Term Paper: Tom Sawyer

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Tom Sawyer

Chapter Exegesis

Scene One

Chapter one of the Adventures of Tom Sawyer encompasses four clearly distinct settings; each of these cleverly set the plot, tension, and tone for the rest of the book. From the beginning, therefore, you know who Tom Sawyer is -- a mischievous, clever, precocious child with a good heart -- from where he comes, and with whom he lives.

Clearly from the South -- the reader need not know he lives in Mississippi to make the dialect connection -- and parentless, he lives with an aging, sweetly vain aunt. Tom has a sense of community and ownership in his home town and defends it from all 'citified' newcomers:

His cap was a dainty thing, his close-buttoned blue cloth roundabout was new and natty, and so were his pantaloons. He had shoes on -- and it was only Friday. He even wore a necktie, a bright bit of ribbon. He had a citified air about him that ate into Tom's vitals. The more

Tom stared at the splendid marvel, the higher he turned up his nose at his finery...

The first scene in Chapter One sets the relationship between the impish Tom and Aunt Polly; she a kind, simple-minded, honest, well-meaning victim to Tom's quick-witted, lightning fast reflexes, and response mechanisms - particularly when in trouble.

Scene Two

Scene two depicts Tom in a near-constant state of disregard for the rules by playing hooky from school. Regardless the inevitable consequences - and his intuitive understanding of just how far he can push Aunt Polly - he enters these situations willingly and with a boy's innocent heart.

Although Mark Twain doesn't describe the hooky scene in this chapter, the reader is able to envision scenes of swinging on a rope out over the creek, stamping through every pile of dirt and mud he can find, and cramming a frog into each pocket on his way home.

Scene Three

Twain offers a glimpse into the character of Sid, Tom's half-brother in Scene two:

Tom's younger brother (or rather half-brother) Sid was already through with his part of the work (picking up chips), for he was a quiet boy, and had no adventurous, troublesome ways.

By Scene three, the reader is made aware that Sid has a sly side to his nature; in revealing Tom's re-sewing of his collar to an already suspicious Aunt, Sid instantly becomes the anti-hero in the story. A whining, insipid tattletale, one automatically migrates to the good-hearted but impish Tom and sides with Tom in his innate dislike of his half-brother.

Scene Four

The fourth scene outlines Tom Sawyer's character and assertive nature while protecting his 'turf'. Alfred Temple, the new boy in town, is dressed up in Sunday finery and his appearance alone taunts Tom. Despite Tom's lack of understanding for the reasons for the discomfort, he puts out the challenge to the new kid. After much banty-like posturing, Tom finally takes the verbal taunt challenge and begins pummeling… [END OF PREVIEW]

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