The Adventures of Tom Sawyer | Study Guide

Mark Twain

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Course Hero. "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Study Guide." May 17, 2017. Accessed November 16, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Adventures-of-Tom-Sawyer/.

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Course Hero, "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Study Guide," May 17, 2017, accessed November 16, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Adventures-of-Tom-Sawyer/.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer | Chapter 2 | Summary

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Summary

Saturday comes and, with it, Tom's punishment. His task is to whitewash the fence. It's a glorious day. Blossoms and brightness abound, but Tom is sad. He starts to work, sighing and weary. He perks up when he sees Jim, Aunt Polly's slave, who is skipping and singing as he heads to fetch water. Tom offers to get water in exchange for Jim doing some of the whitewashing, but Jim refuses by explaining that he was told not to fool around and that Aunt Polly warned him that Tom would ask him to whitewash the fence, and he was not to do it. However, Jim is tempted at seeing Tom's injured toe. Tom's ruse doesn't work though, and Aunt Polly catches them and chases Jim away.

But Tom does manage to make his friends help him whitewash the fence. He convinces Ben Rogers that whitewashing the fence is fun. He protests when Ben offers, explaining that Aunt Polly wouldn't let Jim help. In a matter of minutes, Ben is paying to do Tom's work, trading him a half-eaten apple for the privilege. He's followed by Billy Fisher (for a kite), Johnny Miller (for a dead rat), and so on. By the end of the day, he's collected a pile of treasures, and the boys have completed his work.

Analysis

Tom is exceedingly clever. He is able to convince Ben and several other boys that it's not work to whitewash the fence. There is some truth to this since enjoying a thing makes it less of a chore and more of a pleasure. But Tom, who is clearly not enjoying painting the fence, uses deception and bandwagon persuasion to convince the boys to do his work. It is important to note that Tom does not appear to view any allegiance as sacred; he is as happy to deceive his friends as he is his family.

Tom's cleverness is something Aunt Polly and Jim both expect and are prepared to guard against. This would indicate that his friends should also be aware that Tom is capable of such manipulation. However, not only are they eager to believe that the opportunity to whitewash is fun, but they all pay for the right to do so. This chapter reveals a level of intelligence and ingenuity that will serve Tom well in the novel. Tom has precisely the right traits to set himself up for an interesting adventure.

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