question because they were the first two biblical names that entered his head. How embarassing!

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