Book Talk Tuesday: Six Life Lessons Learned from Tom Sawyer

Today I want to share about a book I have read and reread with my elementary kids: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. I love this book, so I delight to revisit it with my children!

While I realize some of it is a bit above my kids' understanding at a young age, in general, I've been super impressed with how much they tend to enjoy it, and how much of the story he "gets." It's not just accessible to all ages (the language takes getting used to, but it's still accessible), but it is also full of miniature life-lessons that I have increasingly been pondering.

Here are just six of the lessons learned from Tom Sawyer this time around.

  1. Chores can be fun if you decide they are. The most memorable scene in the book (and probably the most often read, since it comes at the beginning) is the fence whitewashing scene. I love how Tom tricks his friends in to doing his chore for him! And yet, if Tom himself had decided that painting the fence was a challenge to be overcome himself, or if he had decided to adopt the attitude he'd impressed on his friends (that it was a rare opportunity), he too could have enjoyed whitewashing the fence just as much as the other boys did. Of course, Tom enjoyed his chance to earn treasures from the others, and he certainly ended up having a fun day. But all the same, the chore before him (and us) can be fun if we decide to make it so.
  2. There is no shortcut to knowledge. Tom Sawyer won the Bible with all of his acquired Sunday School scripture tickets. But when it came down to it, he did not know what it was. Winning the Bible was a show, but he had not learned. We can cheat our way (as Tom did), but the ultimate reward will be lost on us if we do so. There is no shortcut.
  3. It's good to have old-fashioned imaginative fun. I was delighted by how free Tom's life was. To school and back home again, Tom was without supervision and a schedule of regular events. Sometimes, Tom skipped school and played Robin Hood with his friend. Other times, he stayed at school and enjoyed some quiet time with his friend, Becky Thatcher. His aunt did not hover or overly supervise his play, and Tom did not have a list of after school activities to attend to. Our imaginations can grow when we give them time to do so.
  4. Think of your words and actions as if they were your last. Tom Sawyer really does not think: he pretends he's dead so he can attend his own funeral. Meanwhile, his friends and family mourn him and regret. What pain he must have caused! (If he were a real person, that is.) But his pretend death reminded all the people he associated with that the little things really don't matter so much. All those crazy things he did? People wished they had not been so hard on him. They wished they had not "whipped him" or rejected him (Becky wished she still had that knob!). We should remember those things before our loved ones are gone. How am I treating my kids? Would I still treat them that way if today were their last?
  5. Telling the truth feels good. The entire Injun Joe murder situation is a bit heavy for my son. But, he gets it. And the fact that Tom felt so horrible for so long only teaches us that telling the truth will help take away that horrible burden. Honesty truly is the best policy.
  6. 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. While he is still afraid, as is Becky, he manages to keep his wits about him instead of panicking. Being in such a difficult situation showed him how he could be. When I go through difficult times, I too am often surprised in the end that I made it through: I'm tougher than I imagine.

What life lessons learned from Tom Sawyer can you name?

What classic book are you excited to share with your little ones?

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