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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer | Study Guide

Mark Twain

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer | Chapter 18 | Summary



Tom's solution for consoling Aunt Polly is to lie to her and tell her about his "dream." That dream, of course, is what he saw when he had returned to the house and watched her grieve for him. Sid, once again, sees through Tom, but Aunt Polly believes the story.

At school Becky tries to get his attention, but Tom ignores her. He flirts with Amy even as Becky makes a show of inviting people to a picnic. She retaliates by spending recess looking at a picture book with Alfred Temple, a well-dressed boy whom Tom sees as snobby. When that doesn't get the desired result, she starts crying and walks away. Alfred, angry at Tom, pours ink on Tom's spelling book. Becky sees him and is going to tell Tom, but she thinks about how he's treated her and decides to "let him get whipped ... and to hate him forever."


Based on his actions toward Aunt Polly and Becky, Tom's play at being a man—much like his play at being a pirate—seems to have no impact on his real life. Not only had he let them think he had died, but upon his return, he continues to lie to them.

Both Tom and Becky are cruel to each other, and their cruelty is of a kind. They use another person to get attention and engender jealousy. They take turns rejecting the one they want and then sulk or cry over it. Their behavior seems motivated by pride and the desire to wound more than by genuine affection. In her treatment of Tom and of Alfred, Becky reveals herself to be more like Tom than any other character in the novel.

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