Fights, Games, and Debates

Fights, Games, and Debates

Fights, Games, and Debates

Fights, Games, and Debates

Excerpt

TOM SAWYER, having just discovered a new way to whistle, strolls down the street on a sunlit June evening at peace with himself and the world. Suddenly a stranger stands before him. Recognition is instantaneous: here is a city dandy.

Tom is only thirteen, but already his world is divided into rigid categories. His week, for example, consists of five days of school (part-time prison); glorious Saturday, when he can do or pretend to do all the things he considers worth while doing; and Sunday, another day of compulsion, on which he must act out the role of Protestant respectability.

The stranger before him wears Sunday clothes on a week day, and these clothes are newer and handsomer than Tom's "other clothes." Therefore, for this stranger Sunday must be not simply a concession to the powers which demand a tribute (parents and God), but a way of life. The stranger acts out respectability not because it is demanded but because he is respectable; he has identified himself with the enemy; he is the enemy, an affront to Tom's self-respect. Tom, therefore, instantly hates the stranger.

The stranger's psyche is not revealed, because the unity of the narrative demands that the world be pictured through Tom's eyes; but we can imagine a similar "semantic reaction" in the other boy, based on quite another set of identifications, convictions, and stereotypes.

It took many words to say this, but the mutual identifica-

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