Notes on The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Themes

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Topic Tracking: Imagination

Chapters 1-5

Imagination 1: All the boys of the village have active imaginations, especially Tom. It is an essential part of their enjoyment of life. Here we see Tom and Joe pitting their armies against each other, and they believe the play is completely real. The book doesn't say they are "playing" war. Instead, the boys actually imagine they are at war. For Tom and Joe and the rest of the boys, "playing" is as significant and important as reality.

Chapters 6-10

Imagination 2: Tom is so angry at Becky that his only escape is his imagination. When he dreams of leaving St. Petersburg to be a soldier or pirate or Indian, the anger and pain of the real world leaves him. He imagines how people will react when he returns from such great adventures a changed person. Tom often uses daydreaming when he is upset, to make himself feel better.

Imagination 3: Tom and Joe live for adventure, and many of their adventures come out of books. Their play is often fueled by the adventures they've read about. Robin Hood is one of their favorites. They act out scenes from Robin Hood stories exactly as they happened. The fantasy of their books is as real to them as anything else, which is why they do not change the story from how the book says it happens.

Chapters 11-15

Imagination 4: Tom loses interest in the adventures his imagination creates, because the realities of Dr. Robinson's murder and Becky's illness cannot be ignored through daydreaming. These worries are the most important he's ever dealt with. This is the first time in his life that his ability to pretend to be something else fails him. Instead, he becomes depressed and stops playing completely, which worries Aunt Polly, who doesn't understand what Tom is burdened with.

Imagination 5: Huck is very different from Tom and Joe. Tom and Joe see running away as an adventure out of a book, but for Huck, eating what he can and sleeping where he can is just part of life. Since he can't read, Tom and Joe must explain what they know about pirates to him. He's never had the chance to imagine things out of books. He worries about his clothes not being fancy enough because he doesn't have the same instinct to pretend that Tom and Joe have.

Imagination 6: Whenever Tom tells a story, his imagination takes over and he exaggerates everything to make it more interesting. He is never satisfied with the real story, because in his imagination, it becomes more and more interesting as he changes and exaggerates details.

Chapters 16-20

Imagination 7: The boys are very homesick. Tom understands the importance of distraction when upset, and suggests that they be Indians for a while. By doing so, he cheers everyone up. The reality of running away to be pirates can only be escaped by pretending to be something else.

Imagination 8: Tom tells Aunt Polly the story of him coming back to St. Petersburg and hiding under her bed as if it were a dream. He does this because he wants to tell her the story of his return, but he lies and says it was a dream to avoid admitting that he actually did return. He wants to prove that he cares about her, but can only relate the story through fantasy.

Imagination 9: Tom and Joe are heroes to many of the children. As before, Tom stretches the truth of their adventures to make them sound more impressive. The more he exaggerates, the more attention they get.

Chapters 21-25

Imagination 10: Just like before, Huck depends on Tom's imagination when they are together. Huck knows nothing of the glories of treasure, and depends on Tom to explain it, which Tom does happily. Tom tells him all about maps and robbers and diamonds and kings, and much like before, excites Huck's limited imagination in the process.

Chapters 31-35

Imagination 11: Although Huck and Tom are doing something very real, finding Injun Joe's treasure, his imagination is still very strong. It is exciting that they will soon be rich, but this is made more exciting by dreaming of turning the cave into a den for his gang of robbers. After all the growing experiences the two boys have been through, they are still most happy when imagining even greater adventures for themselves.

Imagination 12: Tom convinces Huck to stay by telling him about the wonderful things they will get to do in their gang. However, Tom doesn't simply rattle off things he learned from a book. He instead uses the stories he's read and his own imagination to convince Huck that he must stay and live with the Widow.

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