The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

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Joe Harper Character Analysis

Tom's best friend aside from Huck. He runs away with them to the island after Tom finds him upset one day at having been wrongfully accused by his mother of having stolen cream. As a conventional boy—the first one to miss home—Joe serves as a foil to the self-sufficient Huck.

Joe Harper Quotes in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

The The Adventures of Tom Sawyer quotes below are all either spoken by Joe Harper or refer to Joe Harper. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Boyhood Rebellion and Growing Up Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage Classics edition of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer published in 2010.
Chapter 13 Quotes
They said their prayers inwardly, and lying down, since there was nobody there with authority to make them kneel and recite aloud; in truth they had a mind not to say them at all, but they were afraid to proceed to such lengths as that, lest they might call down a sudden and special thunderbolt from Heaven. Then at once they reached and hovered upon the imminent verge of sleep—but an intruder came, now, that would not "down." It was conscience. They began to feel a vague fear that they had been wrong to run away; and next they thought of the stolen meat, and then the real torture came.
Related Characters: Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Joe Harper
Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Twain conveys the silliness and childishness of Tom and Huck's mission to escape their town. Tom and Huck have snuck away from home, stealing some provisions in the process. At first they have lofty ambitions of being pirates and robbers--in general, being glamorous and refusing to play by society's rules. But before long, it becomes clear that Tom and Huck are still very much under the dominion of society's rules: they feel so guilty at having stolen food that they beg for God's forgiveness.

The passage is very funny (it only takes Tom and Huck a couple hours before they start to regret running away from home), but there's also a serious point here. As much as Tom dislikes schooling and Sunday services, he really has learned a lot from school and church--he's learned to pray to God and feel a sense of guilt when he does something wrong. Morality and conscience, he discovers, can't just be shrugged off, and a "life of crime" isn't all fun and games.

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Chapter 16 Quotes
Joe's pipe dropped from his nerveless fingers. Tom's followed. Both fountains were going furiously and both pumps bailing with might and main. Joe said feebly:
I've lost my knife. I reckon I better go and find it.
Tom said, with quivering lip and halting utterance:
I'll help you. You go over that way and I'll hunt around by the spring. No, you needn't come Huck—we can find it.
Related Characters: Tom Sawyer (speaker), Joe Harper (speaker), Huckleberry Finn
Page Number: 115
Explanation and Analysis:

Tom, Huck, and Joe--who've run away from home to live on an island--engage in some failed "male bonding." Huck, an experienced smoker, introduces his buddies to smoking tobacco out of a corn-cob pipe. Tom and Joe, who sense that being able to smoke a pipe is a sign of manhood and maturity, pretend to be enjoying their new hobby. But before long, both boys get sick to their stomachs--they've never smoked tobacco before. Instead of admitting that they need to go throw up, Tom and Joe pretend that they've lost a knife and are running off to look for it--they're so desperate to save face that they can't tell the obvious truth.

The passage is an amusing demonstration that Tom--in spite of his swagger and machismo--is a long way off from being a man. Like plenty of kids, he has fantasies of being a rugged, independent hero, and yet he can't quite pull off such fantasies. Nevertheless, Tom knows that he's supposed to enjoy smoking tobacco--he's seen enough real men doing so. Ironically, Tom learns that he's supposed to enjoy smoking before he actually learns how to smoke. Machismo--the code of strong, stoic male behavior--is a key part of his informal education.

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Joe Harper Character Timeline in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

The timeline below shows where the character Joe Harper appears in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 7
Boyhood Rebellion and Growing Up Theme Icon
Superstition, Fantasy, and Escape Theme Icon
Sentimentality and Realism Theme Icon
Bored, Tom releases a tick he has captured on his desk. He lets Joe Harper, seated next to him, play along in a game with the tick. Tom can't... (full context)
Chapter 8
Superstition, Fantasy, and Escape Theme Icon
When Joe Harper arrives, Tom declares the woods to be "Sherwood Forrest." They play at sword-fighting, then... (full context)
Chapter 13
Boyhood Rebellion and Growing Up Theme Icon
The Hypocrisy of Adult Society Theme Icon
Superstition, Fantasy, and Escape Theme Icon
Sentimentality and Realism Theme Icon
Feeling misunderstood, Tom begins to cry. Joe Harper comes along, upset because his mother accused him of stealing cream. Tom convinces Joe... (full context)
Chapter 14
Superstition, Fantasy, and Escape Theme Icon
Joe and Huck wake, feeling wonderful. No one cares that the raft has drifted away. (full context)
Chapter 15
Sentimentality and Realism Theme Icon
...reach the island. After napping on the shore, he heads to camp at dawn, where Joe and Huck are arguing over whether he deserted them. They celebrate Tom's embellished stories of... (full context)
Chapter 16
Boyhood Rebellion and Growing Up Theme Icon
Superstition, Fantasy, and Escape Theme Icon
Tom, Huck, and Joe fill their days with all the fun they can imagine: hunting for turtle eggs to... (full context)
Boyhood Rebellion and Growing Up Theme Icon
Superstition, Fantasy, and Escape Theme Icon
Sentimentality and Realism Theme Icon
...to stay on the island because he has a secret he can't yet share. When Joe insists on leaving, Tom taunts him about missing his mother, but Joe sets off, and... (full context)
Chapter 17
The Hypocrisy of Adult Society Theme Icon
Sentimentality and Realism Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Chapter 19
Boyhood Rebellion and Growing Up Theme Icon
...Polly, who reveals that she has learned from Mrs. Harper that Tom's dream wasn't real. Joe had told his mother a more complete account of the boys' time away, including Tom's... (full context)
Chapter 33
Boyhood Rebellion and Growing Up Theme Icon
...boatloads of men immediately head to the cave's entrance. Removing its barrier, they find Injun Joe's dead body. Tom realizes he's relieved to no longer fear being murdered. (full context)
Boyhood Rebellion and Growing Up Theme Icon
Superstition, Fantasy, and Escape Theme Icon
Showing Off Theme Icon
...the outlet he found. He brags that they'll form a new band of robbers with Joe Harper and Ben Rogers called "Tom Sawyer's Gang", and hide women they're holding for ransom... (full context)