The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

by: Mark Twain

Youth and Innocence

1

He worshiped this new angel with furtive eye, till he saw that she had discovered him; then he pretended he did not know she was present, and began to “show off” in all sorts of absurd boyish ways, in order to win her admiration. He kept up this grotesque foolishness for some time; but by and by, while he was in the midst of some dangerous gymnastic performances, he glanced aside and saw that the little girl was wending her way toward the house.

The narrator describes when Tom sees Becky Thatcher for the first time and expresses his infatuation with exuberance. Tom relies on age-old, “boy meets girl” flirting by pretending to ignore Becky while simultaneously doing his best to get her attention. Instead of just speaking to her to express his interest, he tries to draw her interest through gymnastic moves and stunts. This immature approach to a childish crush speaks to Tom’s youth and innocence.

2

While it lasted, he got them interested in a new device. This was to knock off being pirates, for a while, and be Indians for a change. They were attracted by this idea; so it was not long before they were stripped, and striped from head to heel with black mud, like so many zebras—all of them chiefs, of course—and then they went tearing through the woods to attack an English settlement.

The narrator’s description of Tom, Huck, and Joe’s childlike, imaginative games while camping on Jackson’s Island reveals the theme of youth and innocence. While the boys chose to run away from the village and initially celebrate their independence, after only a few days, they begin to feel homesick. To distract themselves from their longing for home, they turn to their youthful imaginations and jump into a make-believe world of Indians. Immersing themselves in this imaginary world with costume and play heals their aching hearts for a time.

3

So they played Robin Hood all the afternoon, now and then casting a yearning eye down upon the haunted house and passing a remark about the morrow’s prospects and possibilities there . . . On Saturday, shortly after noon, the boys were at the dead tree again. They had a smoke and a chat in the shade, and then dug a little in their last hole . . . and went away feeling that they had not trifled with fortune, but had fulfilled all the requirements that belong to the business of treasure hunting.

Tom and Huck’s adventures of treasure hunting and haunted houses, described here by the narrator as serious business, conveys the intensity of childhood. From their imaginative play of Robin Hood to their childlike belief in buried treasure, Tom and Huck exude a contagious youthful innocence and passion for life. While fully absorbed in playing and digging for treasure, their youthful curiosity takes in all their surroundings. A haunted house arouses their enthusiastic superstitions. They end the day content and fulfilled by their adventures as only the young unspoiled by cynicism can feel.