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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
CHAPTER 5: The Pinch Bug and his Prey
The people from the village file into church, including the mayor, the justice of the peace, and the postmaster. The service begins, the hymns are sung, and a long prayer is said. Tom sits through this torture. Then the minister begins his passionate sermon. Suddenly, Tom remembers that he has a pinch bug, commonly known as a beetle, in his pocket. He takes it out to amuse himself. When it pinches him, Tom is so surprised that he lets it escape from his grip. He wants to recover the bug, but it is in the aisle, out of his reach. Soon, a poodle walks into the church and takes an interest in the beetle. A battle follows for supremacy between the animal and the bug, with most of the congregation watching. The dog, as if to squash the bug, sits down on it, and the beetle responds by pinching the poodle, which yelps loudly. By this time the whole congregation is amused, but trying hard not to laugh out loud. The sermon has been totally interrupted. On the way home, Tom thinks that church is not so bad after all; he is also glad that he has been instrumental in relieving the boredom of some of the members of the congregation. He regrets, however, losing the pinch bug.
In this chapter, Twain humorously criticizes the hypocrisy of many churchgoers. They attend church out of fear that if they keep away, they will be made outcasts; but Twain shows that most of them are as bored with the religious proceedings as Tom himself. They are easily distracted and watch the incident between the poodle and the bug intently and with suppressed laughter. The chapter also throws more light on Tomís character. He is full of mischief, even in Church. He is also proud of his antics.
CHAPTER 6: Tom Meets Becky
Monday makes Tom very miserable, for he must go back to school. He starts the week by almost wishing that there was no weekend, for after being "free" for two whole days, school seems even worse than usual. Tom tries to think of an excuse to stay home. He investigates his body for any sign of illness, real or imaginary. He suddenly discovers that one of his front upper teeth is loose. He begins to groan, but soon realizes that it is futile because his aunt will just pull it out. He then remembers overhearing the doctor say something about an ailment that makes a person lose a finger, which lays him up for a whole month. Tom remembers that he has a sore toe and eagerly inspects it. He then begins to groan, thinking that Sid will wake up and inquire what is wrong. When Sid continues to sleep, Tom finally shakes him awake and returns to his groaning. Sid, hearing Tom, says he is going to call Aunt Polly. Tom holds him back and pretends as if he is on his deathbed. He then tells Sid that he has forgiven everyone who has hurt him.
Even as Tom is talking to him, Sid dresses and goes to call his aunt. She hurries up the stairs and asks Tom what is the matter with him. Tom replies that his toe is mortified. On hearing this, Aunt Polly bursts out laughing and asks him to stop acting sick. Then Tom tells her about his loose front tooth. Aunt Polly inspects it and asks Mary to bring a chunk of fire and some thread so that she can pull it out. Tom begs her to stop, but Aunt Polly does not listen. She makes a loop with the thread, puts it in his mouth, and out comes the tooth. On the way to school, Tom is the envy of his friends because he can now spit better because of his missing front tooth.
Before arriving at school, Tom sees Huckleberry Finn, the village vagabond and son of the town drunk; he is disliked by every mother in town because he is a homeless boy and "lawless, vulgar, and bad". The children, however, admire him because he is totally free and irresponsible; he represents all that they cannot be. He dresses in rags, smokes, curses, and does not attend school or church. He lives by his own rules, does not answer to anyone, and spends much of his time fishing or swimming. Tom has been forbidden by Aunt Polly to play with Huck; but Tom ignores his auntís warnings and joins Huck at every opportunity.
On the way to school this Monday morning, Tom greets Huck and asks him what he is holding in his hands. Huck replies that it is a dead cat, useful in curing warts. Tom says that spunk water is a better cure for warts, but Huck does not agree. He tells Tom that if they take the dead cat and go to the graveyard at midnight, the devil will come. The cat will follow the devil, and the wart will follow the cat. Tom, engrossed by this prospect, agrees to meet Huck this very night and go to the graveyard. Tom then trades his front tooth for Huckís tick and then sets off for school, which has already begun by now.
The schoolmaster asks for an explanation for his late arrival, and Tom, eyeing an empty seat next to Becky, confesses that he has stopped to speak with Huck. His punishment is to undergo a whipping and to sit next to the girls, exactly as he has hoped. He goes and sits next to Becky, whom he tries to befriend by offering her a peach, which she refuses. To draw her attention, he starts writing on his slate and hides it from Becky. Her curiosity gets the best of her, and she begs to see what Tom has written. Tom acts reluctant, but soon shows her the drawing of a house. Becky admires it and says wistfully that she wishes she could draw. Tom chivalrously offers to teach her. He then scrawls something else on his slate. Becky promptly wants to know what Tom has written. Tom again acts reluctant at first, but gradually relents. He has written, "I love you". Becky pretends to be horrified but is inwardly pleased at being so admired.
The teacher, noticing Tomís distraction, comes down the aisle, lifts Tom up by his ear, and puts him back in his regular seat. Tom tries very hard to concentrate on school work, but he can only think of Becky. All day long, he makes one mistake after another.
This chapter is important for several reasons. It again develops the character of Tom Sawyer. It also introduces Huckleberry Finn, who is a key character in the book from this point forward. Finally, it advances the relationship between Tom and Becky, which is also important to advancing the plot.
The chapter opens with Tom wishing that it were not Monday morning, for he does not want to go back to school. He decides to pretend sickness in order to stay home. He investigates his body and discovers that he has two ailments, a loose tooth and a sore toe. Tom acts like he is on his deathbed; his moaning and groaning fool Sid, but not his Aunt Polly. She has no sympathy for Tom, and quickly pulls his front tooth. On his way to school, his friends make fun of his missing tooth; he cleverly turns it to his advantage by showing them he can now spit better than anyone. He becomes their hero, and Tom enjoys every moment of it.
On his way to school, Tom meets Huck Finn, whom he has been forbidden to play with. They agree to go to the graveyard at midnight so Huck can show Tom how to get rid of warts by using a dead cat. Tom is so involved with his conversation with Huck that he loses track of time. He arrives at school very late. The teacher is angry at his irresponsibility and whips him. He also makes him sit next to the girls, which is just what Tom has wanted. Once he is seated next to Becky, he tries to befriend her, but she does not respond. When he writes, "I love you" on the slate, Becky seems horrified, but she is really pleased by the attention Tom is paying her.
It is important to note the natural friendship that exists between Tom and Huck in spite of Tomís being forbidden to play with him and in spite of their many differences. Tom lives in a home that is filled with love, spiritual guidance, and rules. In contrast, Huck has no home, and his drunken father does not give him love or rules; as a result, he does not attend church or school and behaves however he chooses. Tom is very jealous of Huck, for he does not have any restrictions on his freedom.
It is also important to notice Tomís continued cleverness in this chapter. He does not want to go to school and figures out that if he acts sick enough he can stay home. His moaning and groaning is so realistic that it tricks Sid into thinking he is on his deathbed (although Aunt Polly quickly sees through the pretension). On the way to school, Tom manipulates his friends away from laughing at him for having a missing front tooth; he makes them envious of him for his new spitting ability. He cleverly agrees to meet with Huck at midnight, when he will not be discovered for disobeying his Aunt Polly. He also foresees that his punishment for being late to school will be to sit next to Becky Thatcher, just as he wants to do. As a result, he tells the teacher the truth about why he is late in order to insure that he will be next to Becky for the rest of the day. Once beside her, he manipulates her by drawing and writing on his slate and pretending that he does not want her to see what he has produced.
In this chapter, Twain also highlights the superstitions that exist in the village. Tom and Huck discuss the superstitious means of curing warts. They talk about devils who come to the cemetery to claim the bodies of evil people from their graves. They also discuss witches, who cast spells by saying the Lordís Prayer backwards. Obviously, the boys have learned such superstitions from the people around them. Huck, however, accepts them all more fully and willingly than Tom, indicating that the less educated are more prone to superstition.
Finally, it is important to notice how Twain sets up two important incidents in this chapter that are key to developing the plot. The boys plan to go to the graveyard at midnight, setting them up to see the murder. Tom also makes strides in his friendship with Becky, finally talking to her and even writing a love note to her; this advancing friendship makes it believable that Becky will later get lost in the cave with Tom.