Aunt Polly is Tom Sawyer’s aunt who took in Tom and his half-brother Sid after Tom’s mother (Aunt Polly’s sister) died. Mark Twain depicts her as one of the text’s most innately good and kind characters. For instance, she reaches out and embraces Huck Finn after realizing that he has no family to celebrate his triumphant return from the dead at Tom, Huck, and Joe’s funeral. 

Aunt Polly, like most of the grown characters in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, represents the orderly adult world which contrasts with the playful fairytale world of the text’s juvenile characters. The novel famously opens with Aunt Polly repeatedly calling for Tom only to be met with no response. She eventually finds him hiding in a closet covered in jam. However, Tom is able to dodge her attempts to chastise him and escapes outside to play. By opening the novel in such a way, Twain characterizes Aunt Polly as the disciplinarian and Tom as the troublemaker within their family unit. 

However, Twain distinguishes Aunt Polly from the other adults in the text who attempt to corral Tom because his relationship with her is built on mutual love and affection. Aunt Polly disciplines Tom but she is also endeared by his cleverness and admits that she does not have the heart to punish him severely even though he drives her wild. Tom is also fond of Aunt Polly and reflects that he feels worse when Aunt Polly cries than he would if she had hit him. Twain implies that the strength of their bond could be attributed to their similar natures. Towards the beginning of the novel, Aunt Polly asks Tom a series of leading questions to trick Tom into revealing that he skipped school to go swimming. Her attempt to outwit Tom mirrors the many instances throughout the novel in which Tom uses his intelligence to manipulate those around him into doing what he wants.