The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

by: Mark Twain



But the elastic heart of youth cannot be compressed into one constrained shape long at a time. Tom presently began to drift insensibly back into the concerns of his life again. What if he turned his back, now, and disappeared mysteriously? . . . [H]e would join the Indians . . . He would be a pirate! That was it! Now his future lay plain before him, and glowing with unimaginable splendor.

Tom imagines his life away from the village, dreaming about what he could do or become. As he bounces from one idea to another—a clown to an Indian to a pirate—Tom reveals the youthfulness of his imagination. When Tom faces sadness or difficulty, he uses his vivid imagination to escape his current situation and dream about his future. However, his dreams, often not realistic or plausible, distinctly connect to the theme of imagination in this novel.


If you buried a marble with certain necessary incantations, and left it alone a fortnight, and then opened the place with the incantation he had just used, you would find that all the marbles you had ever lost had gathered themselves together there . . . Tom’s whole structure of faith was shaken to its foundations. He had many a time heard of this thing succeeding, but never of its failing before . . . He puzzled over the matter some time, and finally decided that some witch had interfered and broken the charm.

The theme of imagination rings true through Tom’s strong belief in superstitions. As the narrator explains here, Tom often took part in superstitious acts, such as burying a marble with the hopes that all lost marbles would appear in that spot with just the right magic spell. Clearly, these childlike superstitions require imagination and a desire to believe in the unbelievable. Even when his superstitious ritual fails, Tom holds onto his absurd belief system by blaming the failing marble charm on a witch’s trick.


We got to give this one up. We can’t ever tell the right time, and besides this kind of thing’s too awful, here this time of night with witches and ghosts a-fluttering around so. I feel as if something’s behind me all the time; and I’m afeard to turn around, becuz maybe there’s others in front a-waiting for a chance[.]

As Huck talks to Tom during their treasure hunting, the theme of imagination comes through the boys’ active belief in superstitions, witches, ghosts, and haunted houses. To begin with, Tom and Huck time their digging to midnight by the shadow of the tree based only on a superstition they heard that this exact action would help them find a treasure. Then, Huck and Tom both scare themselves by letting their imaginations go wild thinking that ghosts and witches surround them while they dig.