Biblical Allusions

A Pale Horse

In chapter 12, Tom is depressed because Becky isn’t at school and Aunt Polly, being an enthusiastic medicinal “experimenter,” seizes the opportunity to apply her knowledge to Tom’s case. Tom, however, is not impressed, saying, “She [Aunt Polly] gathered together her quack periodicals and her quack medicines, and thus armed with death, went about on […]

Slaughter of the Innocents

In chapter two, Tom manipulates Ben Rogers into whitewashing Aunt Polly’s fence for him. Twain comments that while Ben “worked and sweated in the sun, the retired artist [Tom] sat on a barrel in the shade close by, dangled his legs, munched his apple, and planned the slaughter of more innocents.” MATTHEW 2:1-18 gives an […]


In chapter one, Aunt Polly reflects, “…man that is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble, as the Scripture says, and I reckon it’s so.” She’s obviously familiar with the oldest book in the Bible. Job observes, “Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble” […]

Spare the Rod

In chapter one, Aunt Polly, speaking of Tom, declares “He’s full of the Old Scratch…” Old Scratch was a folk name used for Satan, mostly in the southern part of the United States before the 20th century. In chapter 33, Tom mentions “these new-fangled things they call lucifer matches,” also a reference to Satan. ISAIAH […]