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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
CHAPTER 3: Busy at Love and War
Tom goes to his aunt with the news that he has finished whitewashing the fence. Aunt Polly does not believe Tom and goes out to inspect it herself. She is surprised when she sees that it is not only whitewashed, but recoated, and gives Tom permission to go and play. Tom runs out towards the village square, where the boys meet for games of combat. Tom serves as the general of one of the armies, and his best friend, Joe Harper, of the other. Tom's army wins the fight. Triumphant, Tom turns homeward. As he passes Jeff Thatcher's house, he sees a new blue-eyed, blonde-haired girl in the garden. Tom instantly forgets he is in love with Amy Lawrence, falls in love with blonde beauty, and tries to catch her attention by showing off. The girl pretends indifference, but as she is going inside, she picks up a pansy and throws it over the fence. An overjoyed Tom picks up the flower, places it close to his heart, and lingers nearby. Tom finally goes home in high spirits, and his aunt is not able to comprehend the reason behind it.
The family sits down for supper. When Aunt Polly steps away from the table into the kitchen, Sid tries to steal sugar and, in the process, drops the sugar bowl. Tom is thrilled because he is about to see Sid punished. His Aunt comes out, takes a look at the broken sugar bowl, and strikes Tom! Tom protests, but his aunt pretends to be unmoved even though her conscience pricks her. When his aunt later tries to make up, he refuses, so that he can wallow in self-pity. He even wishes that he were dead. In his mind, he pictures his Aunt bending over him and begging for forgiveness.
In this chapter, Mark Twain continues to develop the character of his protagonist. Tom and his friends indulge in a boyish game of play fighting. Tom, obviously acknowledged as a leader by his friends, becomes one of the generals, and his side wins. This victory, like the victory over whitewashing, gives Tom great pleasure, for he likes to be in control and hates losing. He leaves for home in high spirits. His emotional state is heightened when he sees a beautiful new girl at the Thatchers. He immediately falls in love with her, and in a fickle manner, totally forgets about Amy Lawrence, his current girlfriend. In a completely boyish display of affection, Tom shows off to his new love with silly antics. She responds by throwing a petal his way. Tom swoons nearby. Mark Twain depicts his main character as a hopelessly emotional romantic.
This chapter also highlights the sibling rivalry that exists between Tom and his brother Sid. They both continually try to get the better of each other. When Sid drops the sugar bowl, Tom is overjoyed because he knows Sid is going to be punished for the accident. He is shocked when, instead of Sid, he receives the beating. Since Tom is the mischievous one who usually steals the sugar, his aunt automatically assumes him to be the culprit this time too, and Sid is too sly to tell his aunt the truth. Tom protests and pleads his innocence. When Aunt Polly realizes her mistake, she tries to make it up to him in many different ways. But Tom is enjoying being a martyr and refuses to acknowledge her attempts. Like any other boy who has been unjustly punished, Tom wants to strike back at his aunt. He imagines that he is on his deathbed with Aunt Polly bending over him, asking for forgiveness. Once again, Tom is painted as an imaginative, emotional boy.