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Mark Twain uses “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” to reveal his own childhood; thus, many specifics in the book, such as the characters and the setting are very dear to his heart. It is the story about life in a boy’s world, and it discloses the feelings of Mark Twain concerning his boyhood, his town, and the people there. The time period is about two decades before the Civil War, and the setting is in St. Petersburg, Missouri, a small village on the Mississippi River.
The main character in the book is Tom Sawyer, of course. Throughout the book, the author compares himself to Tom and his adventures. Tom is all boy, meaning that he is about as rambunctious and mischievous as a little boy can be. He despises anything that places restrictions on his boyhood freedom including school, church, and chores. Not only does he despise these restrictions, but he also will do anything to get out of them. For example, he skips school, and he cons friends into doing his chores for him. While he detests the restraints of life, he loves the liberating parts of life. He longs to take advantage of nature and all it has to offer. A quote from the book that exemplifies Tom Sawyer’s attitude toward life is when the author reveals his philosophy, “that work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and that play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.”
The other characters in the story revolve around Tom’s character. Tom lives with his Aunt Polly because of the death of his mother. She tries to keep Tom in line, but she struggles because she has such a soft spot in her heart for Tom. When she does discipline Tom, she feels terrible, and in a way, she punishes herself. Sidney is Tom’s half brother who seems to always be making Tom look bad. While Tom is the so-called bad boy who is always getting into trouble, Sidney is the good boy who always does what he is told. However, Tom is presented in a compassionate way, but Sidney is portrayed as a tattler and a deceiver. He is shown to be deceitful when he allows Tom to take the blame and punishment for the broken sugar bowl even though he is the one who broke it.
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"Boys Will be Boys in Tom Sawyer." 123HelpMe.com. 19 Nov 2019
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Huckleberry Finn is Tom’s partner in crime. Together, they go on adventures that eventually lead them into dangerous situations. Because of their experience at being sly and escaping from trouble, they are able to overcome the danger. They first find themselves in jeopardy when they decide to go to the cemetery one night. They become witness to a grave robbery being executed by three men, Dr. Robinson, Injun Joe, and Muff Potter. A quarrel takes place between the three men, and Muff Potter is knocked unconscious. In addition, Injun Joe murders Dr. Robinson. At first, Tom and Huck vow to keep the event a secret. They write up a pact that says, “Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer swears they will keep mum about this and they may drop down dead in their tracks if they ever tell and rot.” Once Tom hears that Injun Joe has accused Muff Potter of the murder, Tom realizes that he must testify against him. During the trial, Injun Joe escapes, and the two boys begin to fear for their lives.
They find themselves in danger once again, when they mistakenly discover the hideout of Injun Joe and his accomplice. Tom and Huck overhear the conversation of the two men and find out that they have a second hideout as well. Tom and Huck begin a mission of bringing these men to justice, and they become a crucial part in the demise of the two men. At one point in the story, Huck overhears Injun Joe’s plan to take revenge on Widow Douglas, and he saves her life.
Becky Thatcher takes the place of Amy Lawrence as the love of Tom’s life. Becky has moved to St. Petersburg with her parents, Judge and Mrs. Thatcher. Tom begins to show off in front of Becky to win her approval. At first, his efforts are not very successful, but he wins her over when he accepts the punishment for something she had done wrong. Becky becomes the heroine of the story through her excursion with Tom. The two of them become lost in McDougal’s cave, and they are not noticed to be missing until the next day. During their three days in the cave, Tom takes care of Becky and tries to shield her from danger. The main danger is starvation, but the other real danger is that Tom has spotted Injun Joe hiding out in the cave. After three days, Tom finds an opening and both children find their way back to town.
Two weeks later, Tom discovers that Judge Thatcher has had the cave sealed, and Tom immediately reveals that Injun Joe is in the cave. The authorities return to the cave, but it is too late. Injun Joe’s body is found just inside the door of the cave, and the body of his accomplice is found in the river. Tom’s adventuresome spirit brings justice to St. Petersburg. Not only does it allow him to reveal a murderer, but it also allows him to bring the murderer to his demise. Tom does not go without reward, either. Tom and Huck return to the cave and uncover twelve thousand dollars worth of treasure, and the treasure is invested for them.
As said before, this book is the story of a boys’ world. Everything that Tom or his friends do is done with great imagination. Mark Twain goes to great lengths to add small details to the story to paint a picture of a boys’ world. In the first few chapters, we learn what boys’ wealth is. To these boys, wealth includes a piece of chalk, orange peels, a knife handle, a doorknob, and even a dead rat on a string. Play is the most important thing in a boys’ world, and one must risk everything to pursue it. Some girls may relate to a story such as this, but most girls would not. The view of girls in this book is not demeaning whatsoever, but there are elements of the story that are placed much higher than girls. The only glimpse that the reader sees of girls is through the eyes of Tom. Through Tom’s eyes, girls are very pretty and gentle, but girls are also portrayed as temperamental. An example of this is when Becky tells Tom that she loves him. Tom proceeds to inform her that “you ain’t ever to love anybody but me, and you ain’t ever to marry anybody but me, never never and for ever.” Tom then enlightens Becky by letting her know that meant they were engaged. While trying to explain what engaged means, Tom unintentionally lets it slip that he was engaged to Amy Lawrence as well. Becky erupts in tears and refuses to speak to Tom. Tom finally loses patience and leaves. When Becky realizes that Tom is not paying her attention, she looks for him but finds that he has left.
There is so much humor throughout the story, as well. The plight of love between two small children has already been mentioned, and it is a very humorous part of the story. Another humorous feature is how the so-called bad boys become the center of attention when everyone in town thinks that they have drowned. Tom, Huck, and Joe Harper run away because they have been unjustly punished. Not having a care in the world, they do not realize that when they are found to be missing, they cause such uproar. Joe feels guilty instantly and wants to alert everyone that they are okay; however, Tom and Huck want to play the game a little longer, and so they talk Joe out of it. After a little time, Tom also feels the need to alert everyone of their safety and decides to sneak home and leave a note. When he overhears his aunt discussing their funeral service, he devises a scheme. The boys make their grand entrance by walking into the middle of their own funeral.
There are many features of this novel to explore. The few that have been referred to do not even scratch the surface. Mark Twain was an extremely talented author that used humor, satire, and real life situations to make his stories stand out. He did just that because his novels have been the topic of many controversial debates. Although people continue to try to ban novels such as “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”, they are merely elevating their popularity and their timeless appeal. That is just the type of irony that Mr. Twain would enjoy.