Chapter 1 Summary: The novel opens with Aunt Polly searching for Tom Sawyer, the young protagonist of the novel who, along with his younger brother Sidney, was sent to live in St. Petersburg, Missouri, after his mother’s death. After hearing no answer to her calls, Polly finds Tom eating out of the jam closet. Tom escapes Aunt Polly’s beating by diverting her attention, leading Polly into a tirade against Tom’s irreverent ways. During dinner, Aunt Polly tries to trick Tom into admitting that he played hooky from school that day to go swimming.
But Tom, aware of Aunt Polly’s motives, has sewn his shirt collar back in place after his afternoon swim. Aunt Polly apologizes to Tom for her suspicions, until Sidney – notorious for being “the Model Boy of the village” – points out that Tom’s shirt is sewn together with black thread instead of the white thread that Aunt Polly had used that morning. Before she can punish him, Tom darts out the door and runs away from the house. On the street, Tom runs into a well-dressed boy with a “citified air about him that ate into Tom’s vitals. After a verbal fight, Tom and the nameless boy begin to throw fists at each other until Tom is finally victorious. Tom returns home late in the evening by climbing through the window… but Aunt Polly catches him in the act. Chapter 2 Summary: On Saturday morning, Tom is forced to whitewash the fence outside the house as punishment for his behavior the night before. The day is beautiful, making the chore seem even more dreadful; in fact, Tom would rather do Jim’s – the black servant’s – chores than whitewash the fence.
Tom begins the job and imagines how all the “free boys” who come skipping by will make fun of him for having to do work on a Saturday. In perhaps one of the most famous scenes of the novel, Tom tricks the neighborhood boys into completing his entire chore. Tom pretends to love whitewashing, putting fake enthusiasm into his work. “Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day? ” Tom asks. Soon, all the neighborhood boys beg Tom for the chance to whitewash in exchange for small trinkets.
In conclusion, Tom contends “that Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do. ” Chapter 3 Summary: For the time remaining of that Saturday, Tom is in good spirits, playing in a mock battle with his band of friends. Afterwards, he passes by Jeff Thatcher’s house and notices a “lovely little blue-eyed creature with yellow hair” with whom he instantly falls in love, so much so that the girl he was in love with the week before – Amy Lawrence – is completely out of his heart.
Until suppertime, Tom lingers in front of the Thatcher house, “showing off” by doing various gymnastic tricks, hoping that the little girl inside the house will see him. During supper, however, Tom’s moods are lowered when Aunt Polly raps his knuckles for attempting to steal sugar. When Sid reaches for the sugar-bowl behind Polly’s back, he drops the bowl onto the floor. When Aunt Polly returns, she immediately begins to beat Tom. When she learns that it was Sid who was at fault, she doesn’t apologize but instead justifies her beating, though inside she longs to say something loving to Tom.
Tom, conscious of his Aunts ruefulness yet refusing to acknowledge it, wallows in self-pity. He imagines his own funeral, and begins to cry to himself, reflecting that he leaves the house when his cousin Mary enters the house, unable to withstand any ounce of happiness. He proceeds to wander through the streets, contemplating who would miss him when he died. Would the lovely “Adored Unknown” from this afternoon miss him? Presently, he wanders to her house, and stares up at her window, imagining the little girl crying over his lifeless body.
But his imagination is interrupted by the maidservant who dumps a bucket of water out the window, and the drenched Tom Sawyer returns home. Chapter 4 Summary: On Sunday morning, Tom has still not memorized his Sunday school assignment of five Biblical verses. As she washes and dresses him, his cousin Mary attempts to help him learn, but he still has nothing but a vague general idea of the lesson. In church, the recitation of two verses was rewarded with a blue ticket; 1000 blue tickets could be exchanged for a bound Bible, which only the brightest and most diligent students earned.
Tom has been trading various trinkets for tickets, not because he wants a Bible but because he wants the glory that comes with it. That day in church, the visiting family of Judge Thatcher is given the highest seat of honor. Tom immediately begins to “show off” by acting up because the Judge’s daughter is none other than the little girl he is in love with. In an effort to gain even more glory and attention, Tom has finally traded for enough tickets to receive a Bible. But after receiving the Bible, the Judge asks Tom what the names of the first two disciples were, and he incorrectly answers “David and Goliath.
Chapter 5 Summary: Chapter five revolves around the remainder of Sunday morning following Tom’s schooling, specifically with the morning sermon. The whole town is in attendance: Aunt Polly, Sid, Mary, Tom; the widow Douglas; Mayor and Mrs. Ward; lawyer Riverson; and a variety of other characters that remain nameless, such as the town belle, matrons, and young clerks. The church is bustling with noise as the minister begins his hymn, and Twain remarks that there was never “a church choir that was not ill-bred. After the hymn and notices of meetings and societies have been read, the minister begins a prayer that seems excessive, or as Twain puts it: “a good, generous, prayer. ” The prayer pleads for the church, for the “children of the church,” for the state to the President, for the “poor sailors” to the “Oriental despotisms,” and continues on in this manner until a final “Amen” concludes it. Much like the prayer, the remainder of church is barely endured by Tom Sawyer, who counts the pages of the sermon but fails to listen to any of it.
Tom’s attentions, instead, focus on the antics of a poodle playing with a beetle. The poodle, eventually, sits on the beetle and disrupts the sermon with its distressful howling and barking, bringing the entire congregation to stifled laughter. After the chaotic disruption, the sermon continues and Sunday services conclude. Chapter 6 Summary: On Monday morning, Tom finds himself in bed and wanting to avoid school that morning. Eagerly, he attempts to avoid school by “playing” sick, groaning and moaning enough to wake Sid, who is sleeping by his side.
Once Aunt Polly comes to check on Tom’s ailments, he tells her: “Oh Auntie, my sore toe’s mortified. ” After Aunt Polly tells Tom to “shut up that nonsense,” Tom then proceeds to tell her about his sore, loose tooth, hoping that maybe it will provide him with an excuse to skip school. Aunt Polly simply pulls out his tooth and sends Tom off to school without another word. On his way to school, Tom stops to talk to Huckleberry Finn, the “juvenile pariah” of the town admired by all children for his aloofness and hated by all mothers for his bad manners.
He comes and goes as he pleases, an orphan of-sorts who doesn’t have the duty of going to school or completing chores. Huckleberry is dressed in cast-off clothes: a wide-brimmed hat, trousers with only one-suspender, baggy pants, and a worn coat. Tom, who was forbidden to play with Huck, begins to discuss the correct way to cure warts; Huck, who holds a dead cat in a burlap sack, is planning on entering a cemetery at midnight to perform a witch’s ritual to cure warts. Both boys discuss the merits of various superstitions and strange chants before they agree to meet later that night to go to the cemetery together.
After trading his tooth for a tick and saying goodbye to Huck, Tom races to school. Knowing that his punishment for tardiness will be to sit on the girls’ section of the schoolhouse, Tom explains his lateness by saying he stopped to talk with Huckleberry Finn, for the only vacant girls seat was next to the blonde, pig-tailed girl that Tom has fallen in love with: Becky Thatcher. After a period of flirtatious exhibition, Tom writes “I love you” on his slate, which is returned with Becky’s pleasure. The two agree to stay at school for dinner so that Tom can teach Becky how to draw.
The remaining time spent in class is futile, for Tom has not studied and makes errors in every area of his studies: geography, spelling, and reading. Chapter 7 Summary: Until dinner, Tom is restless and school and amuses himself by playing with the tick Huckleberry traded him. After a short time, Tom and “bosom friend” Joe Harper begin to fight over who is allowed to play with the tick, disrupting the classroom with a fistfight and attracting the attention of the schoolmaster. Finally noon comes, and Tom meets Becky in the empty schoolhouse after all the other pupils have gone home for dinner.
After discussing rats, chewing gum, and circuses, Tom asks Becky if she would like to be engaged to him; his definition of engagement is simply telling “a boy you won’t ever have anybody but him” and then sealing it with a kiss. After whispering, “I love you” in each other’s ears, the bashful Becky and Tom kiss. Inadvertently in his giddiness, Tom blunders that he was previously “engaged” to Amy Lawrence. After learning this, Becky rejects Tom and breaks into tears despite Tom’s pleading. Tom attempts to win her over again by giving her his most prized possession brass drawer-knob but she throws it at the ground in anger.
Heartbroken and enraged, Tom marches out of the schoolhouse. After realizing that Tom has left, Becky calls after him but is too late. Chapter 8 Summary: Meanwhile, Tom runs off into the dense woods, somewhere far away from the schoolhouse where Becky is. The woods are still, adding to Tom’s lonely and melancholy state. Tom sits and begins to consider what it would be like to die, and at this point, the only thing that makes him hesitate is his bad Sunday school record. Becky would be sorry, he thinks to himself, about the way she treated him if only he were dead. Ah, if only he could die temporarily! ” Instead, Tom decides he wants to run away from home and enter the pirate profession as “Tom Sawyer the Pirate the Black Avenger of the Spanish Main. ” After daydreaming for a while and playing around with “incantations” and witch’s spells, Tom hears a trumpet blast in the distance. Flinging off his jacket and moving some brush to reveal a secret stash of toys, Tom is met by Harper who is clad with the same toys: a bow and arrow, a tin trumpet, and a fake sword.
The two boys reenact the story of Robin Hood with their gear, then finish playing for the day swearing that “they would rather be outlaws a year in Sherwood Forest than President of the United States forever. ” Chapter 9 Summary: Later that night, after Sid has fallen asleep, Tom waits for Huck’s “meow” as the signal. About to succumb to slumber, Huck finally arrives and gives the signal and Tom becomes wide-awake, climbs out the window, off the roof, and runs off to the town graveyard.
The “old-fashioned Western” style graveyard is about a mile-and-a-half away from town, with overgrown grass and an eerie wind. The two boys hide themselves among a cluster of elm trees, just a few feet away from Hoss Williams (who had just been buried) waiting for the spirits to come at midnight. After remaining in the same spot for quite some time, the boys finally hear the sound of muffled voices from the other end of the graveyard, confident that devils are approaching them. But to their surprise, they recognize the voices as the figures come closer and closer!
The voices belong to Old Muff Potter – the town drunk, “that murderin’ half-breed” Injun Joe, and young Dr. Robinson. By the light of their lantern, Tom and Huck make out what appears to be a grave robbery. Injun Joe and Potter dig up the coffin and remove the body as Dr. Robinson directs them. Just as the corpse is placed in a wheelbarrow, Muff Potter demands more money from the doctor, who refuses to pay any more. Injun Joe intervenes threatening the doctor with his fists. “You done more than [pay us],” says Joe, recalling how five years ago Dr.
Robinson had turned the Injun away from his door when he was asking for food. With revenge on his mind, Injun Joe shouts: “And now I’ve got you, and you got to settle, you know! ” Dr. Robinson is quick to strike Injun Joe to the ground, after which Muff Potter tackles the doctor to the ground. The doctor flings himself free and strikes Potter unconscious with heavy headboard of the grave. Seeing his chance, Injun Joe grabs the knife Potter had dropped during struggle and stabs the doctor in the chest.
As the fatally wounded doctor falls over Potter, Huck and Tom run away in fright. “That score is settled,” says Injun Joe as he robs the doctor’s body and then places the bloodied knife in Potter’s (who is still unconscious) open hand. When Potter comes to, Injun Joe acts as if it is Potter who has stabbed young Robinson to death. Convinced that he has murdered the doctor, Muff Potter begs Injun Joe not to disclose the events of the night, and the chapter closes with the empty graveyard. Chapter 10 Summary:
The two boys flee from the graveyard in horror at the scene they had witnessed: the murder of Dr. Robinson by Injun Joe. Out of breath and always looking over their shoulder, Tom and Huck manage to run all the way to the deserted tannery where they find shelter. Once they gain their breath, the boys rationalize as to what they should do. Not knowing that Injun Joe is attempting to frame Muff Potter for the murder, the boys decide to not tell a soul about what they had seen for fear that Injun Joe would seek revenge upon them as well.
They sign a contract to keep their secret “mum” (an image of the contract in Tom’s handwriting is placed within the text) and sign their initials in blood after pricking their fingers with needles. After they bury the contract, Huck and Tom hear a dog howling a sign that death is coming, according to black slaves’ tales. Still afraid for their lives, the boys let out a sigh when they realize the stray dog is howling directly at Muff Potter. After Tom and Huck say good-bye, Tom sneaks back into his bed through the window, unaware that Sid is wide awake.
The next morning after breakfast, Tom finds out that Sid has told on him once more when Aunt Polly takes him aside. But instead of “flogging him,” Polly simply weeps and asks Tom “how he could go and break her old heart so. ” Guilt and shame rise in Tom, forcing him into a miserable mood for the rest of the day. At school, his mood is none the better when both he and Joe Harper take a flogging for playing hooky the day before. Tom’s mood sinks even further when, in his desk, he finds his brass knob wrapped in paper. The chapter ends with the line: “This final feather broke the camel’s back. “