The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In St. Petersburg, the townspeople prepare for the funeral to mourn Tom, Joe, and Huck. Their schoolmates tell fond stories about the boys, each one of them trying to tell the story that captures the boys best. Becky regrets that she returned the brass andiron that Tom had given to her. On Sunday, the whole town gathers at the church. The minister recounts stories of the three boys, depicting them as charming, lovely young men. Meanwhile, those listening to his sermon reflect on how harshly they had misjudged the boys when they were alive.
While genuine, the children's sadness takes on a competitive dimension, with each trying to outdo the other in their stories about Tom and Joe. The same is true of the adults in their communal display of grief. Tom's wildest dreams of being recognized and admired in death have come true. And yet the depictions of the boys are ridiculously sentimental and false, allowing Twain to mock the prospect of anyone trying to publicly display so personal an emotion as grief.
Themes
The Hypocrisy of Adult Society Theme Icon
Sentimentality and Realism Theme Icon
The proceedings are interrupted when Tom, Joe, and Huck walk into the church, which was the secret plan that Tom had told to the other two boys back on the island. Tom and Joe's families sweep the two of them up in their joy at finding them alive, while Huck is ignored. Tom interrupts Aunt Polly's gushing to insist that Huck also be embraced. She does so.
While their grief over Tom and Joe might show the kindness and magnanimous nature of the villagers, their neglect of Huck reveals their coldheartedness towards a poverty-stricken child. This may explain why Huck, unlike Tom, never has an interest in showing off: he has never felt the reward of warm feelings from his neighbors.
Themes
The Hypocrisy of Adult Society Theme Icon
Showing Off Theme Icon
Sentimentality and Realism Theme Icon
The minister commands everyone to join him in a triumphant song. Tom, the envy of all his schoolmates, enjoys his "proudest moment".
In church of all places, the boys go unpunished for deceiving everyone.
Themes
The Hypocrisy of Adult Society Theme Icon
Sentimentality and Realism Theme Icon