Summary and Analysis Chapter 3



In this chapter, Tom first sees Becky Thatcher, although he does not know her name yet. To attract her attention, he begins a series of outlandish and absurd "show-offs" to little avail.

At supper that night, when Aunt Polly is out of the room, Sid accidentally breaks the sugar bowl. Tom is pleased because now the precious Sid will be punished, but when Aunt Polly sees the broken dish, she whips Tom until he points out that Sid broke it. Although Aunt Polly is sorry, she claims that Tom has probably done something deserving of a belting.

Being unjustly accused, Tom thinks how sorry his aunt would be if he were dead and imagines Aunt Polly begging for his forgiveness as he is dying. He works himself up so much that he has to go for a walk, which leads him past the Thatcher house. In his present frame of mind, he wonders if the lovely young girl would mourn his death. He throws pebbles against a window and is drenched by a pail of water being thrown out. Dripping wet, he goes home to bed and skips his prayers. No one except Sid observes this omission.


Tom is very clever because he avoids lying to his aunt; instead he merely states that the fence is all finished. He does not say that he painted the fence himself, nor does he let on that others did the work for him. Still, he is quite satisfied to receive not only the rewards for a job well done, but he is able to "hook" a donut while Aunt Polly is not looking.

The mild animosity that develops between Tom and Sid when Sid "squelshed" on Tom now continues as Tom throws some clods at his tattletale half brother. This animosity continues until the last confrontation between the two brothers when Sid reveals the special "secret" of the surprise party at the Widow Douglas' home.

As with many young people who have been unjustly accused and punished, Tom delights in wallowing in his own misery, fantasizing imaginary scenes in which he becomes the suffering martyr. He envisions people feeling guilt and regret for the way they have treated him.

This chapter also introduces the heroine of the novel, Becky Thatcher. Even though the reader does not yet know her name, Twain's description of her and Tom's immediate reaction to her let the reader know that she will be an important part of Tom's young life. Tom's behavior upon seeing Becky for the first time is both exceptionally comic and also very typical of a boy Tom's age. He delights in "showing off" for the pretty new girl, and he exhibits the perfect reactions associated with this youthful love.

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