Name Instructor Course Date Tom Sawyer: Superstition and Religion. Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” gives us one of the most lovable portraits of a little boy in literature. Written in 1876, the book narrates the incidents in the life of twelve-year old Tom Sawyer, living with his Aunt Polly, cousin Mary and brother Sid in St…
Although Twain’s story is largely focused on the world from the perspective of little boys, he also gives the reader various insights into the adult world which runs parallel to it. The theme of superstition and religion may be seen throughout the narrative. Tom’s religious opinions and superstitions are compatible with each other and reflect adult society’s religious hypocrisy. Tom’s religious beliefs are very superficial. He names “David and Goliath” as two disciples (Twain, Ch.IV). As it is compulsory to memorize five verses, Tom “chose part of the Sermon on the Mount, because he could find no verses that were shorter” (IV). Sunday school is “a place that Tom hated with his whole heart (IV). Tom compares the boring church unfavorably with a circus, stating that “Church ain't shucks to a circus. There's things going on at a circus all the time” (VII). It is not his love of Scripture, but his love of glory, and his need to show-off in front of Bessie Thatcher, which leads him to barter his little knick-knacks for the colored tickets which earn him the prize of a Bible. Tom’s religious beliefs are compatible with superstitions. ...
dead spirits, the only prayer Tom can manage is the bedtime “Now I lay me down to sleep.” When Injun Joe falsely accuse Muff Potter of murdering Dr. Robinson, Tom expects “God's lightening upon [Injun Joe's] head” as punishment” (XI). Tom and his friends say their prayers before sleeping on the pirate jaunt only because they fear “lest they might call down a sudden and special thunderbolt from heaven” (XIII). Tom’s religious beliefs are very alike superstitions. Tom’s life is filled with superstitions, which often dictate the course of his actions. An effective cure for warts ranges from “spunk-water” and charms, to split beans and blood. Of course, the efficacy of dead cats is the superstition which leads to the biggest of Tom’s adventures. Tom uses incantations to look for lost marbles. When the stairs creak at night, it is evidence that “spirits were abroad” (IX). An oath is to be sworn in blood for it to be binding. A dog howling is a sign of approaching death. Buried treasure is to be found under a tree when “the shadow of the limb falls at midnight, a guarded by a dead man” (XXV). Witches have no power in the daytime and Fridays are unlucky days. Here again, the boys meld religion and superstition. Old Mother Hopkins bewitches people by “saying the Lord's Prayer backards” (VI). The holiness of the Sabbath ensures that “Devils don't slosh around much of a Sunday, I don't reckon” (VI). Finally, it is clear that Tom’s superstitions serve the main purpose of making life more interesting and banishing the boredom of daily routine. When Huck tires of life with the Widow Douglas, Tom prevents him from running away by promising adventures as part of his gang of “respectable” robbers. It is the anticipation of an initiation ...
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