The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

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The Village Symbol Analysis

The Village Symbol Icon
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.

The Village Quotes in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

The The Adventures of Tom Sawyer quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Village. 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 24 Quotes
As usual, the fickle, unreasoning world took Muff Potter to its bosom and fondled him as lavishly as it had abused him before. But that sort of conduct is to the world's credit; therefore it is not well to find fault with it.
Related Characters: Muff Potter
Related Symbols: The Village
Page Number: 157
Explanation and Analysis:

After Tom clears Muff Potter of murder charges, the townspeople drastically change their behavior toward Potter. Where before everyone treated Potter with contempt and hatred, they now greet him with kindness and hospitality. It’s easy to criticize the townspeople for their hypocrisy and flightiness, Twain acknowledges. People are forever changing their opinions, and indeed, the townspeople often act like a mob, going along with the group’s beliefs.

In spite of his insight into the hypocrisy of American townspeople, Twain refrains from finding fault with the townspeople’s behavior in this case. As Twain explains, changing one’s opinion overnight isn’t the worst thing in the world. It’s better to be totally fluid in one’s thinking than it is to be totally rigid—at least when the townspeople are open to other opinions they can correct their mistakes and welcome Potter back into the community. Twain’s remarks are characteristic of his worldview: he parodies American life, but has an undeniable affection for it, too.


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Chapter 35 Quotes
Wherever Tom and Huck appeared they were courted, admired, stared at. The boys were not able to remember that their remarks had possessed weight before; but now their sayings were treasured and repeated; everything they did seemed somehow to be regarded as remarkable; they had evidently lost the power of doing and saying commonplace things; moreover, their past history was raked up and discovered to bear marks of conspicuous originality.
Related Characters: Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn
Related Symbols: The Village
Page Number: 226-227
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Tom and Huck discover that their new windfall of gold has changed the way they live. They find that everyone takes them more seriously now: despite the fact that they’re behaving more or less the same way they always did, the townspeople put up with their pranks, and even find reasons to praise them. As Twain makes crystal-clear, the townspeople are only toadying up to Huck and Tom because the boys have become fabulously wealthy. Just as before, the people in Tom’s community can change their opinions in half a second, particularly if there’s money involved. They have no real principles--they change their beliefs often to "get with the times."

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The Village Symbol Timeline in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Village appears in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 8
Superstition, Fantasy, and Escape Theme Icon
Sentimentality and Realism Theme Icon
...exploits as various heroes, from an Indian to a pirate, after he runs away from St. Petersburg . (full context)
Chapter 14
Boyhood Rebellion and Growing Up Theme Icon
Superstition, Fantasy, and Escape Theme Icon
...island. Pangs of homesickness set in as the day wears on. Even Huck misses the village. (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... (full context)
Chapter 23
Boyhood Rebellion and Growing Up Theme Icon
The village begins to stir with excitement as Muff Potters' trial approaches. However, Tom's conscience nags at... (full context)
Chapter 29
Superstition, Fantasy, and Escape Theme Icon
Sentimentality and Realism Theme Icon
The ferry carries the children three miles south of St. Petersburg , where they go ashore to play. After lunch, they decide to explore MacDougal's Cave,... (full context)
Chapter 33
Boyhood Rebellion and Growing Up Theme Icon
At the widow's, much of the village is assembled, in their Sunday best. The widow tells Tom and Joe to and put... (full context)