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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

by Mark Twain

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Who did Tom Sawyer have a fight with?

Quick answer:

Tom fights with the well-dressed newcomer Alfred Temple.

Expert Answers

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In chapter 1, Tom gets into a fist fight with Alfred Temple, a new boy in town.

Tom is put off from the start by the new boy's spiffy clothing: Alfred wears a "dainty" hat, a necktie, delicate pantaloons, and shoes, even though it is only Friday evening. He seems "citified" to Tom, and this irks him. Alfred seems to him to be acting superior and doing so on Tom's own territory, so Tom addresses him a threatening way to establish dominance, saying:

I can lick you!

The new boy, however, is not one to be intimidated and tells Tom he can't lick him. The two trade insults until finally, Tom tells the stranger to go away. They fight by shoving each other, then stop. The new boy holds his ground and insults Tom. At this point, the real fight ensues:

both boys were rolling and tumbling in the dirt, gripped together like cats; and for the space of a minute they tugged and tore at each other's hair and clothes, punched and scratched each other's nose, and covered themselves with dust and glory.

The fight ends with Tom on top of Alfred, punching and telling him to cry "'nuff," which the angry and humiliated boy finally does, though he also threatens revenge.

This scene shows that neither of the two boys wants to fight but that each is going to hold his ground. We see, though, that when the fight does occur, the barefoot, scrappier, small-town boy wins the day. Tom is thus characterized as a "winner" from the start, the kind of boy who aggressively does what it takes to stay on top. We will soon find that Tom is a winner not only with his fists, but also with his wits.

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