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The protagonist of the story is Tom Sawyer, a young boy who is filled with mischief and experiences many adventures.
Tomís antagonist is the "adventure of life" (as suggested by the title) or growing up. There are many smaller antagonists in Tomís life, such as escaping from Injun Joe, dealing with poverty, and winning Becky Thatcher for a girlfriend.
There are really two storylines in the novel. One centers around the story of Injun Joe and one around Becky Thatcher. The climax of the Injun Joe story occurs when Tom overcomes his fear and testifies in court that Injun Joe is the murderer of Doc Robinson. It is a very brave and mature thing for Tom to do, for he has sworn to Huck Finn in a blood oath that he will never divulge this secret.
The climax of the second plot occurs when Tom saves Becky and himself from the dangers of the cave. For the second time in the novel, he accepts and masters responsibility in an almost adult manner. The experience in the cave causes him to "grow up" and mature. As a result of this adventure, many of the minor antagonists are also overcome. Becky is attracted to Tom for his bravery, Injun Joe is no longer a threat since he is sealed in the cave and dies, and his poverty is ended as a result of the gold found by Huck and him.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer ends in comedy, for Tom succeeds in growing up and overcoming his major problems in life.