Illustration of a hand holding a paintbrush that is painting a fence white

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

by Mark Twain

Start Free Trial

Editor's Choice

In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, how does Tom persuade other boys to do his work?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

At the end of chapter 1 in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Tom is caught by his Aunt Polly sneaking into the house through the window late at night. When she sees that his clothes are a mess, she decides "to turn his Saturday holiday into captivity at hard labor." In other words, she makes him whitewash the fence in front of their house. Tom hates this chore and feels even worse when other boys start passing by, headed off to do fun things with their Saturday morning while he is hard at work. At first, he tries to trade chores with Jim, who has the more fun job of going to fetch water. Aunt Polly puts a stop to it.

Then he thinks about trading the marbles and other small treasures in his pocket to the other boys to get them to do his chores while he goes to play, but he decides he doesn't have anything valuable enough to get someone to take over the job.

Soon, Tom comes up with an idea. When the first of his friends, Ben, walks by on his way to go swimming, Tom pretends to be totally absorbed in painting the fence. When Ben comments with sympathy that Tom has to work instead of going with him, Tom asks, "Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?" He claims to like it and goes back to painting. Ben asks for a chance to paint, too. Tom pretends to be reluctant but lets Ben take a turn. Eventually, the boys are giving their best toys to Tom for the opportunity to whitewash the fence.

Tom is able to convince his friends that they want to paint the fence by pretending to enjoy it himself and pretending to be reluctant to give it up. When they see how much he is enjoying the job, the other boys can't wait to give it a try!

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Tom's naughty behavior often gets him into trouble with his Aunt Polly. As punishment for skipping school Aunt Polly tells Tom he has to whitewash the fence. Obviously, Tom does not want to.

In order to get out of this chore, Tom employs several effective techniques to convince his friends to do his work for him, demonstrating how clever Tom is and his ability to think outside the box. Tom's character is further explained here.

Tom discovers that in order to make a person want something all you must do is make that thing difficult to attain. He uses reverse psychology to convince his playmates that painting the fence is fun and a privilege. By making it seem like he is lucky to be able to paint the fence Tom is showing them all the fun they are missing out on. After Tom explains why painting the fence is something that should be a coveted experience the boys are practically begging Tom to let them do it for him!

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial