As he was passing by the house where Jeff Thatcher lived, he saw a new girl in the garden—a lovely little blue-eyed creature with yellow hair plaited into two long tails, white summer frock and embroidered pantalettes. The fresh-crowned hero fell without firing a shot.
Here, the narrator describes the moment Tom Sawyer first sees Becky Thatcher. Becky’s bright and vivid visual description makes her impact on Tom abundantly clear. This youthful, fleeting love demonstrates not only Tom’s innocence, but also Becky’s magnetic character as she draws Tom in with her physical features.
Before she was halfway home, however, she had changed her mind. The thought of Tom’s treatment of her when she was talking about her picnic came scorching back and filled her with shame. She resolved to let him get whipped on the damaged spelling book’s account, and to hate him forever, into the bargain.
Becky Thatcher demonstrates her role as Tom’s worthy romantic adversary as they go back and forth making each other jealous. In this scene, the narrator sheds light on Becky’s thoughts. After Becky witnesses Alfred spilling ink on Tom’s spelling book to get him in trouble, she contemplates telling Tom. Instead, she indulges her vindictive, jealous personality by deciding to let Tom get in trouble as revenge for the way he treated her at the picnic.
Tom shot a glance at Becky. He had seen a hunted and helpless rabbit look as she did, with a gun leveled at its head. Instantly he forgot his quarrel with her. Quick—something must be done!
When Becky is about to get caught by their teacher, Mr. Dobbins, for accidentally tearing his notebook, she displays a weak, helpless side. Tom takes one look at her and instantly wants to protect her. While Becky acts tough and battles with Tom in playful jealousy, this incident reveals her as a truly innocent and fragile character.
“Tom, Tom, we’re lost! we’re lost! We never can get out of this awful place!” . . . She sank to the ground and burst into such a frenzy of crying that Tom was appalled with the idea that she might die, or lose her reason. He sat down by her and put his arms around her; she buried her face in his bosom, she clung to him, she poured out her terrors, unavailing regrets, and the far echoes turned them all to jeering laughter.
When Tom and Becky get lost in the caves, Becky quickly reveals her weaker, fearful character as she panics and clings to Tom for comfort. Despite Tom’s best efforts, Becky loses hope and courage, and her emotions run immediately to desperation and defeat. The romantic characterization of women as weak and challenging seems to follow Becky’s character in this novel as Becky goes from fighting Tom to depending on him.
When Becky told her father, in strict confidence, how Tom had taken her whipping at school, the Judge was visibly moved; and when she pleaded grace for the mighty lie which Tom had told in order to shift that whipping from her shoulder to his own, the Judge said with a fine outburst that it was a noble, a generous, a magnanimous lie[.]
After Tom gets Becky out of the caves, Becky reveals to her father, Judge Thatcher, how Tom also took her punishment at school. Becky’s truth-telling leads Judge Thatcher to further respect and appreciate Tom, and Becky quickly shares this development with Tom. Clearly, Becky fully appreciates what Tom has done for her, and her actions with her father prove her character’s growth and newfound loyalty to Tom’s friendship.
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