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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer | Study Guide

Mark Twain

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer | Chapter 16 | Summary



For the next two days, the boys continue their adventure. They swim, explore, feast on turtle eggs, pretend to be in the circus, and play marbles. However, Joe grows homesick and begins to lobby to leave. Tom tries to convince him to stay, but ultimately Huck sides with Joe and tells Tom that he hopes he'll come too. However, as they are leaving, Tom reveals his "secret," and the boys agree to stay a while longer because of it. (The secret is not revealed to the reader in this chapter.)

Tom decides to learn to smoke. Joe follows, and Huck agrees to teach them. Predictably, Tom and Joe both get sick. After a nap to recover, the boys' camp is drenched and thrashed when a storm hits. They recover, build a fire, play at being Indians, and smoke again. This time they avoid sickness.


Despite seeing how Aunt Polly is mourning—and that Joe's mother is, too—Tom is determined to continue his adventure. Arguably, this is not as callous as it might seem because he has left behind a note for Aunt Polly and because he anticipates returning soon. Still, he does not consider Joe Harper's family even though he's seen Mrs. Harper's worry.

On the island, although their playacting is not new, the addition of smoking is. Again Huck is set apart as more experienced. He teaches Tom and Joe to smoke. Tom and Joe both approach it with arrogance, and not long after that, they suffer. Huck is allowed to smoke because he is without guidance in his life. He does not suffer any foul consequence for smoking, as it is already a habit of his. The act of smoking, like drinking and swearing, is an adult male activity. Here, away from the households of women, Tom and Joe try on being older, much as they try on being generals, pirates, Robin Hood, and Indians, although for Huck the independence—and the bad habits—of adulthood are far from a game.

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