The novel’s protagonist. Tom is a mischievous boy with an active imagination who spends most of the novel getting himself, and often his friends, into and out of trouble. Despite his mischief, Tom has a good heart and a strong moral conscience. As the novel progresses, he begins to take more seriously the responsibilities of his role as a leader among his schoolfellows.
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Tom’s aunt and guardian. Aunt Polly is a simple, kindhearted woman who struggles to balance her love for her nephew with her duty to discipline him. She generally fails in her attempts to keep Tom under control because, although she worries about Tom’s safety, she seems to fear constraining him too much. Above all, Aunt Polly wants to be appreciated and loved.
The son of the town drunk. Huck is a juvenile outcast who is shunned by respectable society and adored by the local boys, who envy his freedom. Like Tom, Huck is highly superstitious, and both boys are always ready for an adventure. Huck gradually replaces Tom’s friend Joe Harper as Tom’s sidekick in his escapades.
Judge Thatcher’s pretty, yellow-haired daughter. From almost the minute she moves to town, Becky is the “Adored Unknown” who stirs Tom’s lively romantic sensibility. Naïve at first, Becky soon matches Tom as a romantic strategist, and the two go to great lengths to make each other jealous.
Tom’s “bosom friend” and frequent playmate. Joe is a typical best friend, a convention Twain parodies when he refers to Joe and Tom as “two souls with but a single thought.” Though Joe mostly mirrors Tom, he diverges from Tom’s example when he is the first of the boys to succumb to homesickness on Jackson’s Island. As the novel progresses, Huck begins to assume Joe’s place as Tom’s companion.
Tom’s half-brother. Sid is a goody-goody who enjoys getting Tom into trouble. He is mean-spirited but presents a superficial show of model behavior. He is thus the opposite of Tom, who is warmhearted but behaves badly.
Tom’s sweet, almost saintly cousin. Mary holds a soft spot for Tom. Like Sid, she is well behaved, but unlike him, she acts out of genuine affection rather than malice.
A violent, villainous man who commits murder, becomes a robber, and plans to mutilate the Widow Douglas. Injun Joe’s predominant motivation is revenge. Half Native American and half Caucasian, he has suffered social exclusion, probably because of his race.
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A hapless drunk and friend of Injun Joe. Potter is kind and grateful toward Tom and Huck, who bring him presents after he is wrongly jailed for Dr. Robinson’s murder. Potter’s naïve trust eventually pushes Tom’s conscience to the breaking point, compelling Tom to tell the truth at Potter’s trial about who actually committed the murder.
A respected local physician. Dr. Robinson shows his more sordid side on the night of his murder: he hires Injun Joe and Muff Potter to dig up Hoss Williams’s grave because he wants to use the corpse for medical experiments.
The minister of the town church.
A kindhearted, pious resident of St. Petersburg whom the children recognize as a friend. Tom knows that the Widow Douglas will give him and Becky ice cream and let them sleep over. She is kind to Huck even before she learns that he saved her life.
A Welshman who lives with his sons near the Widow Douglas’s house. Mr. Jones responds to Huck’s alarm on the night that Injun Joe intends to attack the widow, and he takes care of Huck in the aftermath.
Becky’s father, the county judge. A local celebrity, Judge Thatcher inspires the respect of all the townspeople. He takes responsibility for issues affecting the community as a whole, such as closing the cave for safety reasons and taking charge of the boys’ treasure money.
Aunt Polly’s young slave.
Tom’s former love. Tom abandons Amy when Becky Thatcher comes to town.
One of Tom’s friends, whom Tom persuades to whitewash Aunt Polly’s fence.
A well-dressed new boy in town. Like Amy Lawrence, Alfred gets caught in the crossfire of Tom and Becky’s love games, as Becky pretends to like him in order to make Tom jealous.
The somewhat ridiculous Sunday school superintendent. Because he aspires to please Judge Thatcher, Mr. Walters rewards Tom with a Bible, even though he knows that Tom hasn’t earned it.
The schoolmaster. Mr. Dobbins seems a slightly sad character: his ambition to be a medical doctor has been thwarted and he has become a heavy drinker and the butt of schoolboy pranks.