Notes on The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Themes

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Topic Tracking: Religion

Chapters 1-5

Religion 1: Religion is an important part of the society Tom lives in. To Tom, religion is a tiresome and boring obligation. Aunt Polly, Sid, and Mary are all more religious than Tom is. When Tom goes to bed without saying his prayers, it is a powerful act of defiance.

Religion 2: When Tom manages to trade until he has enough tickets for a Bible, it is purely for status. He doesn't care about being religious, but rather for the status that getting a Bible will give him. When tested by Judge Thatcher, he is extremely embarrassed that he doesn't know the answer.

Religion 3: Tom is obviously not the only person happy that something entertaining happened at church that day. The laughter everyone, even the adults, try to stifle when the yelping dog interrupts the sermon shows that going to church is as much a social obligation to the townsfolk as anything else. Tom's boredom is not his alone, but a side effect of the obligation of going to church.

Chapters 11-15

Religion 4: Tom and Joe's guilt about theft shows that they do have a religious side. Although both boys find church boring, they feel guilty over committing the sin of stealing, which the Bible strictly prohibits. They might not know it, but religion is a strong component of their lives as children of the village.

Chapters 16-20

Religion 5: The joyous hymn sung at the church raises the entire town's spirits. What began as a sad funeral has become a great celebration. This is a very different church experience than the normal ones, in which people go because they are obligated. Here the entire congregation is truly touched.

Chapters 21-25

Religion 6: The presentations by the older girls during the Examination are all strongly influenced by church sermons. The girls seek to convey a moral lesson, but it is obvious that in doing so they are being fake and insincere to impress everyone.

Religion 7: When the revival comes to town, it has a strong, but short-lived effect on everyone. Even Huck finds God for a short time. Unlike church, the revival is entertaining, rare, and more interesting. Church is routine, but a revival is thrilling. Soon enough, however, it is obvious that it has no lasting effect. Huck and Joe are back to their normal ways, much to Tom's happiness.

Chapters 26-30

Religion 8: The Widow Douglas is the most sincerely religious person in the entire story. She prays that Tom be found, and her prayer is absolutely honest and sincere, a hopeful wish in a time of desperation.

Chapters 31-35

Religion 9: Injun Joe's funeral completely lacks any real religiousness. Instead, it is more of an entertaining event. People come from miles around to see him buried, including the people who insincerely tried to get him pardoned for his crimes after his death. Once the funeral ends, the people have a sense of closure and pardoning him is forgotten.

Religion 10: Huck experiences an important conflict with the Widow about religion. He doesn't understand church at all, as it goes against his wild lifestyle. To him, church is just another way that society sets limits he's never had to live with. The Widow, of course, is very religious and expects him to conform and become a good, church-going boy. Only when Tom promises him that they will be robbers does he agree that he can stand church and all the other aspects of civilized society he doesn't understand.

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