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THE STORY - CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
With this chapter, Twain begins to discard the plot line that described the escapade on Jackson's Island. He returns Tom to "the world of the living"- and to Tom's difficult courtship of Becky Thatcher.
Twain opens with a paragraph that ties up loose ends about the boys' return to St. Petersburg. Then he moves on to breakfast before school Monday morning. Polly can't understand how Tom let her believe he was dead.
To make her feel better, he says, "I dreamed about you, anyway. That's something, ain't it?" At Polly's urging, he tells her about his "dream," a detailed description of the activities he witnessed from beneath Polly's bed. Polly is amazed at this clairvoyance- the ability to see things that one does not witness in person-and rewards him with an apple.
At school, Tom and Joe are heroes. They embellish their adventures with imaginary "material" and dazzle their friends with their new skill-smoking.
Tom decides to play hard-to-get with Becky. While she tries to gain his attention, he carries on an animated conversation with Amy Lawrence. Becky vows to get even. At recess, she sits with Alfred Temple, the new boy from St. Louis with whom Tom fought in Chapter 1. Tom, incensed, suddenly finds Amy's chirping "intolerable."
Tom goes home at noon, beside himself with jealousy. Once Tom is gone, Becky loses interest in Alfred Temple and dismisses him. Smart enough to realize why, he slips into the deserted schoolhouse and spills ink on Tom's spelling book. Although Becky sees Alfred do this, she is so angry with Tom that she decides to let him be punished for something he didn't do.
NOTE: BECKY'S CHARACTER
This chapter gives you a deeper understanding of Becky. Like Tom, she is an interesting figure because she is not a model child. Although she is certainly better behaved than Tom, she has certain traits-a quick temper, a vindictive spirit, and a tendency to show off-that would have made her unacceptable as a heroine in most children's books of Twain's day.
With this brief chapter, Twain gives Tom a chance to redeem himself with Polly-and with you, if you have begun to wonder, like Polly, whether Tom's heart is made of stone.
Tom returns home from school to discover that Aunt Polly is furious with him. That morning she went to Sereny Harper's house to tell her about Tom's "dream." But Mrs. Harper had a surprise for her. She told Polly that Tom had secretly visited St. Petersburg. Polly wonders how Tom could have let her make a fool of herself in front of Mrs. Harper.
Tom is genuinely remorseful. His joke, the narrator tells you, now seems "mean and shabby" to him. He apologizes lamely to Polly, explaining that he "didn't think." Still, Polly doesn't believe him when he says he returned home to tell her "not to be uneasy about us." Tom explains that he pocketed the sycamore bark note because he couldn't "bear to spoil" the idea of attending his own funeral.
Polly's soft side begins to show. When Tom tells her he kissed her as she slept, "a sudden tenderness dawned in her eyes." Tom says he kissed her because he loves her. Does this sound like Tom to you? To Polly, it sounds like he's telling the truth-but she's not sure. She sends Tom off to school and immediately runs to the closet to dig into his jacket pocket for the sycamore bark note.
At this point, a wonderful piece of stage business illustrates Twain's weakness for sight gags. Polly tries to get up the nerve to check Tom's pockets, but she is afraid she'll discover that Tom is lying to her. She holds his jacket-then puts it back.
Twice she reaches into the closet, and twice her hand comes out without the jacket. The third time, she convinces herself that, if he is lying, "it's a good lie-I won't let it grieve me."
To her surprise, the note Tom wrote her is there. She reads it through "flowing tears" and admits she could forgive him now "if he'd committed a million sins."