1. "Spare the rod and spile
the child, as the good book says. I'm a-laying up sin and suffering for us
both, I know. He's full of the old scratch, but laws-a-me! He's my own dead
sister's boy, poor thing, and I ain't got the heart to lash him somehow. Every
time I let him off my conscience does hurt me so; and every time I hit him my
old heart 'most breaks."
This quote lays out the
basis of the relationship between Aunt Polly and Tom. Aunt Polly is torn
between disciplining Tom, as her conscience advises, and indulging him, as her
warm heart dictates. She is frustrated by the boy, but loves him and feels
sorry for him because his mother, her sister, is dead.
The quote also reveals
Twain's interest in dialect. He studied the dialect of his Missouri hometown,
Hannibal (on which Tom's town of St Petersburg is based) and used the local
vocabulary and pronunciations in Tom Sawyer. "The old scratch" is New
England and Southern dialect for the devil.
2. "Huckleberry was
cordially hated and dreaded by all the mothers of the town because he was idle,
and lawless, and vulgar, and bad - and because all their children admired him
so, and delighted in his forbidden society, and wished they dared to be like
Huckleberry Finn is the
symbol of that which is desired and admired by the children in Tom Sawyer
- absolute freedom from parental authority. As such, he is feared and hated by
the mothers; he is their worst nightmare, having no structure of rules or work.
The different attitudes towards Huckleberry reveal the huge chasm between the
values of the children and the adults.
3. "She [Aunt Polly] was a
subscriber to all the 'Health' periodicals and phrenological frauds; and the
solemn ignorance they were inflated with was breath to her nostrils. All the
rot they contained about ventilation, and how to go to bed, and how to get up,
and what to eat, and what to drink, and how much exercise to take, and what
frame of mind to keep oneself in, and what sort of clothing to wear, was all
gospel to her, and she never observed that health journals of the current month
customarily upset everything they had recommended the month before. She was as
simple-hearted and honest as the day was long, and so she was an easy victim.
She gathered together her quack periodicals and her quack medicines, and, thus
armed with death, went about on her pale horse, metaphorically speaking, with
'hell following after.'"
satirizes medical fads and people's unquestioning belief in each new one,
despite the fact that it invariably contradicts the previous fad. He humorously
compares Aunt Polly to Death, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in the
Bible (Revelation Ch. 6). These horsemen are predicted to ride at the
apocalypse, bringing death, war, famine and pestilence in their wake. It was no secret at the time that doctors and patent
medicines were a common cause of sickness and death.
4. "Oh, they just have a
bully time - take ships, and burn them, and get the money and bury it in awful
places in their island where there's ghosts and things to watch, it, and kill
everybody in the ships - make 'em walk a plank. they don't kill the women -
they're too noble. And the women's always beautiful, too."
After he has been rejected
by Becky, Tom runs away with Joe Harper and Huck to an island, to become a
pirate. Tom gives a romanticized description of the life of a pirate, drawn
from romantic fiction. He lacks a realistic understanding of the consequences
of stealing money and killing people, despite the fact that he has recently
witnessed a real incident of attempted extortion, murder and robbery in the
graveyard. He still lacks the maturity to confront either this event or Becky's
attitude, preferring to take refuge in fantasy.
5. "As the service proceeded,
the clergyman drew such pictures of the graces, the winning ways, and the rare
promise of the lost lads, that every soul there, thinking he recognized these
pictures, felt a pang in remembering that he had persistently blinded himself
to them always before, and had as persistently seen only faults and flaws in
the poor boys."
Twain satirizes the
hypocritical tendency of society to value and praise people only when it has
lost them. The town believes that Tom, Huck and Joe Harper are drowned, and
suddenly, all those who vilified and scolded them in life are eulogizing them.
Tom, with his psycholgical astuteness, has more than once predicted such a
turnaround if he were suddenly to die.
Polly, it ain't fair. Somebody's got to be glad to see Huck.'"
When Tom, Joe Harper and
Huck make a dramatic entrance into the church for their own funeral service,
Tom and Joe are greeted ecstatically by their loving families. Huck, however,
has no family to greet him, and can only stand to one side awkwardly. While
Huck is idolized by the town's children for the freedom he enjoys from parental
authority, Twain is showing us the other side of his independent state: the
lack of love and caring in his life.
7. "What a hero Tom was
become now! He did not go skipping and prancing, but moved with a dignified
swagger, as became a pirate who felt that the public eye was on him. And indeed
it was; he tried not to seem to see the looks or hear the remarks as he passed
along, but they were food and drink to him."
On his return from his
sojourn on the island pretending to be a pirate, Tom is treated like a hero.
This is partly because the townspeople assumed that the boys were dead. Tom has
carefully stage-managed his disappearance, his romantic existence on the
island, and his return at his own funeral, for maximum effect. For Tom, seeing
the response of his 'audience' to his actions is the most important thing in
life: it is "food and drink" to him.
8. ". work consists of
whatever a body is obliged to do, and. play consists of whatever a body is not
obliged to do. There are wealthy gentlemen in England who drive four-horse
passenger-coaches twenty or thirty miles on a daily line, in the summer,
because the privilege costs them considerable money; but if they were offered
wages for the service that would turn it into work, then they would resign."
This observation highlights
a major theme: the attractiveness of things that are forbidden or hard to
attain, and the unattractiveness of things that are allowed or that one is
obliged to do in the way of work. When Tom joins the Cadets of Temperance, he
is not allowed to drink, smoke or swear, and becomes desperate to do so. He
resigns, and promptly loses the desire to do any of those things.
This perverse quality of
human nature is satirized by Twain throughout the novel. It is the reason why
Tom's ruse to make other children whitewash the fence (Chapter 2) works so
well; he makes the chore seem like a rare privilege, so everyone wants to be
'allowed' to do it.
9. "Tom was a glittering
hero once more. There were some that believed he would be President yet, if he
Tom becomes a hero for his
selfless act in giving evidence against Injun Joe, the true murderer of Dr
Robinson. The townspeople believe that he will either be President or be hanged
- an expression of the extremes of Tom's character. On one hand, he is capable
of devious, theatrical and self-interested behavior, as Aunt Polly repeatedly
points out. But as the novel progresses, such behavior becomes more rare and is
replaced by more mature, selfless and spontaneously generous acts. The growth
of these qualities is shown by his earlier unprompted apology to Becky, his
subsequent defense of her in the classroom, and now his crucial appearance as a
witness for Muff Potter's defense. This last is an act prompted not by
self-interest but by a desire to do the right thing and see the innocent Potter
go free. On the contrary, Tom risks his life by speaking out, as Injun Joe is a
10. "Huck Finn's wealth, and
the fact that he was under the Widow Douglas's protection, introduced him into
society - no, dragged him into it, hurled him into it - and his sufferings were
almost more than he could bear. whithersoever he turned, the bars and shackles
of civilization shut him in and bound him hand and foot."
Throughout the novel,
'civilized' adult society is seen primarily from the viewpoint of renegade
children like Tom, Huck and Joe Harper, as something restrictive, irritating
and arduous. Adult society would see Huck's life of freedom as cruel suffering,
and the Widow Douglas's adoption of Huck as a generous act of charity, albeit
one that Huck has deserved for his part in saving her from Injun Joe's revenge.
Huck is a reluctant
candidate for such 'civilization,' because he loves his freedom. But now that
the boys are close to entering the adult world (in part because of the
treasure), they have to accept the restrictions that go with it.