Tom Sawyer: Character - The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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INTRODUCTION - REAPPEARANCE OF TOM AFTER THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER
      The Hero of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Tom reappears in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. He lives with his maternal aunt, Aunt Polly who is reasonably strict with him and punishes him often for his mischievous jaunts. The former novel abounds with incidents of how Aunt Polly punishes Tom as well as the latter's shrewdness in how he gets away with everything.

TOM'S SOCIAL STANDING
      Tom is Huck's friend in the novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Around the same age as Huck Tom is all that Huck is not. Unlike Huck, he is fortunate enough to be part of a well-to-do family and enjoys all the privileges of a well-brought-up kid. He has the protection of his maternal aunt in whose house he is treated extremely lovingly. He goes to school, can read and write, and has all the polish that becomes a lad of a respectable family. But his "bookish learning" as against Huck's "natural learning" is the highlight of his relationship with the latter.

TOM'S ROMANTICISM
      Tom is different from Huck also in so far as his attitude and reaction to the outside world is concerned. He embodies inclination towards Romanticism and all the paraphernalia attached to it. Greatly influenced by prison stories and those of adventure, he has an insatiable quest for adventure. This pursuit of adventure almost makes him lose touch with reality. He has a penchant for gaudy plans and the syrupiness of romantic sagas. In true quixotic style, he dons the role ot the ringleader of a gang of robbers and talks of holding people for "ransom", without having any idea, whatsoever, what it means. Whenever his companions question any of his actions or decisions, he chides them for wanting to deviate from what "the books" say.

TOM'S TREATMENT OF JIM
      Tom displays his disregard for Jim's sentiments by playing several practical jokes on the latter. Having been brought up in a society that deemed blacks as an inferior race of people, Tom's perception of Jim is greatly induced by racist attitudes. He doesn't seem to realize that blacks, too, are human beings and deserve some thoughtfulness. Nevertheless, it is noteworthy that, despite Tom's pranks that he plays on Jim, nowhere in the novel does the former demonstrate any malice towards the latter. The fact that, at times, he treats Jim as a plaything is attributable to the fact that Tom is an immature boy who doesn't understand the significance of emotions and sentiments.

TOM'S COMES BACK - FULL OF ROMANTIC IDEAS
      After a reasonably long absence, Tom re-enters the scene in Chapter 33, when he goes to visit his Aunt Sally. Disguised as Tom's younger brother, Sid Sawyer, he helps Huck plan Jim's escape. Despite the knowledge that Jim has been a free man for over two months, he makes convoluted plans for the latter's escape, merely for the sake of some fun and adventure. His romantic notions of heroism outweigh his humanity when he puts Jim through such a lot of trouble by making the entire exercise uselessly complicated. He also makes life miserable for the kind old Aunt Sally and Uncle Silas.

      In Chapter 39, when Tom writes the "nonnamous" letters, he invites the wrath of the farmers. In his pursuit of adventure, he ignores the practical side of things. As readers, we may be willing to ignore Tom's juvenile behavior as "silly" and "acceptable" for an adolescent. But Tom carries his romanticism and "style" to an extent that can be not just "silly" but becomes dangerous. Though Huck has great admiration Or Toms "style" and "principles", he doesn't condone the latter's actions in a majority of situations.

      Through the character of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain satirizes romanticism and the futility of its exalted notions. Tom also becomes the vehicle for the novelist who exhibits his scorn towards the foolishness and outlook of the "civilized" lot - their bookish learning and tendency towards racism.

      Tom's insensitivity reaches its acme when, at the end of chapter 45, he gives Jim forty dollars for having gone through the entire adventure with him. Tom seems to feel that this amount can make up for the distress and insecurity that he has caused Jim.

      Perhaps the only reason why we, as readers, do not develop contempt for Tom, despite the trouble that he causes everybody, is that we deem them as silly and do not perceive any malice in them. His juvenility is his only salvation because of which we are ready to forgive him.

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