Tom Sawyer Whitewashing the Fence
From Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer, Chapter Two, 1876
Saturday morning was come, and all the summer world was bright and fresh, and brimming with life. There was a song in every heart; and if the heart was young the music issued at the lips. There was cheer in every face and a spring in every step. The locust-trees were in bloom and the fragrance of the blossoms filled the air. Cardiff Hill, beyond the village and above it, was green with vegetation and it lay just far enough away to seem a Delectable Land, dreamy, reposeful, and inviting.
Tom appeared on the sidewalk with a bucket of whitewash and a long-handled brush. He surveyed the fence, and all gladness left him and a deep melancholy settled down upon his spirit. Thirty yards of board fence nine feet high. Life to him seemed hollow, and existence but a burden. Sighing, he dipped his brush and passed it along the topmost plank; repeated the operation; did it again; compared the insignificant whitewashed streak with the far-reaching continent of unwhitewashed fence, and sat down on a tree-box discouraged. Jim came skipping out at the gate with a tin pail, and singing Buffalo Gals. Bringing water from the town pump had always been hateful work in Tom’s eyes, before, but now it did not strike him so. He remembered that there was company at the pump. White, mulatto, and negro boys and girls were always there waiting their turns, resting, trading playthings, quarrelling, fighting, skylarking. And he remembered that although the pump was only a hundred and fifty yards off, Jim never got back with a bucket of water under an hour – and even then somebody generally had to go after him. Tom said:
“Say, Jim, I’ll fetch the water if you’ll whitewash some.”
Jim shook his head and said:
“Can’t, Mars Tom. Ole missis, she tole me I got to go an’ git dis water an’ not stop foolin’ roun’ wid anybody. She say she spec’ Mars Tom gwine to ax me to whitewash, an’ so she tole me go ‘long an’ ‘tend to my own business – she ‘lowed she’d ‘tend to de whitewashin’.”
“Oh, never you mind what she said, Jim. That’s the way she always talks. Gimme the bucket – I won’t be gone only a a minute. She won’t ever know.”
“Oh, I dasn’t, Mars Tom. Ole missis she’d take an’ tar de head off’n me. ‘Deed she would.”
“She! She never licks anybody – whacks ’em over the head with her thimble – and who cares for that, I’d like to know. She talks awful, but talk don’t hurt – anyways it don’t if she don’t cry. Jim, I’ll give you a marvel. I’ll give you a white alley!”
Jim began to waver.
“White alley, Jim! And it’s a bully taw.”
“My! Dat’s a mighty gay marvel, I tell you! But Mars Tom I’s powerful ‘fraid ole missis – ”
“And besides, if you will I’ll show you my sore toe.”
Jim was only human – this attraction was too much for him. He put down his pail, took the white alley, and bent over the toe with absorbing interest while the bandage was being unwound. In another moment he was flying down the street with his pail and a tingling rear, Tom was whitewashing with vigor, and Aunt Polly was retiring from the field with a slipper in her hand and triumph in her eye. But Tom’s energy did not last. He began to think of the fun he had planned for this day, and his sorrows multiplied. Soon the free boys would come tripping along on all sorts of delicious expeditions, and they would make a world of fun of him for having to work – the very thought of it burnt him like fire. He got out his worldly wealth and examined it – bits of toys, marbles, and trash; enough to buy an exchange of work, maybe, but not half enough to buy so much as half an hour of pure freedom. So he returned his straitened means to his pocket, and gave up the idea of trying to buy the boys. At this dark and hopeless moment an inspiration burst upon him! Nothing less than a great, magnificent inspiration.
Jim was only human – this attraction was too much for him.
He took up his brush and went tranquilly to work. Ben Rogers hove in sight presently – the very boy, of all boys, whose ridicule he had been dreading. Ben’s gait was the hop-skip-and-jump – proof enough that his heart was light and his anticipations high. He was eating an apple, and giving a long, melodious whoop, at intervals, followed by a deep-toned ding-dong-dong, ding-dong-dong, for he was personating a steamboat. As he drew near, he slackened speed, took the middle of the street, leaned far over to star-board and rounded to ponderously and with laborious pomp and circumstance – for he was personating the Big Missouri, and considered himself to be drawing nine feet of water. He was boat and captain and engine-bells combined, so he had to imagine himself standing on his own hurricane-deck giving the orders and executing them:
“Stop her, sir! Ting-a-ling-ling!” The headway ran almost out, and he drew up slowly toward the sidewalk.
“Ship up to back! Ting-a-ling-ling!” His arms straightened and stiffened down his sides.
“Set her back on the stabboard! Ting-a-ling-ling! Chow! ch-chow-wow! Chow!” His right hand, meantime, describing stately circles – for it was representing a forty-foot wheel.
“Let her go back on the labboard! Ting-a-ling-ling! Chow-ch-chow-chow!” The left hand began to describe circles.
“Stop the stabboard! Ting-a-ling-ling! Stop the labboard! Come ahead on the stabboard! Stop her! Let your outside turn over slow! Ting-a-ling-ling! Chow-ow-ow! Get out that head-line! Lively now! Come – out with your spring-line – what’re you about there! Take a turn round that stump with the bight of it! Stand by that stage, now – let her go! Done with the engines, sir! Ting-a-ling-ling! Sh’t! s’h’t! sh’t!” (trying the gauge-cocks).
Tom went on whitewashing – paid no attention to the steamboat. Ben stared a moment and then said: “Hi- yi ! You’re up a stump, ain’t you!”
No answer. Tom surveyed his last touch with the eye of an artist, then he gave his brush another gentle sweep and surveyed the result, as before. Ben ranged up alongside of him. Tom’s mouth watered for the apple, but he stuck to his work. Ben said:
“Hello, old chap, you got to work, hey?”
Tom wheeled suddenly and said:
“Why, it’s you, Ben! I warn’t noticing.”
“Say – I’m going in a-swimming, I am. Don’t you wish you could? But of course you’d druther work – wouldn’t you? Course you would!”
Tom contemplated the boy a bit, and said:
“What do you call work?”
“Why, ain’t that work?”
Tom resumed his whitewashing, and answered carelessly:
“Well, maybe it is, and maybe it ain’t. All I know, is, it suits Tom Sawyer.”
“Oh come, now, you don’t mean to let on that you like it?”
The brush continued to move.
“Like it? Well, I don’t see why I oughtn’t to like it. Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?”
That put the thing in a new light. Ben stopped nibbling his apple. Tom swept his brush daintily back and forth – stepped back to note the effect – added a touch here and there – criticised the effect again – Ben watching every move and getting more and more interested, more and more absorbed. Presently he said:
“Say, Tom, let me whitewash a little.”
Tom considered, was about to consent; but he altered his mind:
“No – no – I reckon it wouldn’t hardly do, Ben. You see, Aunt Polly’s awful particular about this fence – right here on the street, you know – but if it was the back fence I wouldn’t mind and she wouldn’t. Yes, she’s awful particular about this fence; it’s got to be done very careful; I reckon there ain’t one boy in a thousand, maybe two thousand, that can do it the way it’s got to be done.”
“No – is that so? Oh come, now – lemme, just try. Only just a little – I’d let you, if you was me, Tom.”
“Ben, I’d like to, honest injun; but Aunt Polly – well, Jim wanted to do it, but she wouldn’t let him; Sid wanted to do it, and she wouldn’t let Sid. Now don’t you see how I’m fixed? If you was to tackle this fence and anything was to happen to it – ”
“Oh, shucks, I’ll be just as careful. Now lemme try. Say – I’ll give you the core of my apple.”
“Well, here – No, Ben, now don’t. I’m afeard – ”
“I’ll give you all of it!”
Tom said to himself that it was not such a hollow world, after all.
Tom gave up the brush with reluctance in his face, but alacrity in his heart. And while the late steamer Big Missouri worked and sweated in the sun, the retired artist sat on a barrel in the shade close by, dangled his legs, munched his apple, and planned the slaughter of more innocents. There was no lack of material; boys happened along every little while; they came to jeer, but remained to whitewash. By the time Ben was fagged out, Tom had traded the next chance to Billy Fisher for a kite, in good repair; and when he played out, Johnny Miller bought in for a dead rat and a string to swing it with – and so on, and so on, hour after hour. And when the middle of the afternoon came, from being a poor poverty-stricken boy in the morning, Tom was literally rolling in wealth. He had besides the things before mentioned, twelve marbles,part of a jews-harp, a piece of blue bottle-glass to look through, a spool cannon, a key that wouldn’t unlock anything, a fragment of chalk, a glass stopper of a decanter, a tin soldier, a couple of tadpoles, six fire-crackers, a kitten with only one eye, a brass door-knob, a dog-collar – but no dog – the handle of a knife, four pieces of orange-peel, and a dilapidated old window sash.
He had had a nice, good, idle time all the while – plenty of company – and the fence had three coats of whitewash on it! If he hadn’t run out of whitewash he would have bankrupted every boy in the village.
Tom said to himself that it was not such a hollow world, after all. He had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it – namely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain. If he had been a great and wise philosopher, like the writer of this book, he would now have comprehended that Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do. And this would help him to understand why constructing artificial flowers or performing on a tread-mill is work, while rolling ten-pins or climbing Mont Blanc is only amusement. There are wealthy gentlemen in England who drive four-horse passenger-coaches twenty or thirty miles on a daily line, in the summer, because the privilege costs them considerable money; but if they were offered wages for the service, that would turn it into work and then they would resign.
The boy mused awhile over the substantial change which had taken place in his worldly circumstances, and then wended toward headquarters to report.
The moral of the story? “He had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it – namely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain.”What does whitewash the fence mean? ›
Britannica Dictionary definition of WHITEWASH. 1. [noncount] : a white liquid mixture used for making surfaces (such as walls or fences) whiter. 2. [count] disapproving : a planned effort to hide a dishonest, immoral, or illegal act or situation : cover-up — usually singular.What is the story of Tom Sawyer whitewashing the fence? ›
Tom appeared on the sidewalk with a bucket of whitewash and a long-handled brush. He surveyed the fence, and all gladness left him and a deep melancholy settled down upon his spirit. Thirty yards of board fence nine feet high. Life to him seemed hollow, and existence but a burden.Why was Tom punished and made to whitewash the fence? ›
Why was Tom punished and made to Whitewash the fence? Ans. Tom was punished because he struck a boy and rolling and tumbling in the mud. For his mistake, Aunt Polly asked him to whitewash the fance the following day.What is the overall message or lesson conveyed in the fence? ›
1 Answer. The moral lesson of the story The Fence by Jose Garcia Villa is the importance of forgetting the past and forgiving others. Forgiveness is a way to the reconciliation of differences.What life lessons did you learn from the lesson how Tom whitewashed the fence? ›
Brother/Sister your correct answer is:- The "Life Lessons" I learnt from the lesson 'How Tom Whitewashed the Fence' is that if Tom would have just listened and painted the fence, he would have been saved from having to deal with the consequences later.What does the fence symbolize in Tom Sawyer? ›
Depressed by the thought of spending his Saturday painting, he cleverly twists the scenario to his advantage and cons his friends into painting for him. The fence thus symbolizes his avoidance of responsibility as well as his sharp wit.Why did the boys want to whitewash the fence? ›
Answer: boys were so eager to paint the fence because Tom made them believe that it was a very enjoyable and special task.Which statement best expresses the main theme of whitewashing the fence? ›
Part A: Which statement best expresses the main theme of “Whitewashing the Fence”? Work can be enjoyable if one has the right attitude.What does the fence represent in the story? ›
The fence appears finished only in the final scene of the play, when Troy dies and the family reunites. The wholeness of the fence comes to mean the strength of the Maxson family and ironically the strength of the man who tore them apart, who also brings them together one more time, in death.
If Tom would have just listened and painted the fence, he would have been saved from having to deal with the consequences later. The moral lessons learned in this book are a guideline to children to listen to your elders, follow the rules, and also gives the life lesson of being a loyal friend.What does Tom Sawyer teach us? ›
Honesty truly is the best policy. Bring extra food when spelunking, or, adversity makes you stronger. Tom showed his true colors when he and Becky were lost in the cave. He is positive, brave, and supportive.Why did whitewashing seem painful to Tom? ›
Answer: Whitewashing seemed painful to Tom as he was entrusted to complete the task on a Saturday morning when all the other boys were busy enjoying themselves. He hated to work on weekends.How did Tom get out of his punishment? ›
How did Tom escape his punishment of washing the fence? He got the boys in the neighborhood to do it for him by telling them what fun whitewashing is and how not just everyone can do it.What punishment did she give to Tom? ›
She asked him to whitewash the fence. It was a punishment for him.What is the significance of the ending of fences? ›
Troy has died in between the action of the last two scenes of the play, so the final scene presents the lasting effects of Troy's life on his loved ones. Though Troy's relationships with Bono, Rose, and Cory were ruined and broken in life, they gather together in his honor.What is the conclusion of the story the fence? ›
Conclusion - Analyzing Fences. At the end of the play, Troy Maxson is dead and his family is gathering for his funeral at his house. We learn that Lyons, Troy's oldest son, is in jail and Cory has returned as a Colonel in the Marines.What lesson can we learn from the play fences? ›
"'Fences' is not only an African- American play, it's about everyone in general, letting them know that even though things are hard, they can get better if you keep pushing like Troy does, said Thorel, also a senior.How does Tom avoid whitewashing the fence? ›
Tom convinces Ben that whitewashing a fence is great pleasure, and after some bargaining, Ben agrees to give Tom his apple in exchange for the privilege of working on the fence.How did Tom Sawyer trick his friends into helping him whitewash the fence? ›
1. How does Tom trick his friends into helping him whitewash the fence? He offers them marbles. He promises to go swimming with them when the job is done.
Answer. AnSwEr: He got his friends to whitewash the fence by manipulating them and saying it was easy and fun to do. The kids wanted to do it so badly that they even gave him a lot of items.Why was Tom sad when he looked at the fence that he had to whitewash? ›
Answer: Tom was not interested in whitewashing the fence because all is friends were playing and quarrelling outside while heated a mistake and aunt Polly made him whitewashes the fence which didn't made in happy and made him sad.Did Tom let the other boys whitewash the fence? ›
Answer. Answer: No, Tom didn't let the other boys whitewash the fence.What might the fence come to stand for or symbolize in the play why might fences plural be a more apt title than the fence? ›
The title Fences is plural as it represents multiple divisions that breed conflict in both the characters' interpersonal relationships and their relationships with their surroundings. These "fences" or divisions include the divide between father and son as demonstrated throughout... See full answer below.What did Aunt Polly give Tom to whitewash the fence? ›
What did aunt Polly give Tom? Answer: Aunt Poly gave a bucket of whitewash and a brush to Tom. 8.What clever idea did Tom think to make his friends whitewash the fence while he earned from it? ›
He made his friends believe that whitewashing is an art which all can not do. This tactics worked and his friends requested him to give them a chance to try that art. In return they all gave something to show obligation. This way Tom managed to whitewash the fence in one day.Was Tom reluctant to let Ben do the whitewashing Why or why not? ›
Tom was not reluctant to let Ben do the whitewash, because it turned out to be an immense great job for Tom to assign Ben and make him do the whitewash. As Ben enjoyed his day teasing Tom, Tom played it smart by pretending that Fence whitewash is an art which made Ben do the work and Tom could enjoy and relax.What does it mean to whitewash a story? ›
Whitewashing is the act of glossing over or covering up vices, crimes or scandals or exonerating by means of a perfunctory investigation or biased presentation of data with the intention to improve one's reputation.What is the term whitewash associated with? ›
Whitewash is a term used in snooker when a player wins a match without losing a single frame. Only three whitewashes have been recorded in the final of snooker ranking tournaments; in the 1989 Grand Prix, the 2020 European Masters, and the 2022 German Masters.What does Tom learn about the difference between work and play? ›
According to Mark Twain, work is what the body is obliged to do and play is what the body is not obliged to do.
The major conflict in the play is between Troy and his son Cory—thus between two separate generations—regarding Cory's future. Troy also has an elder son, Lyons, to whom he cannot relate, scoffing at his choice to become a musician. Cory wishes to play football and attend college, although Troy wants him to work.What is the irony in the fences? ›
The prevailing irony in Fences is that it is the protagonist himself, Troy Maxson, and not society that provides the obstacles or "fences" in his life that keep him hemmed in and unfulfilled emotionally. The fence between Troy and his wife Rose is Troy's infidelity.What do the fences of the title represent why do you think so? ›
The fence now marks the boundaries of Troy's territory; he is still the king of the castle, and his son is no longer welcome within its walls. While the fence is now a literal barrier between the two, you can also see it as representing the emotional barrier that Troy places between them.What is the irony in Tom Sawyer? ›
Dramatic Irony in Tom Sawyer
Dramatic Irony occurs when the audience or reader knows important information that the characters do not. An example of dramatic irony is when Tom and his gang run away to live on the island as pirates. The townspeople of St. Petersburg assume the worst and mourn the boys' deaths.
Analysis—Chapters 33–Conclusion. In a way, the town rewards Tom for his disobedience. It hails him as a hero in relation to three actions that are marked by mischief—his return from Jackson's Island, his testimony against Injun Joe, and his return from the caverns.What problem does Tom Sawyer face in the story? ›
Major conflict Tom and Huck perceive their biggest struggle to be between themselves and Injun Joe, whose gold they want and whom they believe is out to kill them. Conflict also exists between Tom and his imaginative world and the expectations and rules of adult society.What is Tom's secret in Tom Sawyer? ›
THAT was Tom's great secret—the scheme to return home with his brother pirates and attend their own funerals.Why didn t Tom want to paint the fence? ›
Explanation: Tom was not interested in whitewashing the fence because all is friends were playing and quarrelling outside while heated a mistake and aunt Polly made him whitewashes the fence which didn't made in happy and made him sad.What does whitewashing mean in Tom Sawyer? ›
In "Whitewashing the Fence", Tom Sawyer is forced to whitewash his Aunt Polly's fence as a punishment, but he soon finds a way around his retribution by tricking the other boys in the neighborhood to finish his chore for him.What did Tom do after the fence was painted? ›
He tricked Jim and the other boys into doing his work for him, while he rested, along with all the things he had taken from them in exchange.
Summary—Chapter 18: Tom Reveals His Dream Secret
Telling her his dream, Tom relates everything he saw and overheard when he crossed the river and sneaked into the house a few nights earlier. Aunt Polly seems amazed by the power of Tom's vision and forgives him for not having visited her.
Aunt Polly loved the boy immensely and cared for him a lot. She knew when he was sad and what made him happy. They both challenged each other's wit.How did Atticus find out Tom died? ›
Atticus learns that Tom Robinson has been shot dead while trying to escape. He asks Calpurnia to accompany him to tell Helen, Tom's wife. Jem emphasises that it is wrong to kill creatures that do no harm.How did Aunt Polly decide to punish Tom? ›
When Tom returns home with his clothes dirty and torn, Aunt Polly decides that, as punishment, he will lose his freedom on Saturday and will have to whitewash the fence.Why was Tom often punished by Aunt Polly? ›
Tom was punished by Aunt Polly because he came late at night, playing and fighting with his freinds and with a terrible condition of his clothes. So, Aunt Polly decided to punish tom by giving the work on Saturday which is a holiday in the western countries and the punishment to Tom was to whitewash the fence.What is Tom's punishment for staying out late at the beginning of the novel? ›
At school, Tom is punished for being late and is required to sit in the "girls' section." This pleases him because the only empty seat is next to Becky Thatcher. At lunch, he meets her, and they pledge their troth to each other. At midnight, Huck arrives, and they go to the cemetery where they come upon Dr.What is the moral in Tom Paints the fence? ›
If Tom would have just listened and painted the fence, he would have been saved from having to deal with the consequences later. The moral lessons learned in this book are a guideline to children to listen to your elders, follow the rules, and also gives the life lesson of being a loyal friend.What is the meaning of the story fences? ›
“Fences” is a film about how our environment shapes us, and how, no matter how noble their intentions, our parents can't help but mess us up in some fashion, just as their parents had done for them. This is our legacy as humans.What does the fence symbolize in the fence? ›
The fence appears finished only in the final scene of the play, when Troy dies and the family reunites. The wholeness of the fence comes to mean the strength of the Maxson family and ironically the strength of the man who tore them apart, who also brings them together one more time, in death.What lesson does Tom Sawyer learn? ›
Honesty truly is the best policy. Bring extra food when spelunking, or, adversity makes you stronger. Tom showed his true colors when he and Becky were lost in the cave. He is positive, brave, and supportive.
Fences explores themes relating to the American Dream, family, gender roles, and responsibility and provides many opportunities for class discussion, including the duality of characters' actions—how their decisions and behavior are perceived and the consequences resulting from them.What is the irony in the Fences? ›
The prevailing irony in Fences is that it is the protagonist himself, Troy Maxson, and not society that provides the obstacles or "fences" in his life that keep him hemmed in and unfulfilled emotionally. The fence between Troy and his wife Rose is Troy's infidelity.What does Gabriel symbolize in Fences? ›
In August Wilson's play Fences, Gabriel symbolizes Troy's wounded psyche. Gabriel believes that he is an angel. He is Troy's younger brother, who was wounded in the Second World War.Why is it called Fences? ›
The origin of the word “fence” comes in the XIV Century with the word fens, a short term for defense, protection. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as “a structure serving as a barrier, boundary or enclosure, usually made of posts or stakes joined together by boards, wire, or rails.What does it mean to be on that side of the fence? ›
phrase. DEFINITIONS1. in a completely different situation or position from the one you are used to. He looked uncomfortable on the other side of the fence from his former colleagues.What happens to Troy at the end of the play? ›
Troy has died from a heart attack when he was swinging a bat at the baseball that hangs from a tree in their yard. Cory returns home from the Marines in his uniform. Lyons also comes home to go to the funeral.What is the conflict in the story the fence? ›
This conflict is between Troy and his best friend Bono. Bono and Troy met while Troy was in jail and was there during Troy's baseball days. Although Bono admired Troy's sense of responsibility and leadership Bono quickly began to change his feelings and became concerned with Troy's marriage.What is the climax of fence? ›
Climax: Troy and Cory's Fight
After Alberta dies in childbirth, Troy's wife Rose agrees to raise the child but declares that she's no longer Troy's woman. All this instability at home leads to an all-out fight between Troy and Cory. Troy wins the battle and kicks Cory out of the house for good.
The major conflict in the play is between Troy and his son Cory—thus between two separate generations—regarding Cory's future. Troy also has an elder son, Lyons, to whom he cannot relate, scoffing at his choice to become a musician. Cory wishes to play football and attend college, although Troy wants him to work.