In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer By Mark Twain Tom starts off as a mischievous young boy who has no regard for social norms and does whatever he pleases, however, as the book progresses Tom engages in more noble, mature acts which then puts restrictions and guidelines on his actions as a part of becoming an adult.
Tom is first introduced hiding from his Aunt Polly to eat a sandwich filled with jam that she forbade him to eat, this is an example of his immature and childish nature. These characteristics are further emphasized when he distracts Polly upon being discovered so he could make a getaway to dodge his punishment. Aunt Polly expresses this by saying "Hang the boy, can't I never learn anything? Ain't he played me tricks enough like that for me to be looking out for him by this time?'' (Page 4). Tom also portrays traits of wittiness when he slyly manipulates children passing by to paint his fence by giving the task a guise of importance and value by saying "...She's awfully particular about this fence; its got to be done very careful; I reckon there ain't one boy in a thousand, maybe two thousand that can do it the way it's ought to be done." (Page 14)
The first subtle signs of Tom maturing are shown when he is introduced to Becky. He is instantly enamored and goes out of his way to get her attention while still keeping most of his boyish mannerisms. "As he was passing by the house where Jeff Thatcher lived he saw a new girl in the garden- a lovely little blue-eyed creature with yellow hair plaited into two long tails, white summer frock, and embroidered pantalettes. The fresh crowned hero fell without firing a shot. A certain Amy Lawrence vanished out of his heart and left not even a memory of herself behind..." "He worshipped 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." (Page 18).
Twain also hints at Tom's maturation when he nobly takes Becky's punishment in chapter twenty "Becky as passing by the desk, which stood near the door, she noticed that the key was in the lock! it was a precious moment. She glanced around, found that she as alone, and the next instant she had the book in her hands. The title page - Professor Somebody's Anatomy- Carried no information to her mind, so she began to turn the leaves. She came at once upon a handsomely engraved and colored frontispiece- a human figure, stark naked. At that moment a shadow fell on the page and Tom Sawyer stepped in at the door, and caught a glimpse of the picture. Becky snatched at the book to close it, and had the hard luck to tear the pictured plate half down the middle. She thrust the volume into the desk, turned the key, and burst out crying with shame and vexation..." (page 128) "...The master faced the school. Every eye sank under his gaze. There was that in it which smote even innocent with fear. There was silence while one might count to ten, the master as gathering his wrath. Then he spoke: "Who tore this book?" There was not a sound. One could have heard a pin drop. The stillness continued; the master searched face after face for signs of guilt..." "Rebecca Thatcher [Tom glanced at her face- it was white with terror]- Did you tear - no, look me in the face [ her hands rose in appeal ] - did you tear this book?" A thought shot like lightning through Tom's brain. He sprang to his feet and shouted "I done it!" The school stared in perplexity at this incredible folly. Tom stood a moment, to gather his dismembered faculties; and when he stepped forward to go to his punishment the surprise, the gratitude, the adoration that shone upon him out of poor Becky's eyes seemed pay enough for a hundred floggings. Inspired by the splendor of his own act, he took without an outcry the most merciless flaying that Mr. Dobbins had ever administered..." (Page 131).
Finally at the end of the book Tom tries to coax Huck into behaving himself at a formal party. "Well I ain't used to that kind of crowd. I can't stand it. I ain't going down there Tom." "Oh bother! It ain't anything. I don't mind it a bit. I'll take care of you," this is the point in the book where Tom begins his ultimate transformation into a young man that is becoming a part of society. Tom's decision to wear formal clothes to an event is a picture of setting aside his childish manners and acts as an example to Huck. This act shows maturity in the willingness to sacrifice and support for a friend.
The examples that I've mentioned in my essay direct the reader to believe that Tom is a representation of a boys rite of passage into society. Toms unruly behavior with Aunt Polly was the status quo for Tom, it wasn't until he fell for Becky that he began taking steps towards manhood. The sacrifices he made for his friends Becky and Huck is the culmination of the mark of becoming an adult. Tom started off as a selfish boy but by the end of the book he displayed his care for others.
Clemens, Samuel (1981). The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer. New York: Bantam Books, Dell Publishing Group, Inc.
Cliff'sNotes.Com Book Summary Of 'The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer'. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Accessed December 17, 2017.