The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Symbols

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The Village

St. Petersburg typifies small-town America in the nineteenth century. Tom reaches maturity over the course of the novel in realizing that he must act as a responsible member of this community rather than rebelling against its conventions. While Twain depicts the village as an ultimately benevolent support system for its members, he also uses satire to point out the hypocrisies and weaknesses of its attitudes and institutions.

Look for the red text to track where The Village appears in: Chapter 14, Chapter 23, Chapter 33, Chapter 8, Chapter 17, Chapter 29

The Island

Tom, Huck, and Joe Harper escape to Jackson's Island to live as outlaws, leaving behind the rules and strictures of St. Petersburg society. Its physical isolation brings them all the freedom they could hope for. Yet Joe and Tom they find that they are not happy—they miss the social attachments and responsibilities to others that define their lives in the village.

Look for the red text to track where The Island appears in: Chapter 13, Chapter 14, Chapter 15, Chapter 16

The Treasure

Finding treasure is a fanciful notion appropriate to Tom's romantic boyhood imagination. Yet this unrealistic dream nonetheless comes true by the novel's end. Tom and Huck achieve maturity with the windfall of their treasure, which heralds the onset of their adulthood in the eyes of society, for they have achieved wealth and status.

Look for the red text to track where The Treasure appears in: Chapter 26, Chapter 27, Chapter 28, Chapter 29, Chapter 30, Chapter 33, Chapter 34, Chapter 35

The Cave

In the harrowing experience of surviving several days lost in MacDougal's Cave, Tom's proves his manhood. Like the island, the cave involves physical isolation from the village community. While Tom runs away to the island with dreams of personal glory as an outlaw, in the cave he acts wisely and resourcefully as Becky's male protector. Twain describes the experience in a realistic, unromantic style that speaks for the seriousness required of the adult behaviors Tom performs in rescuing Becky.

Look for the red text to track where The Cave appears in: Chapter 30, Chapter 31, Chapter 32, Chapter 35, Chapter 33


Incidences of bad weather occur several times in the novel, each time signifying that Tom is in a particularly troubled psychological state. On Jackson's Island the homesick boys survive a storm that wreaks considerable damage on their ill-prepared campsite. When Becky is away for the summer and his friends are swept up in religious revivalism, a lonely Tom hides under his sheets during a storm that he imagines is meant to destroy him.

Look for the red text to track where Storms appears in: Chapter 16, Chapter 22