The next day, Tom finds himself with the unpleasant job of whitewashing Aunt Polly's fence. Discouraged, he sees Jim leaving tofetch water at the town pump and offers to trade jobs. Jim tells him he can't, because Aunt Polly has already said not to switch chores withTom. Tom offers to show Jim his sore toe if he trades, and Jim considers it, but Aunt Polly comes out of the house and chases him off , sendingTom back to work.
Unhappy, Tom keeps working until Ben Rogers comes along. Tom pretends to enjoy his hard work, saying, "'Does a boy get achance to whitewash a fence every day?'" Chapter 2, pg. 12 Because Tom is pretending whitewashing is a fun thing to do, Ben suddenly want todo it as well. After some negotiation, Tom allows Ben to whitewash part of the fence for him. The rest of the day, he lets various boyswhitewash in exchange for valuables: a kite, a dead rat, a key, a tin soldier, and other things. The whole time, Tom sits back and does nothing."He had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it--namely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is onlynecessary to make the thing difficult to attain." Chapter 2, pg. 13
Tom discovers that work and play are just states of mind--people do thingsfor fun if they believe it's a privilege and not an obligation. With that lesson learned, he goes inside to tell Aunt Polly that he is done.