The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

by: Mark Twain

Morality

1

Then her conscience reproached her, and she yearned to say something kind and loving; but she judged that this would be construed into a confession that she had been in the wrong, and discipline forbade that. So she kept silence, and went about her affairs with a troubled heart.

The narrator reveals Aunt Polly’s inner turmoil as she becomes conflicted between self-interest and morality. When she falsely accuses Tom of something that Sid did, Aunt Polly realizes her mistake, but feels afraid to apologize as such an action might undermine her authority over Tom. Adults in this story often contradict the code of conduct they impose on the youth, such as following rules and admitting your mistakes. Here, Aunt Polly demonstrates moral cowardice by feeling badly about mistreating Tom but choosing not to own up to her mistake.

2

Since Tom’s harassed conscience had managed to drive him to the lawyer’s house by night and wring a dread tale from lips that had been sealed with the dismalest and most formidable of oaths, Huck’s confidence in the human race was well-nigh obliterated.

The narrator describes the scene in which Tom finally tells the truth about what he and Huck saw in the graveyard. Tom’s inner struggle and Huck’s loss of confidence highlight the theme of morality. Despite knowing he made a solemn promise to Huck, Tom’s conscience finally convinces him to tell the truth about Injun Joe murdering the doctor. While this decision brought great mental anguish to both boys, Tom’s actions reveal his good moral character.

3

A deadly chill went to Huck’s heart—this, then, was the “revenge” job! His thought was to fly. Then he remembered that the Widow Douglas had been kind to him more than once, and maybe these men were going to murder her.

Huck Finn’s morality matures over the course of this novel as he learns to listen to his conscience. After Huck follows Injun Joe and his accomplice from the haunted house and comes across their plan to get “revenge” on the Widow Douglas, he becomes terrified and wants nothing more than to run away. However, as revealed by the narrator here, Huck’s conscience wins over his fear this time as he wants to help the Widow Douglas, who has shown him kindness. Readers later learn that Huck’s actions save Widow Douglas’s life, a clear detail revealing how morality wins over fear.