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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain

Posted by admin on November 21, 2010

Frontispiece of 1st edition


The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain is a popular 1876 novel about a young boy growing up in a small town along the Mississippi River. The story is set in the town of “St Petersburg”, inspired by Hannibal, Missouri, where Mark Twain grew up. In the story’s introduction, Twain notes:

Most of the adventures recorded in this book really occurred; one or two were experiences of my own, the rest those of boys who were schoolmates of mine. Huck Finn is drawn from life; Tom Sawyer also, but not from an individual—he is a combination of the characteristics of three boys whom I knew, and therefore belongs to the composite order of architecture.[2]


The imaginative and mischievous twelve-year-old boy Thomas Sawyer lives with his Aunt Polly, his half-brother, Sid, also known as Sidney, and cousin Mary, in the Mississippi River town of St. Petersburg, Missouri. After playing hooky in school on Friday and getting his clothes dirty in a fight, Tom was made to whitewash the fence as punishment on Saturday. At first, Tom is disappointed by the loss of his day off. However, he soon cleverly persuades other children in the neighborhood to do the job for him. Later he barters some of his treasures for tickets given out in Sunday school for memorizing Bible verses, and uses the tickets to claim a Bible as a prize. He loses much of his glory, however, when, in response to a question to show off his knowledge, he incorrectly answers that the first two Disciples were David and Goliath.

Tom falls in love with Rebecca “Becky” Thatcher, a new girl in town, and persuades her to get “engaged” to him. Shortly after, Tom accompanies Huckleberry Finn, the son of the town drunk, to the graveyard at night to try out a “cure” for warts. At the graveyard, they witness the murder of young Dr. Robinson by a part-Native American “half-breed,” Injun Joe. Scared, Tom and Huck run away and swear a blood promise not to tell anyone what they have seen. Injun Joe blames his companion, Muff Potter, a hapless drunk, for the crime. Potter is wrongfully arrested, and Tom’s anxiety and guilt begin to grow.

Tom, Huck and their friend Joe Harper run away to an island on the Mississippi, in order to “become pirates.” While frolicking around and enjoying their new-found freedom, the boys become aware that the community is sounding the river for their bodies. Tom sneaks back home one night to observe the commotion. After a brief moment of remorse at the suffering of his loved ones, Tom is struck by the idea of appearing at his funeral and surprising everyone. He persuades Joe and Huck to do the same. Their return is met with great rejoicing, and they become the envy and admiration of all their friends.

Back in school, Tom gets himself back in Becky’s favor after he nobly accepts the blame for a book that she has torn. Soon Muff Potter’s trial begins, and Tom, overcome by guilt, testifies against Injun Joe. Potter is acquitted, but Injun Joe flees the courtroom through a window. Tom and Huck witness him, disguised as a deaf and dumb Spaniard, finding a box of gold with his partner. Huck begins to shadow Injun Joe every night, watching for an opportunity to nab the gold. Meanwhile, Tom goes on a picnic to McDougal’s Cave with Becky and their classmates; the two get separated from the others and soon become lost in the cave, but eventually find a way out. That same night, Huck sees Injun Joe and his partner making off with a box. He follows and overhears their plans to attack the Widow Douglas, a kind resident of St. Petersburg. By running to fetch help, Huck forestalls the violence and becomes an anonymous hero.

A week later, Tom takes Huck to the cave via the new entrance Tom has found and they unearth the box of gold, the proceeds of which are invested for them. Injun Joe is found just inside the main entrance, having died of starvation while trying to break through its door. The Widow Douglas adopts Huck, and, when Huck attempts to escape civilized life, Tom promises him that if he returns to the widow, he can join Tom’s robber band. Reluctantly, Huck agrees.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.



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