The Adventures of Tom Sawyer By Mark Twain Summary and Analysis Chapters 6-8

Summary

On Monday morning, Tom tries without success to convince Aunt Polly that he is too ill to attend school. His final plea--that his tooth aches--results in Aunt Polly quickly pulling the tooth and sending Tom on his way. On the way to school, Tom meets Huckleberry Finn. Huck is carrying around a dead cat with the intent of taking it to the cemetery that night because he believes the superstition that, when Satan comes to the cemetery to gather the corpses of evil persons, the cat will follow Satan, as will the warts. (In other words, Huck sees this as a way to get rid of his warts.)

Tom arrives at school late and, as punishment, he must sit in the girls' section. He does not mind, however, because the only empty seat is next to Becky Thatcher. Tom draws pictures for her, writes a love note to her, and is so smitten that he doesn't study his lessons and ends up at the foot of the class in a spelling bee. During lunch, Tom and Becky get to know each other, and Tom suggests that they become engaged. Becky agrees, even though she doesn't know what being engaged means. When Tom mentions his earlier relationship with Amy Lawrence, Becky spurns him.

Depressed, Tom plays hooky that afternoon. He thinks of dead Jimmy Hodges and contemplates his own suicide and how sorry Becky will be that she treated him so badly. His solitude is disturbed by his friend Joe Harper, and the two spend the rest of the afternoon playing.

Analysis

Chapter 6 is a pivotal chapter because two more of the main characters are presented--Becky Thatcher and Huckleberry Finn.

In spite of their differences, Tom and Huck are good friends and influence each other. Tom is a socially accepted member of society, and Huck is an outcast. Tom lives in a home with a good bed and regular meals and is loved by his Aunt Polly who oversees his physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. In contrast, Huck has no home; is forced to sleep in lofts or hogsheads or wherever he can find a place; must scrounge for his meals, sometimes going without; and has nothing but loose fitting ragged clothes to wear. His only relative, his father (Pap), is the town drunk who is as apt to beat Huck as not. Because of his "freedom"--he has no adult to answer to--Huck is despised and dreaded by the adult community and admired by the youngsters.

Whereas Tom's life is bound by society, by rules, and by acceptable behavior, Huck's life is one of freedom; he can come and go as he pleases. And unlike Tom, Huck's life is uncomplicated. He has no ambition and no desire to be civilized. He hates the idea of respectability and deplores the idea of going to school, wearing proper, tight fitting clothes and cramped shoes, and being forced to do things against his nature, such as giving up smoking and "cussing."

In spite of the differences, Tom envies Huck and Huck's freedom. Tom hates going to Sunday school, and he hates washing. He plays hooky from school, avoids doing chores (such as whitewashing a fence), and envies Huck's free and easy life. Although he seems to aspire to Huck's freedom from convention and rules, Tom is not willing--or able--to truly forgo his conditioning. For example, when Tom has to go into town, he makes up a reason to go alone because he doesn't want to be seen with the disreputable Huck. In this way, there is much of the hypocrite in Tom.

Becky Thatcher is also presented more completely in Chapter 6. Becky is a sweet, somewhat shy girl who has not had a boyfriend before Tom. She is also quick to anger, jealous, and slow to forgive Tom for a supposed wrong. But after some disagreements and after Tom "sacrifices" himself and takes her punishment (these events occur later in the story), Becky and Tom will become devoted friends, especially during the episode in the cave.

This chapter also presents Twain's use of superstition, a theme that is treated lightly here, but one that gains thematic importance later in the novel. The superstitions become important to the novel because they move the adventures forward. For example, the discussion of how to remove warts leads the two boys to the graveyard at midnight where they witness the murder of Dr. Robinson, and thus create one of the central adventures of the novel.

Glossary

pariah any person despised or rejected by others; outcast. In reality, Huck Finn does not fit this description, but is so viewed by the members of the town. To the other boys, he is the romantic outcast, someone to be envied.

spunk-water This could be a variation of "skunk-water," a rank smelling stagnant water found often in rotten vegetation and in tree stumps.

witches and witch detecting Twain is making fun of the many ways by which a person can theoretically determine whether or not a person is a witch.

hove heaved or threw.

ferule a flat stick or ruler used for punishing children.

slathers a large amount. Tom wants to be a clown in the circus because a clown earn "slathers of money."

zephyr a soft, gentle breeze.

caitiff a mean, evil, or cowardly person.

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