Finding Relief: “Tom Sawyer” • IRJE #4

In the classic novel Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, a young boy named Tom goes on daily adventures, including average, day-to-day excursions and wild, life-or-death escapades. Near the beginning of the novel, Tom attends boring Sunday church, and finds relief from the many droning prayers in a beetle, which is one of his many fine possessions. After taking the beetle out and playing with it, the beetle bit him. With a quick reflex, Tom chucked the beetle to the ground, where a poodle found interest in the creature:

Presently a vagrant poodle came idling along, sad at heart, lazy with the summer softness and the quiet, weary of captivity, sighing for a change. He spied the beetle; drooping tail lifted and wagged. He surveyed the prize; walked around it; smelt at it from a safe distance; walked around it again; grew bolder, and took a closer smell; then lifted his lip and made a gingerly snatch at it, just missing it; made another, and another […] grew weary at last […] His head nodded, and little by little his chin descended and touched the enemy, who seized it. There was a sharp yelp, a flirt of the poodle’s head, and the beetle fell a couple yards away, and lit on its back once more. The neighbouring spectators shook with a gentle inward joy, several faces went behind fans and handkerchiefs, and Tom was entirely happy.

What’s so great about Twain’s books like Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn is both how realistic they are and how detailed they are. Twain describes the scene with the poodle and the beetle in such detail as to perfectly illustrate how attentive children can be in times of crisis; including times of extreme boredom.

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