Tom Sawyer Themes, Symbols, and Motifs

This Storyboard That activity is part of the lesson plans for The Adventures of Tom Sawyer


The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Themes, Motifs, and Symbols

Example



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Activity Overview


Themes, symbols, and motifs come alive when you use a storyboard. In this activity, students will identify themes and symbols from the novel, and support their choices with details from the text.


The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Themes

Social Hypocrisy

The book depicts a tug of war between the yearnings of Tom’s boyish heart and the dictates of civilized society. Twain associates civilization with folly and hypocrisy. The authority figures in the novel continually try to force Tom and his mates into their narrow vision of propriety. Many of society’s shows of “civilization” - Sunday School recitations, the school Examination, the funeral - are undercut by their ironic outcomes. The schoolmaster's drunkenness, for example, is "unmasked" during the Examinations, exposing his strict, upstanding persona as fraud.


Freedom vs. Responsibility

Tom spends much of his time trying to escape adult responsibilities. By playing hooky, avoiding chores, and running away to Jackson’s Island, he finds the carefree happiness that his boyish heart craves. While he shirks many of society’s demands, however, he does take responsibility for telling the truth in Potter’s trial and for saving Becky from the cave.



The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Motifs & Symbols

The Whitewashed Fence

Perhaps the most famous symbol in the novel, the whitewashed fence is a reflection of Tom's character. 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.


The Treasure

Injun Joe’s treasure is a symbol of excitement, danger, and adventure. The treasure is the real-life embodiment of Tom’s imaginings. He and his friends enjoy playing pirates, robbers, and other dramatic scenarios, which seem childish and unrealistic. In the end, however, the $12,000 treasure is proof that Tom’s games have a basis in reality and that even real life can be an adventure.


Tom’s Sycamore-bark Letter

The sycamore-bark letter Tom writes to Aunt Polly during his absence on Jackson’s Island reveals Tom’s good heart and his love for his family. His clear efforts to write the letter and sneak away from the island to deliver it prove that, underneath it all, Tom truly loves his aunt. Although he does not end up leaving the letter for her to read, its sentiments seem all the more genuine when she finds it in his pocket later.



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Template and Class Instructions

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Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Illustrate instances of each theme and write a short description below each cell.


  1. Click "Start Assignment".
  2. Identify the theme(s) from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer you wish to include and replace the "Theme 1" text.
  3. Create an image for examples that represents this theme.
  4. Write a description of each of the examples.

Template: Theme

Template


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