The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain is an 1876 novel about a young boy growing up along the Mississippi River. It is set in the 1840s in the fictional town of St. Petersburg, inspired by Hannibal, Missouri, where Twain lived as a boy. In the novel Tom has several adventures, often with his friend, Huck. One such adventure, Tom’s whitewashing of a fence, has been adapted into paintings and referenced in other pieces of popular culture. Originally a commercial failure the book ended up being the best-selling of any of Twain’s works during his lifetime.
In the story, Tom is in trouble with his Aunt Polly. As a punishment, she demands that he spend his Saturday painting the fence. But Tom, being the resourceful kid that he is, enlists the help of his friends by convincing them that it’s not work, it’s fun! The actual story from the book is included here after the end of the play.
In this script, actual lines from the story are spoken by the Mark Twain character.
Excerpt from the play:
CHARACTERS (IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE):
Mark Twain (Narrator)
TOM SAWYER enters with wet hair and perhaps wet clothes. He has skipped school to play hooky and go swimming. The rest of the cast, minus MARK TWAIN and AUNT POLLY, are walking in the same direction with school books and backpacks. AUNT POLLY enters, furious.
Tom! Tom Sawyer! Git over here this instant!
What’s the matter? I’m just getting back from school, Aunt Polly!
I may be old, but I ain’t blind. Your hair’s sopping wet! You went swimmin’ instead of going to classes like a good boy, didn’t you?
TOM SAWYER ( obviously lying )
Uh.. No ma’am.
I don’t buy that for one minute. As punishment for skipping school, yer going to have to paint that old picket fence tomorrow morning.
On a Saturday?! But…
No buts! You’re going to paint that fence, whether you like it or not.
AUNT POLLY storms off, followed soon after by TOM SAWYER, who looks defeated. Lights down, except for a small light on MARK TWAIN.
Saturday morning was come, and all the summer was bright and fresh, and brimming with life.
TOM SAWYER enters, glum. He is carrying a bucket of white paint and two big brushes. He sighs and looks around. Finally paints a small swatch or two, very slowly, before sitting down on a bench or a stump, discouraged.
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.
JIM enters with a bucket, headed to fetch water.
Say, Jim, I’ll fetch the water if you wanna whitewash some.
Can’t, Tom. Aunt Polly told me to go fetch some water. She said Tom was gonna ask me to whitewash, and that I should just ignore you when you did.
Never mind what she said. That’s the way she always talks. Gimme the bucket. I won’t be gone only a minute. She won’t ever know.
She’ll thump me one if she finds out, Tom! You know that!
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!
TOM SAWYER holds up a cool marble. JIM is beginning to waver.