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Chapter 2: Tom's Early Life
A number of years have passed since the birth of Edward Tudor and Tom Canty. Tom lives in a small, congested house in Offal Court, near London Bridge, with his two sisters, his parents, and grandmother. While the parents sleep on a bed, the children and their grandmother occupy the floor. Tom's father is a thief and his grandmother is a beggar and both of them are drunkards. However, the children inherit their mother's goodness. Father Andrew, who stays in the neighborhood, instills in them the value of good morals. He also teaches Tom reading and writing and familiarizes him with the Latin language and ancient legends. Tom's mind is thus filled with visions of princes and palaces. With time, he starts behaving like a prince and comes to be considered as one by the children of Offal Court.
Mark Twain concentrates on Tom's early life in this chapter. Tom lives in Offal Court, a dismal pocket in the neglected part of London, where drunkenness and fighting are common. His house is congested and he is poorly treated by his father and grandmother, who force him to beg, beat him regularly, and give him scraps to eat. Yet he is not unhappy because he has no knowledge of any other kind of life.
Tom stands out from the inmates of Offal Court through his love of reading and his moral sense, instilled in him by Father Andrew. The old legends and ancient tales he reads fire his imagination, and he escapes into a dream world in which live princes, courtiers, and lords. Often he imagines himself to be a prince, dispensing with judgments in a royal court. Twain portrays Tom as a boy endowed with little means but possessed with the ability and desire to lead a royal life. This chapter thus sets the stage for Tom's encounter with the prince.