Poodles Don’t Lie, People Do

By Ysabel C., 9th Grade

January 2019

In Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain pokes fun at the human flaw of pretending to be someone else by using exaggeration and absurdity. One place in which people tend to hide their true feelings is in church. Everyone, including the animals, don’t want to be sitting in church and listening to the sermon: “Presently a vagrant poodle dog came idling along, sad at heart, lazy with the summer softness and the quiet, weary of captivity, sighing for change” (Twain 38). Twain uses exaggeration when he describes how the dog feels as if it is a hostage in the church and uses personification when he gives the dog human emotions. While the poodle is honest about how he feels, the people all try to suppress their feelings towards the sermon. With the minister speaking monotonously, many of the people start to fall asleep in the heat, but the dog and Tom’s beetle provide them with a form of entertainment to help them pull through the speech. When the dog is first bitten by the bug on the nose, the “neighboring spectators shook with a gentle inward joy” (38). By hiding behind their fans and handkerchiefs when trying to not laugh, the people in the church show how they are pretending to be ‘good’ Christians and paying attention to the sermon. However, the dog is bit again and flies up and down the aisle, and “at last the frantic sufferer sheered from its course, and sprang into its master’s lap; he flung it out of the window, and the voice of distress quickly thinned away and died in the distance” (39). Twain uses exaggeration when he compares the dog to a comet traveling at the speed of light and the owner flinging the dog out like a bag of rocks. The unexpected ending of the poodle being thrown out the window shatters the people’s ability to pretend. The churchgoers are now “red-faced and suffocating with suppressed laughter,” which demonstrates how it only takes a bug and a dog to distract the people from the service. This scene along with many other scenes in the novel illustrates how people act a certain way to gain the reputation they want even if it doesn’t match their real personality.