The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

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Boyhood Rebellion and Growing Up Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Boyhood Rebellion and Growing Up Theme Icon
The Hypocrisy of Adult Society Theme Icon
Superstition, Fantasy, and Escape Theme Icon
Showing Off Theme Icon
Sentimentality and Realism Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Boyhood Rebellion and Growing Up Theme Icon

Tom Sawyer is the embodiment of boyhood rebellion. He is always disappointing the adults who surround him, by breaking rules, fighting with other boys, failing to perform his chores, fibbing, stealing sweet treats from his Aunt Polly's closet, and so on. Yet Twain's stories of Tom's misdeeds are humorous and affectionate, rather than judgmental moral lessons. Tom's shenanigans, in fact, often bring delight and even unpredictable insight into a situation, with the boys' interactions as a gang often satirically mirroring the behaviors of adults in society. Tom's rebellion earns him the admiration of the other boys in town, who misbehave to lesser degrees. Huckleberry Finn is the only boy who is wilder than Tom. With the village drunkard as his single parent, Huck lives an unsupervised life that is every other boy's dream: he never goes to school or church, he smokes, he wears whatever he wants, and he sleeps outdoors each night. Rebellion is a way for boys to bond, to the exclusion of a few well-behaved boys, such as Sid, and girls, who are more reserved than boys.

Breaking rules is considered unacceptable and anti-social for adults, and, accordingly, the murderer Injun Joe and drunkard Muff Potter are outcasts. Though Tom's mischievous nature is the source of the novel's many humorous anecdotes, the overall arc of the novel charts Tom's maturation into adulthood as he leaves behind his boyish ways to become a responsible member of society. Tom realizes that his actions can have serious consequences and he makes several moral, empathetic decisions over the second half of the novel, including testifying against Injun Joe and protecting Becky Thatcher from being whipped by their teacher. Additionally, Tom makes three journeys that involve his maturation. When he runs away with Joe Harper and Huck to Jackson's Island, he realizes that he misses the company of his family and society. In the several days he spends lost in the cave with Becky Thatcher, he develops an understanding of mature romantic love that involves caring for another, and that proves more fulfilling than simply courting girls for reasons of personal vanity. Finally, after Tom and Huck hunt down the treasure, Tom adopts the respect for wealth and status that the adults of St. Petersburg hold, and no longer disdains wearing suits and other respectable habits.

While Twain's novel catalogs Tom's progression towards adulthood, the author does not fully embrace the changes in attitudes this transition involves, as his portrayal of Huck exemplifies. Huck also matures considerably over the novel, and he performs the most heroic act of all in saving the widow Douglas's life. Yet Huck continues to avoid the proprieties of society—having manners and attending church, for example—even after he has gained the approval of St. Petersburg's citizens. He prefers to exist as an independent character on the fringe of society, avoiding the hypocrisies that Twain has satirized throughout the novel. At the novel's end, Huck and Tom represent different aspects of adulthood, but they continue to bond through their boyish fantasies, and this capacity for friendship is a characteristic of boyhood that Twain would have his adult readers see as true wisdom.

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Boyhood Rebellion and Growing Up Quotes in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Below you will find the important quotes in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer related to the theme of Boyhood Rebellion and Growing Up.
Chapter 1 Quotes
"He 'pears to know just how long he can torment me before I get my dander up, and he knows if he can make out to put me off for a minute or make me laugh, it's all down again and I can't hit him a lick. I ain't doing my duty by that boy, and that's the Lord's truth, goodness knows. Spare the rod and spile the child, as the Good Book says. I'm a laying up sin and suffering for us both, I know."
Related Characters: Aunt Polly (speaker), Tom Sawyer
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we're introduced to the relationship between Aunt Polly and Tom Sawyer. Polly is a strict parent to Tom Sawyer, but she's always reluctant to beat Tom, despite the commonness of corporal punishment in her world. Polly even quotes the Bible's famous defense of beating children (itself paraphrased): "spare the rod, spoil the child."

It's important to situate this passage in Twain's era. When Twain published his novel, the vast majority of families in the United States approved of corporal punishment. While Polly's refusal to beat Tom might seem generous and magnanimous by today's standards, it's possible that Twain intended Polly to seem ineffectual as a caregiver for Tom--she's too weak to give Tom the stern whipping he needs. In other words, the meaning of the passage has turned 180 degrees in the 140 years since Tom Sawyer first appeared. At the same time, it's important that Tom knows that the way to get out of punishment is to make his Aunt laugh--he's already learned that showing off and being entertaining is what gets him into trouble, but also what gets him out of it.


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Chapter 5 Quotes
The minister made a grand and moving picture of the assembling together of the world's hosts at the millennium when the lion and the lamb should lie down together and a little child should lead them. But the pathos, the lesson, the moral of the great spectacle were lost upon the boy; he only thought of the conspicuousness of the principle character before the on-looking nations; his face lit with the thought, and he said to himself he wished he could be that child, if it was a tame lion.
Related Characters: Tom Sawyer, Mr. Sprague
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Tom attends church along with the rest of the townspeople. Although the preacher is preaching about the second coming of Christ, when the Bible says that "a little child shall lead them all," Tom misses the whole point of the story. The preacher is trying to show his congregation that when Christ comes to save mankind, previous rules society will be irrelevant, and the weak and the young will be blessed. But Tom doesn't understand any of this: he just fantasizes about being the proverbial "little child" and having everyone in the world look at him.

Tom is, in short, not a very good student of religion. Although many coming of age novels are about how young people use their educations to grow up and become wiser, more mature people, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer shows that Tom has little real grasp of formal education. At this early stage in the novel, Tom is just a silly boy who wants attention.

Chapter 6 Quotes
Huckleberry was cordially hated and dreaded by all the mothers of the town, because he was idle, and lawless, and vulgar and bad—and because all their children admired him so, and delighted in his forbidden society, and wished they dared to be like him.
Related Characters: Huckleberry Finn
Page Number: 44
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, we're introduced to Huckleberry Funn. Huck is similar to Tom--he likes mischief and is disobedient to adults. But Huck goes further than Tom in disobeying authorities--and doesn't really haveany authorities in his life--to the point where everyone in the community treats him as a threat to their families' peace and order. Huck is a scapegoat for the town--whenever anything bad happens, Huck is to blame in some way.

Huck is also a potential role model for Tom. Tom is a young boy, and as we've seen, the various adults in the community are trying to teach him to grow into a mature man.Huck, in all his rough, mischievous glory, is the best role model Tom has at the moment.

Chapter 8 Quotes
He would be a pirate! That was it! Now his future lay plain before him, and glowing with unimaginable splendor. How his name would fill the world, and make people shudder! How gloriously he would go plowing the dancing seas, in his long, low, black-hulled racer, the "Spirit of the Storm," with his grisly flag flying at the fore!
Related Characters: Tom Sawyer
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:

Tom is often punished for his bad behavior. But whenever he's been whipped or otherwise mistreated, he has a secret weapon--his imagination. Here, Tom fantasizes about escaping his town altogether in order to become a pirate. (One of the most amazing things about Twain's novel is how little children's fantasies have changed in the last 140 years.)

Tom's childish arrogance and machismo are apparent in this passage. It's not enough for Tom to be an adventurous pirate: everybody else in "the world" must know that Tom is a pirate. Tom's hubris is so great that he pictures himself traveling the world, making innocent people "shudder." Like plenty of young boys, Tom wants recognition from other people--specifically, he wants to scare and intimidate them into respecting him.

The boys dressed themselves, hid their accoutrements, and went off grieving that there were no outlaws any more, and wondering what modern civilization could claim to have done to compensate for their loss. They said they would rather be outlaws a year in Sherwood Forest than President of the United States forever.
Page Number: 65
Explanation and Analysis:

In this parody of American rugged individualism, Tom and his friends fantasize about going off and forming a gang of bandits. Tom loves the idea of being able to live in the forests and rob the rich--much like one of his heroes, Robin Hood.

Although Twain's writing is comical, there's a serious cultural point being made here. Tom's desire to leave civilization behind and live in peace with nature is both recognizably childish and quintessentially American--one thinks of Thoreau going off to Walden; Johnny Appleseed traveling across the country; Bob Dylan migrating to New York, etc. There's a distinctly American tradition of adventure and discovery, and Tom both honors and parodies that tradition. (Twain's allusion to the President of the United States might be a clever joke--at the end of the day, Robin Hood was a charming thief, and perhaps that's how Twain--the author of The Gilded Age, a political satire--saw the presidents of his era, too.

Chapter 11 Quotes
Injun Joe repeated his statement, just as calmly, a few minutes afterward on the inquest, under oath; and the boys, seeing that the lightnings were still withheld, were confirmed in their belief that Joe had sold himself to the devil. He was now become, to them, the most balefully interesting object they had ever looked upon, and they could not take their fascinated eyes from his face. They inwardly resolved to watch him, nights, when opportunity should offer, in the hope of getting a glimpse of his dread master.
Related Characters: Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Injun Joe
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Twain shows the trial of Injun Joe--a local man who murdered his partner, then framed another man, Muff Potter, for the crime. At the trial, Joe testifies that he saw Muff kill the man. Strangely, everyone seems to believe Joe without much question--Joe's confident attitude and calm demeanor fools the townspeople into trusting him. Tom and Huck Finn have witnessed Joe's crime: they know that it was Joe, not Muff, who committed the murder. The young boys are stunned that Joe can lie so easily, and get away with it.

The passage is an important milestone in the boys' coming-of-age. So far, Tom's life has been carefree and childish--he hasn't really had contact with people or events that could properly be called "adult." Now, Tom has witnessed a murder. Moreover, he sees a grown man lying under oath--something Tom has always been taught is a horrible sin (and he apparently thought Joe would be instantly struck by lightning for committing it). The irony is that in spite of Tom's reputation for rambunctiousness and dishonesty, he's really a pretty good, well-meaning child--as evidenced by his genuine shock when Joe lies under oath.

Chapter 13 Quotes
Tom's mind was made up, now. He was gloomy and desperate. He was a forsaken, friendless boy, he said; nobody loved him; when they found out what they had driven him to, perhaps they would be sorry; he had tried to do right and get along, but they would not let him; since nothing would do them but to be rid of him, let it be so; and let them blame him for the consequences—why shouldn't they? what right had the friendless to complain? Yes, they had forced him to it at last: he would lead a life of crime. There was no choice.
Related Characters: Tom Sawyer
Page Number: 90
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, Tom finally "takes to the hills." He's been exasperated with his town for some time now--he can't stand his Aunt Polly, Sid, etc. Feel that he's without a better option, Tom decides to become a criminal, using his wiliness and strength to oppose his town.

The passage is written tongue-in-cheek, of course. Like so many frustrated kids, Tom has big ambitions, but doesn't really know anything about how to achieve them. And Twain makes it plain that Tom is just wallowing in his pain, instead of trying to do something to better himself. Notice the way that Twain uses the method of "indirect discourse" to convey Tom's thoughts without explicitly establishing that they are Tom's thoughts: for example, when Twain writes, "He was a forsaken, friendless boy," he's speaking as the narrator, but also illustrating what Tomthinks, not the truth--slipping in and out of his character's voice.

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.

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.

Chapter 20 Quotes
Tom stood a moment, to gather his dismembered faculties; and when he stepped forward to go to his punishment the surprise, the gratitude, the adoration that shone upon him out of poor Becky's eyes seemed pay enough for a hundred floggings.
Related Characters: Tom Sawyer, Becky Thatcher
Page Number: 140
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Tom takes a beating on behalf of his crush, Becky. Becky accidentally ripped a page from the schoolteacher's prized anatomy book--and instead of ratting Becky out, Tom claims that it was he who ripped the book. Tom is happy to take a beating from the schoolteacher, since he knows that his act has impressed Becky--she thinks he's really brave (or so Tom thinks, at least, in his exaggerated perception of her "adoration").

Tom is so used to being whipped for his misdeeds that he barely minds an extra whipping. More valuable to him than pain is the admiration of his peers, especially Becky. And while Tom doesn't seem to mind his beating, he also wants to save Becky from the shame of having to fess up to her crime in front of the class--he's observant and empathetic enough to want to help Becky save face.

Chapter 21 Quotes
The tittering rose higher and higher—the cat—was within six inches of the absorbed teachers head—down, down, a little lower, and she grabbed his wig with her desperate claws, clung to it and was snatched up into the garret in an instant with her trophy still in her possession! And how the light did blaze abroad from the master's bald pate—for the sign-painter's boy had gilded it!
Related Characters: Mr. Dobbins, The sign-painters boy
Page Number: 147
Explanation and Analysis:

Here the boys of the school get their revenge on their incompetent teacher, Mr. Dobbins. Earlier, Mr. Dobbins had been napping off a hangover, and during this time one of the schoolboys painted Dobbins's bald head bright gold. In the middle of their end-of-the-year examinations, the boys then arrange for a cat to rip off their teacher's wig, revealing his horrendously painted head.

The passage is a great example of where Twain's "loyalties" lie in depicting small-town American life. Twain makes plenty of fun of the young boys in his book, and yet at the end of the day he praises them for their ingenuity and imagination. Mr. Dobbins--in the novel, a fairly representative adult--is portrayed as lazy, drunk, and incompetent; he could never think of a prank as ingenious as the one the children pull on him. Perhaps there's a subtle metaphor in the image of a bald head painted gold: Mr. Dobbins pretends to be wise and scholarly in front of his children's parents, when in fact the students know full-well that he's just an ignorant guy. Like so many adults in Twain's books, Dobbins is a fool pretending to be wise.

Chapter 22 Quotes
The Cadets paraded in a style calculated to kill the late member with envy. Tom was a free boy again, however—there was something in that. He could drink and swear, now—but found to his surprise that he did not want to. The simple fact that he could, took the desire away, and the charm of it.
Related Characters: Tom Sawyer
Page Number: 148
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, Tom tries to entertain himself by joining a gang of boys, the Cadets. The Cadets swear an oath not to swear or drink--and yet as soon as he's sworn such an oath, Tom becomes fascinated with the idea of drinking and swearing. Then, when he's left the Cadets forever, Tom finds that he's not the least bit interested in drinking or swearing. In short, Tom's interest in things is dependent on their being forbidden. In a classic demonstration of reverse psychology, he becomes fascinated with swearing because other people tell him that he's not allowed to do so.

Tom's behavior is pretty immature, but in many ways it's preferable to the behavior of his peers, and even the adults in the town. Tom tricks his friends into painting a fence by pretending to enjoy painting the fence; even Aunt Polly buys useless medicines because other people have done the same. Most of the people in Tom's life choose what to do by imitating the people around them. Tom takes exactly the opposite approach, doing whatever the people around himdon't do.

And that night there came on a terrific storm, with driving rain, awful claps of thunder and blinding sheets of lightning. He covered his head with the bedclothes and waited in a horror of suspense for his doom; for he had not the shadow of a doubt that all this hubbub was about him.
Related Characters: Tom Sawyer
Related Symbols: Storms
Page Number: 150
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, a wave of religiousness sweeps through Tom's town. Everyone prays extra hard--the adults, the children, the teachers, etc. Tom refuses to pray, until a night when he catches measles. Late at night, Tom hears a great storm blowing outside, and he concludes that God is punishing him and trying to impel him to be a better Christian.

While Tom's behavior might seem a bit irrational (just because there's a storm doesn't mean that God is sending you a message), but he's behaving no less rationally than the average American adult living in a small town at the time. Just like many adults in America at the time, Tom interprets storms and natural disasters as signs from God. it's also worth noting that Tom is still a classic narcissist--when a storm blows, his first reaction is that God must be sending him a sign!

Chapter 23 Quotes
"Often I says to myself, says I, 'I used to mend all the boys' kites and things, and show 'em where the good fishin' places was, and befriend 'em what I could, and now they've all forgot old Muff when he's in trouble; but Tom don't and Huck don't—they don't forget him,' says I, 'and I don't forget them.'"
Related Characters: Muff Potter (speaker), Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn
Page Number: 153
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Tom and Huck take care of the prisoner Muff Potter, who's been sent to jail for killing a man. Tom and Huck know that the real murder culprit is Injun Joe, not Muff Potter, and partly because of this, they keep Muff company during his time in prison, visiting him often and giving him food. Potter is extremely grateful to Tom and Huck for their kindness—he sobs about having always been gentle and kind to the boys in the town, and being grateful that Tom and Huck have returned the favor.

The scene can be interpreted either as sentimental or lightly satirical. Potter is glad to have friends in prison, but his claims of having always been a friend to the boys in the village sounds a little sappy for Twain—it’s easy to imagine Potter, a drunk, having been less than gentle with Tom and Huck in the past. More importantly, though, it would seem that Tom and Huck are only visiting Muff to soothe their own guilty consciences: instead of going to the authorities to clear Muff's name, they just visit him in private. In short, Tom and Huck are being kind, but not kind enough; at the end of the day, they're just trying to feel less guilty.

Chapter 25 Quotes
Huck was always willing to take a hand in any enterprise that offered entertainment and required no capital, for he had a troublesome superabundance of that sort of time which is not money.
Related Characters: Huckleberry Finn
Page Number: 159
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, Huck and Tom prepare to hunt for buried treasure. While it's Tom's idea to search, Huck is more than willing to go along with the plan: as Twain says here, Huck has untold amounts of free time, since he's just a kid, doesn't have responsible parents or guardians, and doesn't go to school or have a job.

Note the way Twain phrases his description of Huck: Huck has the kind of time that "is not money." In the minds of some people (for example, the adults in Tom and Huck's community), Huck's free time might suggest his potential for work, education, etc. In other words, for the adults in the town, free time is just an opportunity for more work (and therefore more money). For Huck, however, free time is its own reward. Huck feels no desire to do anything other than enjoy his leisure--he's just moving from day to day with no thoughts for the future. One could criticize Huck for being lazy, but that's precisely Twain's point: Huck is a happy, carefree boy who simply doesn't measure time as adults do.

Chapter 27 Quotes
Then it occurred to him that the great adventure itself must be a dream! There was one very strong argument in favor of this idea—namely, that the quantity of coin he had seen was too vast to be real.
Related Characters: Tom Sawyer
Related Symbols: The Treasure
Page Number: 175
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Tom has discovered the existence of a great treasure--he and Huck witnessed Injun Joe and his followers with a chest of coins. While Tom is dazzled by the spectacle of so much wealth, he finds it almost impossible to believe that the treasure is real: in his mind, it makes more sense that the treasure is "just a dream."

Notice the irony here. After two hundred pages of daydreaming about pirates, war, adventures, kidnapping, and other fantastic things, Tom finally discovers something extraordinary: and he can't believe it's real! For all his talk about wanting to have exciting adventures, Tom is essentially a home body: he's most comfortable in the confines of his small community. Perhaps the more subtle implication of this passage is that Tom wishes he could return to his old life--a life in which he didn't have to concern himself with money or real danger of any kind.

Chapter 31 Quotes
Tom got down on his knees and felt below, and then as far around the corner as he could reach with his hands conveniently; he made an effort to stretch yet a little further to the right, and at that moment, not twenty yards away, a human hand, holding a candle, appeared from behind a rock! Tom lifted up a glorious shout, and instantly that hand was followed by the body it belonged to—Injun Joe's! Tom was paralyzed ; he could not move. He was instantly gratified, the next moment, to see the "Spaniard" take to his heels and get himself out of sight.
Related Characters: Tom Sawyer, Injun Joe
Related Symbols: The Cave
Page Number: 208
Explanation and Analysis:

In this strange scene, Tom--who's trapped in the cave--crosses paths with Injun Joe, who's hiding out in the cave as well. Tom is terrified when he sees Joe, since he assumes Joe will want to get his revenge on Tom for ratting him out to the authorities. And yet Injun Joe doesn't try to attack Tom at all--he just runs away into the darkness.

Why doesn't Joe try to hurt Tom? Perhaps Joe just didn't recognize him, and heard a shout and automatically fled. Or perhaps he isn't really as angry with Tom as Tom had assumed: even if Tom and Huck are the reason that Joe has had to flee the town, Joe might not blame the two young children for his fate. Moreover, Joe's behavior suggests that he's more concerned for his own survival in the cave than in getting revenge. As intimidating as Joe might seem to Tom, both Joe and Tom are trapped in the same predicament: they're imprisoned in the same cave. The implication of this passage is that Joe--and by extension, the whole adult world--isn't as capable and powerful as Tom had assumed: young or adult, male or female, everyone gets scared in a cave.

Chapter 33 Quotes
Injun Joe lay stretched upon the ground, dead, with his face close to the crack of the door, as if his longing eyes had been fixed, to the latest moment, upon the light and the cheer of the free world outside. Tom was touched, for he knew by his own experience how this wretch had suffered.
Related Characters: Tom Sawyer, Injun Joe
Related Symbols: The Cave
Page Number: 213
Explanation and Analysis:

At the end of the novel, Tom discovers that Injun Joe has died in the cave where Tom himself was trapped. Unlike Tom, Joe hasn't been able to find a way out of his prison: he's been forced to live on bats and try in vain to carve his way to freedom.

The passage is significant for a number of reasons. First, notice that Joe--the strong, rugged adult--has died in the same cave that Tom survived. Tom is beginning to realize that being an adult isn't all it's cracked up to be: adults can still come to harm, and in the most gruesome ways.

The passage also represents one of the first times in the novel that Tom shows real sympathy for another person. Tom knows first-hand how frightening getting trapped in a cave can be, so even though he fears and hates Joe, he's naturally sympathetic to Joe's horrible fate. Tom seems to have gained some maturity after all over the course of the book: he's learned to respect other people and sympathize with their pain.

Chapter 35 Quotes
"Lookyhere, Tom, being rich ain't what it's cracked up to be. It's just worry and worry, and sweat and sweat, and a-wishing you was dead all the time. Now these clothes suit me, and this bar'l suits me, and I ain't ever going to shake 'em any more."
Related Characters: Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn
Related Symbols: The Treasure
Page Number: 229
Explanation and Analysis:

In the final chapter of the book, Tom and Huck have become “rich” by discovering a great treasure. Although they’re now “taken care of” for the rest of their lives, they don’t really feel any different. Indeed, Huck tells Tom that wealth is overrated: the only real consequence of having a lot of money is worrying about your money all the time.

Not for the first time in the novel, Huck’s pronouncement is both naïve and insightful. Huck is too young to conceive of all the things money can achieve (Huck’s creator, Mark Twain, was always investing in get-rich-quick schemes, nearly all of which failed to make him any money). And yet Huck has a point, hackneyed though that point may be: money doesn’t necessarily buy happiness.

Throughout the novel, Twain has showed us how Tom and Huck have found great happiness by using their imaginations and treating life as a great adventure. At the end of the novel, Tom and Huck gain some financial independence—one of the hallmarks of adulthood—and yet they’re mostly unimpressed with the adulthood. One could argue that Tom Sawyer is an anti-coming-of-age novel. Tom and Huck learn some lessons along the way, but they could hardly be mistaken for mature young men—and maybe, Twain suggests, that’s a good thing.