The Adventures 
Tom Sawyer

Study Questions

Questions from Chapter 1

1.      Why is Aunt Polly taking care of Tom?

 2.      Who is Sid?

 3.      Based on chapter 1, write a character sketch of either Tom or Aunt Polly.

 4.      How does Aunt Polly find out that Tom did go swimming?

 5.      What is it about the new boy that bugs Tom so much?

 6.      What can we already tell about Aunt Polly?

 7.  Why does Tom fight at the end of chapter 1?

 8    What does "spare the rod and spoil the child" mean?

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Questions from Chapter 2

1.      What task did Aunt Polly give Tom to do?

2.      Compare the technique Tom used on Jim with the technique Tom used on the other boys.  Describe each technique, and them tell which worked better and why you think it worked better. 

3.      Explain what is meant by the following quote: “…that Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.”

 4.      Name three things that Tom got the kids to give him for the “whitewashing privilege.”

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Questions Chapter 3

1. When Tom presents himself to Aunt Polly after the whitewashing is complete, she expects he is lying. What does this say about Tom’s character?

 2. How much would Aunt Polly have been satisfied with?

 3. Aunt Polly tells Tom that he can do a good job when he’s of a mind to. What might her expectations of Tom be in the future?

 4. Aunt Polly rewards Tom for a job well done. How does Tom also reward himself?

5. How does Tom retaliate for Sid telling on him about the thread?

 6. Explain Tom’s role as the “General” of an army.

 7. What does Tom unexpectedly discover as he passes Jeff Thatcher’s house?

 8. Explain his reaction to this new discovery.

9. In this chapter we see that Sid is not the perfect child he wants everyone else to believe. Explain: a) what Sid does, b) why it is Tom who gets punished for it, c) why Aunt Polly does not feel remorse for punishing the wrong child, and d) Tom’s reaction to being punished wrongly.

 10. What is your opinion about Aunt Polly’s statement, “Umf! Well, you didn’t get a lick amiss, I reckon. You’ve been into some other audacious mischief when I wasn’t around, like enough.” Do you agree with her or disagree with her?

 11. Tell about a time when you or someone you know got punished wrongly. Describe the situation and the reactions of each involved.

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Questions from Chapter 4

1.      If Tom was not especially bright or hard working, how did he get enough tickets to win a Bible?

 2.      The author makes fun of almost everyone in this chapter by describing how they were showing off. Tell how each of the characters "showed off.” 

3.      Give one example of irony in this chapter.

 4.      Give one example of how someone got their “just deserts” in this chapter (got what they deserved).

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Questions from Chapter 5

1.      In the incident with the poodle dog and pinch bug, what technique does Mark Twain use to make the incident humorous?

 2.      Write a character sketch of Tom Sawyer using at least one detail/character trait learned from each chapter.  Support what you are saying with examples from each chapter (1-5).

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Questions from Chapter 6

 1.      How did Aunt Polly use a chunk of fire to pull Tom’s tooth?

 2.      Tom and Huck demonstrate superstition and a lack of scientific knowledge. List their three cures for warts.

 3.      Why do people believe in superstitions?

 4.      How did Tom use his tardiness to win Becky Thatcher’s attention?  What might have been a better punishment?

 5.      Why did Becky think Tom was someone special?

 6. What is one example of “just deserts” from chapter 6?

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Chapters 1-6   Cumulative Review

1.      Discuss how we learn through Aunt Polly’s actions that she is stern but also gentle, loving, and sentimental.

 2.      What conflict does Aunt Polly experience in trying to discipline Tom?  How do we learn about the conflict—directly from Aunt Polly or through her actions?

 3.      Tom Sawyer exhibits many character traits. Draw the following chart and complete it by identifying actions or statements from chapters 1-6 which prove Tom has the specified character trait.


Character trait

Words and Actions










tells half-truths





































4.      Compare and contrast how Tom acts with his family to how he acts with his friends.

 5.      How do you think Mark Twain feels about adolescence? Support your opinion with details from the text.

 6.      What lessons does Tom learn from each of his experiences in chapters 1-6?

 7.      Describe the effect Tom and Becky have on each other. 

 8.      Tom’s exaggerated behavior towards Becky foreshadows the development of the relationship. What do you think will happen between Tom and Becky? Support your opinion.

 9.      What can you tell about Twain’s attitude towards organized religion from chapters 4 and 5? Give specific examples to support your answer.

 10. What role do you think Huck Finn will play throughout the remainder of the book? Why?

 11.  Describe Huck Finn’s character and appearance. Draw a chart like the one below and fill in details from the story under the appropriate heading. Add more boxes as needed.
















 12. What reasons are given by Twain to explain why Huck was admired by the boys but dreaded by the mothers of the town?

 13. Describe the two extremes of emotion Tom exhibits in these chapters and explain how these extremes are characteristic of a boy Tom’s age.

 14. Explain the elements of the supernatural so far in the novel. You may include Twain’s use of superstition.

 15. What do you think of the expression “a white lie”?

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Questions Chapter 7


1.   List three ways Tom tries to impress Becky.

2. How does Tom get into trouble with Becky?

3.   Draw a diagram of the game Tom and Joe play with the tick.

4.  How does Tom explain the “engagement” process to Becky?

5.  What clues do we have that this is not Tom’s first engagement before Becky finds out?

6.   Why does Tom give Becky the brass andiron knob?

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Questions Chapter 8
1.      List three examples of superstitions from chapters 6, 7, and 8.

2.      How do these superstitions compare to some we have today?

3.      Why does Tom play hooky after his argument with Becky?

4.   Why was it so easy for Tom to play hooky?

5.      Why won’t Tom “fall” (die) when he and Joe are sword fighting?

6.      Where are Tom and Joe when they are fighting?

7.      From what famous story does their “fight” come?

8.      Name at least three of the characters Tom and Joe pretend to be.

9.      What was the attraction Tom had for becoming a pirate? What other occupations does he consider before deciding to become a pirate?

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Questions Chapter 9

1.      What are 5 instances of superstition in this chapter?

 2.      Identify the source of the “melancholy caterwauling” which awakens Tom.

 3.      Describe the atmosphere/mood as Tom and Huck venture to the graveyard.  Identify at least five adjectives/adverbs used by Twain to create this atmosphere/mood.

4.      Why are Tom and Huck not seen?

 5.      Who does Tom and Huck expect to arrive and who unexpectedly shows up? Explain why Tom and Huck are upset by the unexpected arrival.

 6.      Who appears to be the leader of the unexpected trio?

 7.      Who ends up with the upper hand?

 8.      Explain how Muff Potter’s greed leads to his being framed for Doc Robinson’s murder.

 9.      What grudge does Injun Joe hold against Dr. Robinson?

 10. What lies does Injun Joe tell in this chapter?

11. Fill in the chart below with the character traits exhibited by Injun Joe and Muff Potter. 

Injun Joe

Muff Potter









 12. Why doesn’t Injun Joe run away after he kills Dr. Robinson?

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Questions Chapter 10

1.      Why are Tom and Huck afraid of Injun Joe?

 2.      Why do they decide to swear an oath?

 3.      What facts of Dr. Robinson’s murder do Tom and Huck not know about as they flee from the graveyard?

 4.      What is Huck’s theory of why the blow to Muff Potter’s head probably didn’t kill him?

 5.      What about the howling dog is so terrifying to Tom and Huck? Why are they relieved when they realize the dog was not facing them?

 6.      What reasons do Tom and Huck each have for fearing they will go to the devil and not to Heaven?

 7.      Based on what you learn at the end of this chapter, what punishment does Tom receive and what had he rather his punishment have been?

 8.      What is “this final feather [that] broke the camel’s back?”

 9.      What pieces of information have we learned about Huck’s father (Pap Finn) and how does Twain reveal these facts?

 10.  Fill in the time and place setting chart below. 


Day of the week
Time of day




















































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Questions Chapter 11

1.      What news goes around the village on Tuesday morning? How does that news travel?

 2.      What were the rumors about Muff Potter’s involvement in the murder? What parts were true and which were false?

3.      Why do Injun Joe, Muff Potter, Huck Finn, and Tom Sawyer each go back to the scene of the crime?

4.      When Injun Joe tells under oath his version of the events in the graveyard, what does Tom and Huck expect to happen to him?

5.      Why are Tom and Huck sure that Injun Joe is in league with the devil?

6.      What signs does Tom exhibit that let the reader know he is suffering from a guilty conscience? Why does he have a guilty conscience?

7.      What are the reasons Tom does not go to the authorities?

8.      Why do you think Muff Potter, Injun Joe, and Dr. Robinson want to rob the grave of Hoss Williams?

9.      Why does Tom fake a toothache?

10. What does Sid do each night as Tom sleeps?

11. How does Tom try to ease his conscience?

12. Why isn’t Injun Joe punished for grave robbing or body snatching?

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Questions Chapter 12

1.      With what activities does Tom lose interest? What is occupying his mind and causing him to lose interest in these activities?

 2.      Why is Aunt Polly concerned about Tom’s health?

 3.      Why is Aunt Polly referred to as an “inveterate experimenter in these things”?

 4.      In referring to her doctoring skills. to what is Aunt Polly compared?

 5.      Explain the following statement: “The boy was mending the health of a crack in the sitting room floor with it.”

 6.      Who is Peter and what role does he play in this chapter?

 7.      What words does Twain use to show that Peter does not want to drink the painkiller?

 8.      How did Tom show off to Becky in this chapter? Why does he do this? How does she react?

 9.      Why do you think Twain inserts this chapter after the terrible murder? Support your answer.

 10. Look at the title of the next chapter. Predict whether chapter 13 will be a serious chapter or a humorous one. Explain your reasons.

 11. Explain what the following quotation from the story means: “When Jeff arrived, Tom accosted him, and ‘led up’ warily to opportunities for remark about Becky, but the giddy lad never could see the bait.”

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Cumulative Review Chapters 7-12

1.      Chapter 7 is a continuation of the plot line begun in which chapter?
2.      Tom and Becky’s courting and relationship is a parody of adult behavior, meaning that it exaggerates certain elements in order to make fun of it.  How does this treatment of Tom and Becky’s relationship make it more realistic, interesting, and amusing?

3.      We get to know Joe Harper better in these chapters. Describe Joe and explain what his relationship with Tom is like.  Which of the two seems to be the leader and which the follower.  Support your opinion with information from the novel.

4.      Twain juxtaposes the cemetery episode with the episode of Tom playing Robin Hood in the woods. How were Tom’s reactions in the cemetery different from the way he acted while playing Robin Hood and pirates?

5.      Describe the atmosphere in the cemetery scene and explain how the added elements of superstition accentuate the atmosphere.

6.      In chapter 9 the reader is introduced to Injun Joe and Muff Potter.  How does Mark Twain let us know about these two characters?

7.      Complete the chart comparing and contrasting Injun Joe and Muff Potter.

Traits of Injun Joe

Traits of Injun Joe and Muff Potter

Traits of Muff Potter
















 8.      Chapter 12 was written as a transition from the seriousness of the murder episode in the preceding three chapters to a new episode in chapter 13. Why do you think that Twain puts the murder on hold?  Which elements of plot do you think will be developed as the story unfolds?

 9.      What does the schoolmaster’s behavior in chapter 7 tell you about his character?

 10. Why might some people withhold information about a crime?

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Questions Chapter 13

1.      How does Tom convince Joe that a pirate’s life is better than a hermit’s?

 2.      What had “forced” Tom into pursuing a “life of crime”?

 3. Who are the other two boys that join Tom and why did each agree to go?

 4.      Identify the speakers of each line and translate/interpret the following conversation from chapter 13:

“Ain’t it gay?”

“It’s just nuts! What would the boys say if they could see us?”

“Say? Well they’s just die to be here—hey Hucky?”

“I reckon so. Anyway I’m suited. I don’t want nuthin’ better than than this…here they can’t come and pick at a feller and bullyrag him so.”

“Oh, we’ll have a bully time.”

 5.      Where does Tom get all his ideas about how pirates and hermits act?

 6.      Who is the “leader” of this band of pirates? Give evidence from the story.

 7.      Who was the “intruder” that would not go away? What did this intruder accuse Tom and Joe of?

 8.      What conclusion can you draw about how much longer these boys will remain away from home?

 9.      Why does Mark Twain call the boys “curiously inconsistent pirates”?

 10.      Sketch the location of St. Petersburg, the stolen raft, the Mississippi River, and Jackson Island.

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Questions Chapter 14

1.      Twain uses the figure of speech “Nature shaking off sleep…” in this chapter. What is really happening? What is this figure of speech called?

 2.      What are five reasons Twain gives for the fish tasting so good to the boys?

 3.      In this chapter, all three boys begin to feel homesick. Why don’t they say anything about it? Which one of the boys does, however, put out a “feeler”?

 4.      Why was the cannon being shot out over the water?

 5.      For whom were the townspeople looking?

 6.      At the end of this chapter, Tom leaves the camp. Make a prediction about where he is going. Explain your answer.

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Questions Chapter 15

1.      List three things Tom learns by hiding under the bed.

 2.      Compare Tom to the other two boys using the chart below. 



Huck and Joe

Good Ideas
















 3.      “Well the things is ours anyway, ain’t they?” Who is talking? What’s going on? Name two of the things.

 4.      Why does Tom almost decide to keep the skiff? Why does he decide against it?

 5.      Explain how Tom gets home.

 6.      “Tom recounted (and adorned) his adventures.” Explain why the word adorned is added in parentheses.

 7.      Predict how you think Tom will use the information he learned from his trip home.

 8.      Predict what the next chapter will be about.

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Questions Chapters 16 and 17

1. Name four ways that Tom, Joe and Huck passed the time in chapter 16.

 2. What is Tom’s superstition that prevents him from returning to the water with Joe and Huck?

 3. What is Joe’s complaint in chapter 16? How does Tom react? What is Huck’s opinion? What course of action does each of the three boys follow?

 4. List words and phrases from Twain’s description of the storm that describe the atmosphere in this part of the chapter. How does this part of the chapter contrast with the swimming scene at the beginning of the chapter? Why does Twain include such varied moods within the same chapter?

 5. "I've lost my knife. I reckon I better go and find it." Who's talking? What' going on? Why is this funny? What do they both refuse to admit to Huck?

 6. What is the boys’ reaction to the storm and what does this reaction tell you about them?

 7. What were two pieces of good news that the boys discover after the huge storm is over?

 8. "Two of the savages almost wished they had remained pirates." Why? What's going on?

 9. There are several emotional ups and downs in chapter 16, particularly for Tom. Through it all, his spirit is indomitable. Explain.

 10. Explain the purpose of Twain’s editorializing comment in the final sentence of chapter 16.

 11. Explain the mood of the townspeople at the beginning of chapter 17 and the reason for this mood.

 12. What do people say about Tom and Joe in chapter 17? Are their words realistic or sentimental? Explain.

 13. Give reasons for Huck Finn’s discomfort after the “pirates” arrive at the funeral. Which of the vocabulary words describes his demeanor?

 14. Reread the last line of chapter 17. Explain.

 15. What can you learn about Tom’s character (character trait) from chapter 17? Give references from the text for support.

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Questions Chapters  18, 19, and 20

1. What had been Tom’s great secret that he used to keep Joe and Huck on the Island with him?

 2. How long had they been gone? How do you know?

 3. Who probably guessed the truth about Tom’s wild dream? What is the evidence pointing to this?

 4. In what does the lie backfire on Tom?

 5. Explain how Tom’s life changed as a result of his death?

 6. After Tom “returned from the dead,” how did he treat Becky?

 7. Why does Becky chose to look at the picture book with Alfred?

 8. The identity of the boy Tom “licked” in chapter 1 is finally revealed. What is his identity and how does he get even with Tom in these chapters?

9. Compare Tom and Becky reacted to one another in this chapter by completing the chart.
Tom’s Actions
Becky’s Actions/Reactions
Ignored Becky



Paid Attention to Amy



Still liked Becky









10. Describe what is really meant by the figures of speech in the following sentences from chapter 18. The figures of speech are underlined.
a.      “What a hero Tom was become now…he tried not to seem to see the looks or hear the remarks as he passed along, but they were food and drink to him.
b.      “She tried to go away, but her feet were treacherous, and carried her to the group instead.”
c.      “At recess Tom continued his flirtation with Amy with jubilant self-satisfaction. And he kept drifting about to find Becky and lacerate her with the performance.
d.      “At last he spied her but there was a sudden falling of his mercury.”

e.  “ But in vain—the girl chirped on.”

 11. How is Tom’s dreariness intensified when he arrives home from school?

 12. What does Tom realize about his telling Aunt Polly his “dream?” What does this realization tell you about his character?

 13. “I’d give the whole world to believe that—it would cover up a power of sins…” Explain what is taking place at this point of chapter 19 and which characters are involved. What do you learn about each of the characters from this interchange?

 14. Explain the Aunt Polly’s internal conflict in the last paragraph of chapter 19. What decision does she make? Does she regret this decision? Explain.

 15. Describe Tom’s mood and the reason for it at the beginning of chapter 20. What happens to change his mood suddenly?

 16. Why is Becky impatient for school to “take in?” Do events occur as she expects? Explain.

 17. What kind of book did the teacher, Mr. Dobbins, keep in his desk? Why?

 18. What “crime” did Becky’s curiosity cause her to commit?

 19. “Be so mean if you want to! I know something that’s going to happen…” What does Becky foreshadow with these remarks? What is ironic about what really does happen?

 20. What stereotype of all girls does Tom assert after Becky storms off?

 21. Who does Tom think spilled the ink in his spelling book? Why?

 22. Tom can be described throughout the novel as impulsive. Give at least one example from this chapter of his impulsiveness. Give at least three examples from previous chapters of Tom’s impulsiveness.

 23. Based on Tom’s actions at the end of the chapter, how do you think Tom and Becky’s relationship will progress?

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Questions Chapters 21-24

1. Draw a diagram of the prank the boys pulled on the school master.

2.      Name three things/events that came to town during the summer.

3.      Why was Tom disappointed in the U.S. Senator who came to town?

4.      Why did Tom think the storm in chapter 22 was intended for him?

5.      “Little hands and weak—but they’ve helped Muff Potter a power, and they’d help him more if they could.” Who’s talking? Why are the words ironic?

6.      Tom was out late that night and came to bed through the window. Where do you think Tom went?

7.      Summarize the events and outcome of the trial. Explain why Muff Potter’s lawyer was not making much of an effort to defend Muff or to cross-examine the witnesses for the prosecution.

8.      Describe Tom's days as opposed to Tom's nights after the trial.

9.      In your opinion, did Tom do a brave thing or a foolish thing in telling the truth? Explain your reasoning? What are Tom’s feelings about what he has done?

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Questions Chapters 25-35

1. Think about how Tom has made up with Becky and with Aunt Polly and what he did for Muff Potter. Based on these things, do you think Tom is “growing up?”

 2. How does Tom want to spend any treasure they find? How does Huck want to spend the treasure? What do the differences in the ways the boys want to spend the treasure tell you about the differences in their personalities, their values, their upbringing, and their outlook on life?

3. Give two reasons why Tom says they don’t find treasure like they should.

4. Where do you think “Number Two” is? What does it mean? What makes you think so?

5. How had Injun Joe been hiding out in town all along?

6. What does Tom dream about? What does Huck dream about? What do their dreams tell us about the differences in the two boys? Why might this be?

7. If Injun Joe is drunk, why won’t the boys go back and grab the box from his lair?

8. Why does Injun Joe want revenge on Widow Douglas? What does he want to do to her? How does he see this as fitting revenge?

9. “Huckleberry Finn indeed; it ain’t a name to open many doors, I judge. But let him in lads, and let’s see what’s the trouble.” Who says this? What is the situation? Will they be glad they let Huck Finn in? What does their reaction to Huck have to say about his current position in society?

10. How and when are Tom and Becky discovered missing?

11. “It’s a name that can open this door night or day, Lad!—and welcome!” Who’s talking? What’s going on? Who is he talking about? Why has his attitude changed? What is unusual about his statement?

12. What would you do in the cave?

13. Why didn’t Injun Joe chase Tom?

14. Explain the survival skills Tom uses in the cave. How do Tom and Becky each react to being lost?

15. What prevents Huck from joining in the search for Tom and Becky?

16. For a second time in the novel, Tom is “lost” and presumed possibly dead.  How are these two situations similar? How are they different?

17. How did Becky behave in the cave? Was her behavior realistic, or was she just a stereotype of a helpless girl? Explain why you think so.

18. How do Tom and Becky get out of the cave?

19. What shocking news do Tom and Judge Thatcher tell each other?

20. What is Injun Joe’s fate? What attempts at escape and survival had been made?

21. How does the town’s opinion of Joe change from what it was following Tom’s testimony at Muff Potter’s trial?

22. What information do Tom and Huck tell each other following Injun Joe’s funeral?

23. What new discovery does Tom share with Huck and what is Tom’s plan for using it?

24. Describe the boys’ hunt for the treasure this time. How is this hunt different from the last hunt? What is the outcome?

25. Tom and Huck are greeted by the Welshman when they return to town. What is his news for the boys?

26. “The boys in this town will take more trouble and fool away more time hunting up 6 bits worth or old iron…than they would make twice the money at regular work.” Who says this? Why does he say it? Do you think he is correct? Why is his statement ironic?

27. Tom, Huck, the Welshman, and the whole town are delightfully surprised at the widow’s gathering. What does everyone find out?

28. What mean thing did Sid do at the widow’s party? How does Tom have the last laugh?

29. “No, Tom…I won’t live in them cussed smothery houses. I like the woods and the river, and hogsheads…” Who says this? Why? What is your opinion of the situation?

30. How does Tom get Huck to go back to the widow?

31. What becomes of the treasure? Of Huck? Of Tom Sawyer?

32. Once everyone found out about the treasure, what happened to every “haunted house” in St. Petersburg?

33. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was written by Mark Twain as a follow up to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Predict what you think might happen in that book.

34. This book is called The Adventure of Tom Sawyer but for most of the book, Huck is also involved in the “adventure.” Why do you think the book wasn’t named after both boys?

35. Did Injun Joe get what he deserved? Explain why you think so/not.  How does Tom feel about his death?

36. Has Tom “grown up?” Use examples from the book to support your opinion.

37. Has Huck Finn changed? Use examples from the book to support you answer.

38. What does Mark Twain stop the story where he does?

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