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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
CHAPTER 19: The Cruelty of I Didnít Think
At lunch, Tom comes home depressed at the turn of events at school. Aunt Polly is waiting for him; she is back from her visit to Mrs. Harper, where she has learned that Tom had actually come into town and knew all about the funeral service. Since Joe had confessed everything to his mother, Aunt Polly is made to look like a fool when she tells Mrs. Harper that Tom had dreamed the whole thing. Tom is remorseful for having played this trick on her and tells her that he wished he had not done it.
Tom then confesses to his aunt that he had come into town with the intention of leaving a letter for her; but when he learned of the funeral plans, he decided to make a dramatic and surprising entrance on Sunday, rather than leave a vague message. He then tells her that he wished that she had woken up when he kissed her; she would then believe that he was telling the truth. Aunt Polly cannot resist her nephew and sends him off to school with a kiss, signifying forgiveness.
When Tom leaves, Aunt Polly rushes to his closet to look for the letter in his jacket pocket. She hesitates several times before gaining enough courage to discover the truth. Sure enough, she finds the letter and is pleased that Tom has not been lying to her again.
Tom, like most children, acts impulsively, without stopping to think about the consequences. He lies to Aunt Polly, not to hurt her, but to protect himself. When Tom finally tells her the truth, Aunt Polly wants desperately to believe Tom; but she is afraid he may be lying to her again. Because of her uncertainty, she has to push herself to look for the note in Tomís jacket pocket. To her relief, she finds it, which restores her faith in Tom.
CHAPTER 20: Tom Takes Beckyís Punishment
Because of Aunt Pollyís kiss, Tomís high spirits are restored, and he goes back to school in a cheerful manner. His good mood does not last long. He meets Becky and apologizes to her, but she ignores him, and they have angry words. Tom wishes that she were a boy so that he could beat her up. Becky cannot wait for class to begin, so she can take pleasure in seeing Tom whipped by the teacher for having ink in his book.
The schoolmaster, Mr. Dobbins, has a secret ambition to study medicine and become a doctor. He keeps medical texts in his desk and always locks the drawer. The students have always been curious to learn what he hides in the drawer. When Becky comes into class, she realizes the desk is unlocked. Overcome by curiosity, she opens the desk and takes out a book. As she is turning the pages, Tom appears at the door. In her haste to hide the evidence, she tears a page. She closes the book, puts it back into the desk, and bursts into tears, telling Tom that he is mean. Tom decides not to tell the teacher about the torn page, but to wait for him to discover it on his own.
Class begins and the teacher soon discovers the mess in Tomís spelling book. Tom denies any knowledge about the ink spill, and his denial only makes matters worse. As a result, he gets a thorough whipping from the teacher. Becky is tempted to tell on Alfred Temple, but she resists. After his punishment, Tom goes back to his seat and thinks that he has probably messed up the book himself, but has denied it as a matter of principle.
An hour later, Mr. Dobbins discovers the torn book. Seeing the fearful look on Beckyís face, Tom decides to come to her rescue. When the master starts questioning the class, Tom takes the blame upon himself before the teacher gets to Becky. The teacher mercilessly beats him, but Tom takes it unflinchingly. The look of adoration and gratitude on Beckyís face is reward enough for him.
Tom has to stay after school for two hours as part of his punishment. When he comes out of the building, Becky is waiting for him. She confesses that it was Alfred Temple who had spilled the ink on his book; she also tells him how noble he is.
Throughout the book, Tom and Becky have had difficulty getting along. First one has hurt feelings, and then the other. In this chapter, however, Tom becomes a true hero in Beckyís eyes, and they are permanently reconciled. She is guilty of opening the teacherís desk, taking out a book that is usually under lock and key, and tearing one of the pages. Tom has witnessed the whole incident. When the schoolmaster discovers the torn page, he is furious, and Becky is beside herself with guilt and fear. The noble Tom, immune to punishment from the teacher, tells him that he is the guilty party and takes the punishment that Becky deserves. Becky can hardly believe his chivalry.
It is important to note that at the end of the chapter all is perfect in Tomís world. Both Becky and Aunt Polly have forgiven him and confessed their love.