Tom Sawyer lives with his Aunt Polly and his half-brother Sid. Tom dirties his clothes in a fight and is made to whitewash the fence the next day as punishment. He cleverly persuades his friends to trade him small treasures for the privilege of doing his work. He then trades the treasures for Sunday School tickets which one normally receives for memorizing verses, redeeming them for a Bible, much to the surprise and bewilderment of the superintendent who thought "it was simply preposterous that this boy had warehoused two thousand sheaves of Scriptural wisdom on his premises—a dozen would strain his capacity, without a doubt."
Tom falls in love with Becky Thatcher, a new girl in town, and persuades her to get "engaged" by kissing him. But their romance collapses when she learns Tom has been "engaged" previously to Amy Lawrence. Shortly after Becky shuns him, he accompanies Huckleberry Finn to the graveyard at night, where they witness a trio of graverobbers, Dr. Robinson, Muff Potter and the halfbreed Injun Joe, getting into a fight. While Potter is knocked unconscious during the scuffle, Injun Joe knifes the doctor to death and later pins the blame on Potter, who is arrested and charged with murder.