Introduction to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was written by Mark Twain, the literary master from the United States. The book has never lost its freshness, and its forcefulness despite being written in the last century. It was first published in 1876. Set in St. Petersburg in the year 1840, this novel explores St. Petersburg and the Mississippi river where Tom Sawyer lived as a teenager. The novel comprises different incidents, events, and adventures from the life of Tom, who happens to be the friend of Huckleberry Finn, his cousin, who has a separate adventure of his own adventures. The novel has been adopted for various plays, movies, and animations, yet it has not lost its popularity. The novel also remains unique as it was written on the typewriter by the author before getting the book as a print copy.
Summary of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
The story of the novel presents the protagonist, an orphan and a mischievous boy called Tom Sawyer, living with his half-brother Sid and Aunt Polly in St. Petersburg in the state of Missouri. The time frame of the story is the first half of the nineteenth century. When Tom plays hooky from school on a Friday and dirties his clothes, Aunt Polly is making Tom whitewash the hence on Saturday as punishment. Disappointed at forfeiting his day off, Tom persuades the neighboring children to form his treasure of trinkets to get his work done. He purchases tickets for trinkets for the local school to memorizing verses from the Scripture. Later, he uses this trick to hoodwink the priest to win the Bible, winning envy as well as jealousy of the fellow students and others alike. He, however, gives a wrong answer in response to a question just to show off his knowledge and ends up saying that David and Goliath were the first two disciples.
It happens that a new girl, Becky Thatcher, the daughter of a judge, comes to the town, and Tom seeing her beauty, falls in love with her. He asks her to get engaged to him and traps the girl in his love but faces consternation when she discovers, Amy Lawrence, another schoolgirl, was already for engagement by Tom. Leaving her, Tom takes Huckleberry Finn, son of the town drunk with him to the graveyard for the removal of warts. However, they confront Muff Potter, Injun Joe, and their friend, Dr. Robinson, when they enter the graveyard and finds Dr. Robinson murdered by Injun Joe during a fight. Fearing their life, both of them vow not to disclose this murder. However, Tom’s guilt and anxiety begin to grow when Muff goes to jail and Injun Joe is free to enjoy his life.
Meanwhile, facing boredom at school, Tom takes Joe Harper and Huckleberry Finn with him and flees to the Mississippi river to live as pirates. Soon they learn that the townspeople are looking for them, assuming their death by drowning in the river. When Tom sneaks out one night to see the reaction of his family, he decides to appear at his funeral to surprise. When their funeral is ready in the church, they appear and win the respect of the people, while Tom turns to Becky to see her reaction. Meanwhile, Muff Potter’s trial begins and Tom testifies against Injun Joe, believing he is innocent. However, Joe flees from the scene, leaving the boys to guess about his whereabouts, causing them constant fear.
On their side, he takes Huck into confidence about the treasure they believe is in the haunted house. When they enter the house, they see Injun Joe there with his friend planning to hide some treasure. It happens that they discover another treasure buried in the house. When they discover Tom and Huck’s tools, they become suspicious of someone else sharing their hiding place and leave the house, taking all the riches with them. Tom and Huck, too, resolve to get the treasure at all costs and follow the duo. They eavesdrop on them and come to know their next robbery of Widow Douglas that they disclose at the request of their staying anonymous.
After this, when Tom goes for a picnic with Becky and their classmates to the McDougal’s Cave, he takes Becky with him to enjoy the cave and its seclusion but both of them lose their way. Thirsty and tired, they face Injun Joe, though, they hoodwink him and find the way out. Tom finds that Judge Thatcher has got the cave’s mouth sealed, while Tom also fears that Injun would die inside but he gets too late, for he has already died of hunger and thirst. The spot of his death becomes an attraction of the visitors soon. After a week, Tom asks Huck to visit the cave to find the gold that they get but Huck does not stay with Douglas, the widow, finding her too harsh, though, Tom tricks him to go with the widow so that he could join his group of brigands, later.
Major Themes in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
- Authority: The establishment of authority is one of the dominant themes of the novel. Tom and Huck both see how to establish authority through power, guidance, and Biblical scriptures. They also come to know how to challenge this authority as they see that the Bible and folktales are the main sources of legitimacy. During their adventures, they come to know that people largely establish authority through legitimacy based on age and morality such as the widow or Aunt Polly, and based on good work such as of Robin Hood, or law such as of the judge, and the public approval such as of Tom’s father. In the case of Aunt Polly, it becomes apparent to the boys that she is also wielding the biblical authority, lending further credence to her legitimacy. Therefore, this ethical framework based on religion, social norms, and goodness of heart drives the boys toward finding a source or code to base their authority upon. Therefore, by the end, they come to know the importance of society and think about forming their own pack of brigands.
- Social Pressures: Both Huck and Tom, come to know about society and its pressure when they try to assert their freedom while facing social norms and traditions. Although their sense of morality comes to the front when they see the murder in the graveyard, yet it curbs their freedom to expose it and the same goes for Tom’s painting of the fence or memorizing of the Bible. It shows that the sense of wrongness is embedded in their mind, that society works differently when it comes to truth and punishment for the evildoers. As soon as they think that they have come of age, they also start behaving like adults facing social pressure and doing things when their individuality faces a challenge. Yet, when they find it easy, they outrightly violate the same rules that bind them through pressure.
- Adulthood: Although Tom and Huck do not grow up when the novel ends, they mature mentally. They also learn a lot about being an adult, the powers that come with adulthood, and the responsibilities with it. Also, when it comes to Tom, he is facing a firm adult under whose guidance he learns the sense of right and wrong, while Huck is a free spirit, having almost achieved his adulthood. The adulthood of Tom has almost started with his games like smoking, playing pretend, and treasure hunting. Also, when they see a murder and refrain from its disclosure due to consequences, they think they have become almost adult, and then by the end, Tom is again with his aunt and Huck with Douglas, the widow, to learn to become responsible adults.
- Romanticism: The novel presents the theme of romanticism through the character of Tom in that he is constantly associated with tales, stories, and adventures. His attachment to brigands or pirates, his association with Robin Hood, his hunt for treasure and further hunt for more treasures expose him to risks and threats such as of Injun Joe, yet he continues thrilling his readers until the end when he joins hands with Huck to form a pack of pirates. Even his love is full of romanticism that he pretends to have memorized the Scriptures just to impress the judge and shows his true love to his daughter, Becky.
- Individuality and Independence: As an orphan, Tom lives with his aunt shows the theme of a family, individuality as well as the dependence of an individual on the family. Aunt Polly is the guardian of Tom and his brother, the reason that they have learned to be civilized and cultured. However, Huck, on the other hand, lives with Widow Douglas, desires to live a crude life that Tom also desires to be free at first, despite loving a family-oriented girl, Becky Thatcher, the daughter of the town judge. Tom comes to know about his dependence on his aunt during his schooling and theological education and more so when it comes to love the girls.
- Morality: During this childhood, Tom is mostly shown involved in silly games and fantasies. However, with the passage of time he understands the world around him, develops his wisdom to understand the morality and moral consequences of his actions. When he, along with Huck, sees the murder, his moral self does not stab his conscience for not exposing it, and the same forces him to testify at the trial of Injun Joe, later. Despite his being most of his life away from the social setup, he learns that a society has a moral framework in which he is to live like a civilized person, the reason that he returns to Aunt Polly.
- Society’s Hypocrisy: The novel shows the hypocritical behavior of different individuals during the course of the novel. Although Tom’s ward is only Aunt Polly, his adventures also invite social concern about his safety but not more than this. His childhood games, Robin Hood case, and his obsession with sticking to the superstitious norms also show that society not only keeps itself aloof from the upbringing of such leftover children but also it keeps itself abreast to talk about these issues except that some characters, like the Widow Douglas, tries to do something about them. She fosters Huck by the end of the novel.
- Joys of Childhood: The theme of the joys and thrill of childhood in the novel is significant in that Tom is engaged in enjoying his boyhood having free of responsibilities and cares of adulthood. His adventures of treasure hunt and enjoyment of the Mississippi River show that Tom loves romanticism. Even the final adventure of Tom with Huck about forming a pack of pirates points to the joys of childhood.
- Superstition: The novel also shows the theme of superstition that aligns with the thematic strand of religion. For example, Tom interprets the howling of a dog as an imminent threat to their lives and sees that it howls at Muff Potter who dies when fighting with Injun Joe.
Major Characters The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
- Tom Sawyer: The young and mischievous protagonist of the novel, Tom loves freedom, adventure, and show-off so much so that he starts playing hooky and forming packs of brigands to enjoy the teenage years like his cousin, Huck. Despite this adventurous lifestyle, he makes some very sensible decisions in his life in that he earns the respect of his readers such as testimony on the trial of Muff and heroic behavior during their ordeal of finding a way out from the cave. He also saves Becky, his beloved, from punishment, for whom he played a game of memorizing the Bible and winning the admiration of the townspeople. However, despite these heroics, his growth and development as demonstrated in the novel are not coherent. Several of his actions such as acceptance of ripping off the book of Becky, tussle with Injun, and discovery of treasure lead the readers to think about the contradictions in his behavior. These paradoxes also point to his common but likable figure in the novel, who despite his adventurous lifestyle, still yearns to join hands with Huck.
- Huckleberry Finn: Although Huck is as likable as Tom, his broken familial background and abusive father almost make him a pariah in the town. That is why he often leaves the widow, seeing tough civilized life against his nature. This is also because of his upbringing without any parental guided setup. Despite having the comradeship of Tom, a relatively civilized cousin, Huck poses a threat to the cultured atmosphere of the town on account of his vagabond lifestyle. His smocking and escape from Douglas also make him famous among the adventurous boys more than Tom, the reason that finally Tom joins hands with him to form a brigade of pirates.
- Injun Joe: The main antagonist in the novel, Injun Joe, demonstrates malevolence on account of the mistreatment that he bore during his childhood. His revengeful nature, thus, shows the scars of the childhood torture, which despite inviting some sympathy, does not make readers forgive him for his behavior, while he, too, does not care about it. Therefore, he does not undergo any change to edify himself.
- Aunt Polly: This old lady becomes the guardian of Tom when he needs some parental person to guide him through his teenage years. A kind-hearted person, she is a popular person in St. Petersburg. She takes care of her nephew and disciplines him despite his wayward nature. She not only loves Tom but also feels frustrated when he makes life miserable for her for not attending school and playing hooky. Despite causing troubles, she persists in her efforts of making life good for him.
- Sid Sawyer: Half brother of Tom, Sid Sawyer is younger than him but sets an example for him to follow by behaving sensibly when living with her relations, Aunt Polly. Despite having no adventurous penchant, he does not attract readers’ sympathy or love as a flat character. Although Tom occasionally mistreats him such as in mud throwing incident, he never becomes revengeful and stays cool and calm.
- Mary: A good and kind-hearted young lady, Mary also lives with Aunt Polly. She comes into contact with Tom as his cousin having very good character traits. A virtuous lady, she proves quite opposite to Tom in behavior and manner, showing him the way to improve his life and character.
- Becky Thatcher: Although she is the beloved of Tom and he succeeds in seducing her, the uphill task for Tom is to trap her father, who happens to be the judge of the town. Becky, however, supports him even, though, he plays a game with her. She has the guts to improve Tom behaviorally, but she herself depends on her mother in this connection.
- Muff Potter: Muff Potter is significant and he is a harmless person, yet Injun frames him for the murder of Dr. Robinson. Therefore, he is being prosecuted in the town in a way that nobody believes in his innocence.
- Widow Douglas: Widow Douglas tries to keep Huck with her to make him civilized as Aunt Polly is doing with Tom. She stands parallel to Aunt Polly but is not as effective as aunt on account of her being very kind and deeply religious.
- Dr. Robinson: The significance of Dr. Robinson lies in his crime and then consequential death in which Injun Joe frames their third colleague, Muff Potter.
Writing Style of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
The novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, shows the flexible writing style of Mark Twain. The diction is quite easy and suitable for every occasion, incident, and conversation. Even some of the dialogues are very impressive as they suit the character and the situation in which the character speaks them. For rhetorical strategies, Mark Twain mostly relied upon pathos and logos, while in figurative language, he relied heavily on the use of metaphors, simile, and irony.
Analysis of the Literary Devices in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
- Action: The main action of the novel comprises the adventures of Tom Sawyer, a young orphan lad until he joins hands with his cousin, Huck. The falling action occurs when Huck gets assistance from a Welshman and makes Injun Joe run away from the house of the Widow Douglas. The rising action occurs when Joe disappears, and Tom and his friend run away toward Jackson’s Island.
- Anaphora: The novel shows examples of anaphora as given in the below examples,
i. Now it’s all done, Becky. And always after this, you know, you ain’t ever to love anybody but me, and you ain’t ever to marry anybody but me, ever never and forever. Will you? (Chapter-7)
ii. ‘Doodle-bug, doodle-bug, tell me what I want to know! Doodle-bug, doodle-bug, tell me what I want to know!’ (Chapter-8)
These examples show the repetitious use of “you ain’t ever” and “doodle-bug.”
- Allusion: The novel shows good use of different allusions as given in the below examples,
i. Then Huckleberry and Tom stood dumb and staring, and heard the stony-hearted liar reel off his serene statement, they expecting every moment that the clear sky would deliver God’s lightnings upon his head, and wondering to see how long the stroke was delayed. (Chapter-11)
ii. Three miles below St. Petersburg, at a point where the Mississippi River was a trifle over a mile wide, there was a long, narrow, wooded island, with a shallow bar at the head of it, and this offered well as a rendezvous. (Chapter-12)
iii. There was no Sabbath-school during day-school vacation, but everybody was early at church. The stirring event was well canvassed. (Chapter-30)
The first example shows the reference to God, the second to the city and the river, and the third to religion.
- Antagonist: Injun Joe is the antagonist of the novel as he kills the doctor and then appears to try his best to obstruct and blackmail Tom and his friends when hunting the treasure.
- Conflict: The novel shows both external and internal conflicts. The external conflict is going on between Injun Joe and Tom as well as Tom and Aunt Polly. However, the internal conflict is in Tom’s mind, about his actions and their moral justification to tell the truth.
- Characters: The novel shows both static as well as dynamic characters. The young boy, Tom Sawyer, is a dynamic character as he shows a considerable transformation in his behavior and conduct by the end of the novel. However, all other characters are static as they do not show or witness any transformation such as Huck, Widow Douglas, Aunt Polly, Injun Joe, and even Becky.
- Climax: The climax in the novel arrives when Huck hears Joe planning to kill Douglas, the widow.
- Foreshadowing: The novel shows many instances of foreshadows as given in the examples below,
i. She did not finish, for by this time she was bending down and punching under the bed with the broom, and so she needed breath to punctuate the punches with. She resurrected nothing but the cat. (Chapter-1)
ii. Her spectacles were propped up on her gray head for safety. She had thought that of course, Tom had deserted long ago, and she wondered at seeing him place himself in her power again in this intrepid way. (Chapter-3)
The mention of Aunt Polly running after Tom shows the best use of these foreshadows. It becomes clear how he is going to behave in the future.
- Hyperbole: The novel shows various examples of hyperboles as given below,
i. Clods were handy and the air was full of them in a twinkling. They raged around Sid like a hail-storm; and before Aunt Polly could collect her surprised faculties and sally to the rescue, six or seven clods had taken personal effect, and Tom was over the fence and gone. (Chapter-3)
ii. A log raft in the river invited him, and he seated himself on its outer edge and contemplated the dreary vastness of the stream, wishing, the while, that he could only be drowned, all at once and unconsciously, without undergoing the uncomfortable routine devised by nature. (Chapter-3)
Both of these examples exaggerate things as clods and the long raft have been exaggerated to have some roles.
- Imagery: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer shows the use of imagery as given in the examples below,
i. The balmy summer air, the restful quiet, the odor of the flowers, and the drowsing murmur of the bees had had their effect, and she was nodding over her knitting — for she had no company but the cat, and it was asleep in her lap. Her spectacles were propped up on her gray head for safety. (Chapter-3)
ii. But presently the temptation rose up strong again and the boys agreed to try, with the understanding that they would take to their heels if the snoring stopped. So they went tiptoeing stealthily down, the one behind the other. (Chapter-10)
These two examples show images of color, sound, and feelings.
- Metaphor: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer shows good use of various metaphors as given in the below examples,
i. Every stump that started up in their path seemed a man and an enemy, and made them catch their breath; and as they sped by some outlying cottages that lay near the village, the barking of the aroused watch-dogs seemed to give wings to their feet. (Chapter-10)
ii. Huck found a spring of clear cold water close by, and the boys made cups of broad oak or hickory leaves, and felt that water, sweetened with such a wildwood charm as that, would be a good enough substitute for coffee. (Chapter-15)
These examples show that several things have been compared directly in the novel such as the first shows stumps compared to humans and the second shows hickory leaves are compared to sweetened wildwood charm.
- Mood: The novel shows various moods; it starts with a jolly mood and becomes serious when it reaches the pirates and treasure and ends on a happy note.
- Motif: Most important motifs of the novel are crime, trading, and the circus.
- Narrator: The novel is narrated from a third-person point of view, who happens to be the author, Mark Twain.
- Personification: The novel shows examples of personifications as given below,
i. Diligence and attention soon gave him the knack of it, and he strode down the street with his mouth full of harmony and his soul full of gratitude. (Chapter-1)
ii. But presently the temptation rose up strong again and the boys agreed to try, with the understanding that they would take to their heels if the snoring stopped. (Chapter-10)
iii. All the town was drifting toward the graveyard. (Chapter-11)
iv. All Nature was wide awake and stirring, now; long lances of sunlight pierced down through the dense foliage far and near, and a few butterflies came fluttering upon the scene. (Chapter-15)
These examples show as if the attention, temptation, town, and nature have lives and emotions of their own.
- Protagonist: Tom Sawyer is the protagonist of the novel. The novel starts with his entry into the world and moves forward as he grows young and becomes a boy to make a plan to be a pirate.
- Setting: The setting of the novel is the town of St. Petersburg at the end of the 19th
- Simile: The novel shows good use of various similes as given in the below examples,
i. The drowsing murmur of the five and twenty studying scholars soothed the soul like the spell that is in the murmur of bees. (Chapter-7)
ii. The mighty river lay like an ocean at rest. (Chapter-8)
iii. Here I go over to Sereny Harper, like an old softy, expecting I’m going to make her
believe all that rubbage about that dream. (Chapter-19)
iv. Both held their breath and listened. There was a sound like the faintest, far-off shout. (Chapter-31)
These are similes as the use of the word “like” shows the comparison between different things.