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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer | Study Guide

Mark Twain

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer | Chapter 17 | Summary



In St. Petersburg, Becky, the Harpers, and Aunt Polly are mourning. The boys' funeral is planned for Sunday, and Becky is regretting her rejection of Tom and the andiron knob "to remember him by."

On Sunday the boys arrive in the village and walk into the church for their own funeral. This was Tom's secret and the plan that convinced Joe and Huck to stay a little longer on the island. They enter the church and are surrounded by their joyous and relieved family members. Tom points out that Huck is being ignored, and Aunt Polly makes a fuss over him as well.


The arrival at one's own funeral holds strange appeal. The boys can hear what is being said about them, see who is mourning, and enjoy the rejoicing when the others realize they are not dead. Nonetheless, there is an innate cruelty in the ruse. The boys allow loved ones to worry and mourn to satisfy their own interests and extend an adventure, and they enjoy the romance of the community's grief. Notably, the decision to return is Tom's. The other two boys cooperate, but the plan was his.

Presenting a funeral as comic is not uncommon in Southern literature. For example, William Faulkner does so—with far darker comedy—in both As I Lay Dying and Sanctuary.

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