Tom was a glittering hero once more—the pet of the old, the envy of the young. His name even went into immortal print, for the village paper magnified him. There were some that believed he would be President, yet, if he escaped hanging.
The community’s assessment of Tom in Chapter 24, after his testimony against Injun Joe, implicitly acknowledges the close relationship between Tom’s misbehavior and his heroism. If Tom had not sneaked out at night to carouse in the cemetery with Huck, he would never have been present to witness Dr. Robinson’s murder—as by all rights he should not have been. Tom’s consistently bold and risky behavior puts him in the position to save the day. Distinguishing himself from the conventional, run-of-the-mill behavior that is accepted as the standard in his community is an achievement that cuts both ways, as it makes Tom exceptional in both the good and the bad sense: an extreme character like his is bound to lead either to greatness or to ignominy; as the town puts it, he either will become president or hang.