The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer

byMark TwainIntroduction byR. Kent RasmussenNotes byR. Kent Rasmussen

Paperback | October 28, 2014

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The classic boyhood adventure tale, updated with a new introduction by noted Mark Twain scholar R. Kent Rasmussen

A consummate prankster with a quick wit, Tom Sawyer dreams of a bigger fate than simply being a “rich boy.” Yet through the novel’s humorous escapades—from the famous episode of the whitewashed fence to the trial of Injun Joe—Mark Twain explores the deeper themes of the adult world, one of dishonesty and superstition, murder and revenge, starvation and slavery.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

About The Author

Mark Twain (1835–1910) was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens in Florida, Missouri. Starting out as typesetter, he went on to work as a steamboat pilot, prospector, and journalist before publishing his first major book, The Innocents Abroad.R. Kent Rasmussen is the author or editor of nine books on Mark Twain, including the award-winning Ma...
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Title:The Adventures Of Tom SawyerFormat:PaperbackDimensions:272 pages, 7.8 × 5.1 × 0.7 inPublished:October 28, 2014Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

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ISBN - 10:014310733X

ISBN - 13:9780143107330

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PENGUIN CLASSICSTHE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYERMARK TWAIN was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens on November 30, 1835, in Florida, Missouri, about forty miles southwest of Hannibal, the Mississippi River town he was to celebrate in his writing. In 1853, he left home, earning a living as an itinerant typesetter, and four years later became an apprentice pilot on the Mississippi, a career cut short by the outbreak of the Civil War. For five years, as a prospector and a journalist, Clemens lived in Nevada and California. In February 1863 he first signed the pseudonym “Mark Twain” to a newspaper article; and a trip to Europe and the Holy Land in 1867 became the basis of his first major book, The Innocents Abroad (1869). Roughing It (1872), his account of experiences in the West, was followed by a coauthored satirical novel, The Gilded Age (1873); Sketches: New and Old (1875); The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876); A Tramp Abroad (1880); The Prince and the Pauper (1881); Life on the Mississippi (1883); and his masterpiece, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885); A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889); and Pudd’nhead Wilson (1894). Compelled by debts, Mark Twain moved his family abroad during the 1890s and went on a round-the-world lecture tour in 1895–1896. His fortunes mended, he returned to America in 1900. He was as celebrated for his white suit and his mane of white hair as he was for his uncompromising stands against injustice and imperialism, as well as for his invariably quoted comments on any subject under the sun. Samuel Clemens died on April 21, 1910.R. KENT RASMUSSEN is the author or editor of nine books on Mark Twain and more than a dozen other books. He is best known for his award-winning Mark Twain A to Z (revised as the two-volume Critical Companion to Mark Twain) and The Quotable Mark Twain. For Penguin Classics, he wrote the notes and introductions to Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and edited Mark Twain’s Autobiographical Writings.PENGUIN BOOKSPublished by the Penguin GroupPenguin Group (USA) LLC375 Hudson StreetNew York, New York 10014USA | Canada | UK | Ireland | Australia | New Zealand | India | South Africa | Chinapenguin.comA Penguin Random House CompanyFirst published in the United States of America by American Publishing Co. 1876This edition with an introduction and notes by R. Kent Rasmussen published in Penguin Books 2014Introduction and notes copyright © 2014 by R. Kent RasmussenPenguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.ISBN 978-1-101-62828-7Introduction by R. KENT RASMUSSENSuggestions for Further ReadingChronologyA Note on the TextTHE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYERNotes by R. KENT RASMUSSENMark Twain famously defined a “classic” as “a book which people praise but don’t read.” Had he been thinking about The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, he might have turned that definition around and called his novel a book that people read but do not necessarily praise. And read it, people certainly have. Never out of print since it was first published in 1876, Tom Sawyer has been translated into at least sixty languages and has gone through well over one thousand separate editions. Although its sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), is justly considered the greater work, Tom Sawyer is almost certainly Mark Twain’s most widely read book. Examine any family-owned set of his books and the volume showing the most wear and tear is almost certain to be Tom Sawyer. There is, of course, another reason why that volume is apt to be the most worn. Not only is it likely to have been the most read, it is also likely to be the volume most roughly handled by children. This has always been the case. Less than a decade after the book’s original publication, Mark Twain’s older brother, Orion Clemens, wrote to him about an Iowa family whose copy of Tom Sawyer “was read and loaned till it had to be re-covered.”The fact that Tom Sawyer has always been popular among young readers has doubtless contributed to the perception that it is first and foremost a children’s book and is therefore not to be regarded as a serious work. Whether or not that is true, it is significant that Mark Twain wrote Tom Sawyer primarily with adult readers in mind. As great a writer as he was, however, he was not always the best judge of his own work, and it took his literary friend William Dean Howells to tell him what kind of book he had actually written. When Mark Twain finished writing the novel in July 1875, he wrote to Howells, “It is not a boy’s book, at all. It will only be read by adults. It is only written for adults.” He also expressed his desire to serialize the book in the Atlantic Monthly—a magazine edited by Howells that was decidedly not designed for children. When Howells finally read Mark Twain’s manuscript the following November, he was entranced and admitted to having stayed up very late to finish it, “simply because it was impossible to leave.” He went on to say,It’s altogether the best boy’s story I ever read. It will be an immense success. But I think you ought to treat it explicitly as a boy’s story. Grown-ups will enjoy it just as much if you do; and if you should put it forth as a study of boy character from the grown-up point of view, you’d give the wrong key to it.In praising the book as a great “boy’s story,” Howells was doubtless imagining how Tom’s titular “adventures” would appeal to young readers, especially boys. Even after Howells convinced him of the unwisdom of promoting the book as adult literature, however, Mark Twain could not resist using its preface to pitch the book to adults:Although my book is intended mainly for the entertainment of boys and girls, I hope it will not be shunned by men and women on that account, for part of my plan has been to try to pleasantly remind adults of what they once were themselves, and of how they felt and thought and talked, and what queer enterprises they sometimes engaged in.Here Mark Twain makes a valid point. The novel abounds with passages aimed at adult readers, and some of those passages probably leave younger readers unmoved or even bewildered. Chapter V, for example, describes how the solemn opening of a church service is broken by “tittering and whispering of the choir in the gallery. The choir always tittered and whispered all through service.” Those lines might mildly amuse some children, but the poignant irony in the next two lines would probably go over their heads: “There was once a church choir that was not ill-bred, but I have forgotten where it was . . . I think it was in some foreign country.” Those sentences suggest much about Mark Twain’s cynicism about church services. Almost all of chapter XXI expresses similarly cynical remarks about the village school’s “Examination Evening” that are directed to adults.A passage that addresses adults even more explicitly concludes the second chapter’s famous episode in which Tom gets other boys to pay him to whitewash a fence. That episode, coincidentally, may also be the episode most beloved by children. Adult readers can appreciate the irony in Tom’s triumph, but to be certain they draw the proper conclusions, Mark Twain spelled out Tom’s moral lesson explicitly:Tom . . . 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 only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain. If he had been a great and wise philosopher, like the writer of this book, he would now have comprehended that Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.It is doubtful young readers draw any lessons from a passage such as that. Indeed, many probably resent the intrusion of irrelevant—and possibly incomprehensible—remarks about artificial flowers, treadmills, climbing mountains, and passenger-coaches.In his introduction to the 1996 Oxford University Press reprint of Tom Sawyer, novelist E. L. Doctorow commented on the duality of the book’s audience: “We can read with a child’s eye or an adult’s, and with a different focal resolution for each.” Doctorow further suggested that the world in which Tom Sawyer lives is made up of “two distinct and, for the most part, irreconcilable life forms, the Child and the Adult.” Doctorow is correct in asserting that children and adults in that world have different cultures that continually clash and produce friction. Those differences are reflected in the shifting perspectives of the book’s readers.Even if Mark Twain was correct in thinking Tom Sawyer’s proper audience was adult readers, one need not look far for reasons why the book has always been popular among young readers. Modern American children may find the culture of its mid-nineteenth-century midwestern setting quaintly strange but are nevertheless exhilarated by the sense of wide-open freedom the book conveys. In contrast to the rigidly structured routines governing modern children’s daily lives—from schoolrooms and afterschool programs to music lessons, organized sports, and other activities supervised by adults—the lives of children in Tom Sawyer’s world are almost completely unstructured. Apart from being expected to attend school and church services, Tom and his friends are so loosely supervised, they can simply run off to a forest to play Robin Hood, go to the river to swim or fish, and generally do whatever they want away from the oversight of interfering adults.Aunt Polly tries to control Tom, but from the first page of the book, when Tom slips out of her grasp and disappears over a fence, it is clear her control is tenuous at best. She merely sighs and thinks, “He’ll play hookey this evening, and I’ll just be obleeged to make him work, to-morrow, to punish him.” Tom does, in fact, play hooky (so much for having to go to school), and what happens when Polly makes him work the next day merely provides another example of his independence: he turns a tedious chore into a major entrepreneurial success and emerges with wealth that will lead him to another gratifying success at church the next day. Few young readers can resist sharing his triumphs, especially as they come at the expense of his rivals.Tom’s early triumphs are also demonstrations of his inventiveness. During an age when the technologies that would make possible movies, radio, television, computers, video games, and cell phones were well in the future, the children of Tom’s technologically primitive world required little to finds ways to keep busy and have fun. Tom needs only a bucket of paint and a brush to raise himself from poverty to wealth. (In a later chapter, another boy uses a paintbrush to score a much different kind of triumph.) The children’s implements may be simple, but many of their games—such as Robin Hood, war, pirates, and robber gangs—are complex. Much of the pleasure they get out of their simple lives unfolds within their own imaginations.During Mark Twain’s time, the literary choices children had were far fewer than they are now. An avid reader from an early age, Mark Twain himself was frustrated by his limited choices in reading matter as a boy. The autobiography he composed late in life recalled the books he was allowed to borrow from his Sunday-school as “dreary . . . for there was not a bad boy in the entire bookcase. They were all good boys and good girls and drearily uninteresting, but they were better society than none, and I was glad to have their company and disapprove of it.” One can see in that statement one of the seeds of Tom Sawyer.Among the most widely read writers of children’s books in the period leading up to 1876, the year Tom Sawyer first appeared, was Jacob Abbott, a Congregationalist minister whose numerous works included many didactic stories for children. Abbott’s most popular books were in his Rollo series, published from the 1830s through the 1850s. With titles such as Rollo at Work, Rollo at Play, and Rollo on the Atlantic, each tale was designed to teach young readers a moral lesson. William Taylor Adams, better known by his pen name, “Oliver Optic,” wrote more than one hundred popular children’s books, mostly for boys, during the second half of the nineteenth century. The majority of his stories featured fearless, clean-living boys performing improbably heroic deeds in exciting adventures. Another prolific and widely read author of that era was Horatio Alger, Jr. His most famous book, Ragged Dick; Or, Street Life in New York with the Bootblacks (1868), is about a poor boy who rises to middle-class respectability through hard work, incorruptible honesty, and determination. Alger followed this enormously influential book with dozens of others on the same theme. The books of these and other authors of the time were mostly about good boys and girls who overcome hardships and adversity to achieve success and respectability. The origins of the young heroes may be rough, but their characters are consistently upright.When Tom Sawyer was published, its title character must have struck young readers as a refreshing change from the well-behaved characters populating most of the books they read. Compared with them, he doubtless was perceived as a “bad boy.” Although an orphan, he comes from a respectable home but is a relentless rulebreaker who plays hooky from school, hates going to church, ignores adult instructions, and engages in forbidden and even perilous adventures. Mostly tame stuff, perhaps, by present-day standards, but doubtless deliciously subversive to nineteenth-century children. However, even though many young nineteenth-century readers may have relished the idea of escaping from adult control, their consciences probably sent them a different message—that it really is better to be good than to be bad. They must, then, have been gratified to sense that despite his appealing misbehavior, Tom is actually a safe kind of bad boy. Yes, he breaks rules, but never to harm anyone. In fact, he is never deliberately malicious. Moreover, not only does he care strongly about friends and family, he also takes dangerous risks and makes generous sacrifices for their benefit. Nevertheless, the question of whether he is good or bad is not fully settled throughout most of the book. As late as chapter XXIII, when he performs an act of true heroism, some fellow villagers think he might become president of the United States . . . “if he escaped hanging.” Only when the novel reaches its climax do his future prospects seem certain.As an essentially good boy who enjoys a great deal of fun and excitement while appearing to be bad, Tom Sawyer is similar to his modern literary descendant Harry Potter, the central figure in what is probably the most successful series of novels ever published. Harry’s creator, British author J. K. Rowling, has apparently never publicly acknowledged a debt to Mark Twain, but it is difficult to imagine she was not at least partly inspired by Tom Sawyer. Similarities between the boys and their adventures are too striking for them all to be products of mere coincidence.Although Tom Sawyer’s age is never specified, it could easily be eleven—the same age as Harry Potter at the beginning of the latter’s seven-volume saga. Both boys are orphans being raised by their dead mothers’ sisters. Tom lives with a half-brother, Sid, his nemesis, whom he detests. Harry’s nemesis, with whom he lives, is his despised cousin, Dudley. Tom’s closest buddy is Huckleberry Finn, “the juvenile pariah of the village” and poorest and most disreputable boy he could possibly befriend. Harry’s best friend is Ron Weasley, not exactly a disreputable boy, but as a member of a notoriously impoverished family he is the frequent target of insults and disrespectful jokes. Harry experiences most of his adventures in the company of Ron and their female mutual friend, Hermione Granger. Tom experiences his most harrowing adventures with Huck and with his sweetheart, Becky Thatcher. Similarities between Tom and Harry do not end there.Although both Harry Potter and Tom Sawyer are notorious for breaking rules and flouting authority, both have big hearts, repeatedly take risks to save others from harm, and eventually emerge triumphantly as heroes. It might be argued that Harry’s being a wizard with magical powers makes him fundamentally different from Tom, but almost the opposite is true. An uncritical believer in the power of magic, Tom is certain the woman known as old Mother Hopkins is a real witch. He believes dead cats can cure warts, properly performed rituals and incantations can find lost marbles, and anyone who violates an oath signed in blood with the proper “dismal ceremonies and incantations” will drop dead. His belief in magic is strong enough, in fact, to help drive Tom Sawyer’s narrative—especially his fear of the consequences of breaking a blood oath. Tom would almost certainly jump at the chance of having magical powers like those of Harry if they were offered to him. Moreover, his midnight adventures with Huck in the graveyard and at the haunted house have spooky qualities suggesting supernatural forces are at work, much as they actually are in the Harry Potter stories. Tom’s final and most perilous adventure occurs when he and Becky become lost in McDougal’s cave, where he encounters the evil he most greatly fears. Can it be mere coincidence that most Harry Potter novels end with Harry confronting evil in dark, dungeonlike settings similar to the depths of McDougal’s cave?Whether or not Tom Sawyer actually influenced J. K. Rowling’s creation of Harry Potter, the millions of modern young readers who relish her books find in them many of the same pleasures readers have always found in Mark Twain’s book. Both Tom and Harry struggle against adversity, fight against evil, and are misunderstood but nevertheless emerge triumphantly in the end. Harry’s triumphs are spread through his seven books, each of which covers a year in his life. Tom experiences seven distinct triumphs within the space of only a few months, but the novel’s structure makes the period of time that elapses seem far longer, and Tom himself seems to age steadily and mature significantly.Tom’s first triumph comes early, when he gets other boys to pay him to whitewash the fence Aunt Polly orders him to paint as punishment for playing hooky in chapter II. Children love tricksters, and what could be a better trick than getting other people to pay to do one’s own work? Tom’s next triumph follows quickly, made possible by the first. The next day, he carries his whitewashing loot to church and trades it to other boys for the “tickets” awarded in Sunday-school for reciting biblical verses. On that day, the august county judge Thatcher is visiting the Sunday-school, whose superintendent burns to “exhibit a prodigy” with enough tickets to receive a Bible prize for having recited two thousand verses of scripture. Tom shocks both the superintendent and readers by stepping forward with the requisite number of tickets to claim a prize. He then exults in the “glory and eclat” that come with the prize and with sharing the stage with the great judge.In a later work Mark Twain wrote that “to be envied is the human being’s chiefest joy.” The pleasure derived from being envied is a persistent theme throughout his writings and is a concept children well understand. It certainly seems to be Tom Sawyer’s chief joy, and there can be no doubt that young readers, more than adults, exult in his Sunday-school triumph for that very reason. Moreover, this second triumph is made even sweeter by the fact that Tom achieves it by buying tickets from many of the very same boys from whom he collected his loot the day before. Young readers need not be familiar with the adage, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me,” to appreciate the dimensions of Tom’s second triumph.Adult readers may see the Sunday-school episode a little differently. Once again, Mark Twain addresses them directly. After receiving his Bible and being fawned over by the great judge, Tom is quickly humiliated when the judge and his wife press him to demonstrate his biblical knowledge by naming Christ’s first two apostles. After nervously hemming and hawing, Tom blurts out, “David and Goliah!”Young readers may not know the correct answer is Simon and Andrew, but they should nevertheless know how spectacularly wrong Tom’s answer is. Mark Twain’s brief epilogue to the episode must bewilder them, however: “Let us draw the curtain of charity over the rest of the scene.” Was Mark Twain merely being lazy when he wrote that line instead of describing the fiasco that must have followed? Or did he assume adult readers would derive greater pleasure from imagining what happens next themselves than they would from any description he provided?More calculated than Tom’s first two triumphs, his third occurs at the conclusion of his pirating adventure on Jackson’s Island with Huck Finn and Joe Harper. Tom accidentally learns because he and his friends have been missing so long they are assumed to have drowned in the river and their funeral is planned. At his suggestion, the boys suddenly appear at that funeral. There they are so joyfully received that when Tom sees how envious other children are, he considers it “the proudest moment of his life.” Though doubtless a triumph in the eyes of children, his achievement must appear shabby in the eyes of adults. Tom wins his éclat by capitalizing on the pain felt by those mourning his presumed death—pain he could easily have spared them by letting villagers know he and his friends were still alive sooner. His selfish behavior is, however, due more to youthful thoughtlessness—as Aunt Polly points out—than to actual callousness. He does not mean to hurt others; he is simply heedless.Part of Tom’s maturation throughout the novel is his learning to think more about the feelings of others and less about his own interests. This change is dramatically evident in his next two triumphs. In chapter XX, Tom and Becky have a typically childish falling out that leaves them not speaking to each other at school. During the lunch hour, Tom enters the otherwise empty schoolroom and startles Becky while she is examining a mysterious book their teacher has left in an unlocked desk drawer. In her rush to return the book to its drawer, Becky tears its frontispiece page almost in half. She then turns savagely on Tom, berating him for intending to tell on her. Though feeling peevish and vengeful, Tom has no such intention, but only because he knows exactly how the teacher will get Becky to confess her crime. He also takes satisfaction in the certainty of her being whipped. His private thoughts on the matter reveal a great deal about his patronizing attitude toward girls. “What a curious kind of a fool a girl is,” he thinks. “Never been licked in school! Shucks, what’s a licking! That’s just like a girl—they’re so thin-skinned and chicken-hearted.” He even feels a little proud for not telling on Becky, but that is only because he believes “Girls’ faces always tell on them. They ain’t got any backbone,” and Becky will be whipped without his intervention. As the teacher seeks the person responsible for damaging his book by directly questioning each child in turn, he eventually reaches Becky. When Tom sees the look of terror in her face, unexpected new feelings compel him to jump up and proclaim, “I done it!”The nobility in Tom’s act of self-sacrifice goes beyond enduring “the most merciless flaying” the teacher had ever administered and staying after school for two hours. His greater sacrifice lies in violating the boys’ unspoken custom of always denying wrongdoing in school, thereby earning the contempt of his schoolmates, who stare in perplexity at his “incredible folly.” Young readers can certainly appreciate the sacrifice Tom makes in enduring a savage beating, but it is probably only older readers who fully appreciate the significance of his other sacrifice. For once, Tom’s triumph lies not in winning the envy of his peers—quite the opposite in fact—but in making a double sacrifice purely out of love. Although he does not act in anticipation of reward, the look of gratitude and adoration he receives from Becky as he steps forward for his beating seems “pay enough for a hundred floggings.” After he is released from his detention, Becky gratefully asks, “Tom, how could you be so noble!” When Becky’s father, Judge Thatcher, later learns how Tom saved Becky from a beating, he calls Tom’s action “a noble, a generous, a magnanimous lie.”Tom’s fifth triumph rises to yet a higher level by requiring him to make an even greater sacrifice—one that may actually threaten his life. One of the novel’s central narrative threads begins in chapter IX, when Tom and Huck witness a murder in the village graveyard, which they visited at midnight to perform a wart-removing ritual. They chance to see the village drunkard, Muff Potter, and the “murderin’ half-breed” Injun Joe helping Dr. Robinson rob a fresh grave and then get in a fight that ends with Joe killing the doctor after Potter is knocked unconscious. After fleeing in fright, the boys sign a blood oath never to reveal what they have seen. The next day, they are astonished to overhear Joe claim Potter killed the doctor and not be struck dead for lying. Through the next fourteen chapters, Tom’s conscience deeply troubles him as he imagines Potter being unjustly hanged. He believes if he breaks his blood oath by telling the truth about the murder he may drop dead, and if that does not happen, Injun Joe may kill him. He thus assumes a doubly lethal risk when he finally testifies at Potter’s trial. His unexpected appearance there causes another sensation and Tom finds himself “a glittering hero once more.” This time, however, his triumph comes with a serious price. He does not drop dead, but “Injun Joe infested all his dreams, and always with doom in his eye.” Like Voldemort, the “Dark Lord” who pursues Harry Potter, Injun Joe represents pure evil, and now Tom has a real reason to fear for his own life.Tom’s sixth triumph is less the stuff of a boyish adventurer than that of a resourceful and courageous young man. When Becky finally has the picnic discussed earlier in the book, she and Tom get lost for several days in McDougal’s labyrinthine cave. Throughout their terrifying ordeal, Tom works to keep up Becky’s spirits, while she seems resigned to dying, and hides from her the fact that he has seen Injun Joe in the cave. Just as all hope appears gone, Tom cleverly finds an opening through which he and Becky get out. For the second time, he appears to return to the village from the dead and is again celebrated as a glittering hero. Unlike his seemingly miraculous return at his own funeral, this time his triumph results from true valor and is one both young and old readers can applaud. By this point in the narrative readers who may have been wondering what kind of person Tom really is must accept the possibility that he is a true hero. Arriving at that conclusion helps make what happens next more palatable.Before the cave episode, Tom and Huck spend time digging for buried pirate treasure near a supposedly haunted house. They chance to be inside the house when Injun Joe—now disguised as a “deef and dumb Spaniard” while evading arrest for murder—and his new partner find a chest of gold coins under the floorboards. Despite the risks involved in taking on these criminals, the boys determine to discover where the men hide the treasure so they can seize it for themselves. What begins as a childish quest for buried treasure thus becomes both real and dangerous. The cave episode interrupts Tom’s involvement in the treasure search, leaving Huck to play a heroic role in preventing Injun Joe from assaulting the widow Douglas. Later, after Tom recuperates from his cave ordeal and learns that Joe has died inside the cave, he correctly deduces that the criminals have hidden the gold near the spot where he saw Joe inside the cave. With Huck’s help, he returns to the cave and finds the gold. Meanwhile, to show their appreciation for Tom and Huck’s recent heroism, villagers gather to honor the boys and surprise them with gifts. This event sets the stage for Tom’s own greatest surprise and most spectacular triumph—revealing to the villagers the $12,000 in gold coins he and Huck have found. Readers, especially young ones, like their heroes to succeed, and it is hard to imagine a novel about a boy ending more satisfactorily.It is unlikely young readers savoring Tom’s greatest triumph pay much heed to the unfortunate Injun Joe’s fate, except to feel relieved that he can no longer threaten Tom and Huck. For adults, however, Mark Twain provided a different kind of message by reporting that Joe’s funeral was a festive occasion to which people flocked from miles around. Many “confessed that they had had almost as satisfactory a time at the funeral as they could have had at the hanging.” Despite the general feeling of relief occasioned by Joe’s death, there had been a movement in the village to petition the governor to pardon him for his crimes. Here Mark Twain speaks only to adults: . . . many tearful and eloquent meetings had been held, and a committee of sappy women been appointed to go in deep mourning and wail around the governor and implore him to be a merciful ass and trample his duty under foot. Injun Joe was believed to have killed five citizens of the village, but what of that? If he had been Satan himself there would have been plenty of weaklings ready to scribble their names to a pardon-petition and drip a tear on it from their permanently impaired and leaky water-works.These passages touch on another theme pervading Mark Twain’s writings—the tendency of many people to feel greater sympathy for criminals than for their victims. In Huckleberry Finn, for example, when Huck tries to get help for murderers trapped on a wrecked steamboat, he wishes the widow Douglas knew what he was doing: “I judged she would be proud of me for helping these rapscallions, because rapscallions and dead beats is the kind the widow and good people takes the most interest in.”Tom Sawyer is generally regarded as a boys’ book for good reason. Not only are its protagonist and his closest friends boys, the narrative has a decidedly antifeminist slant, as can be seen in Tom’s dismissive thoughts about girls in the schoolroom scene. Mark Twain’s preface states that the book is intended for both “boys and girls,” but its narrative gives girls little show. The only significant female characters in the book are Tom’s Aunt Polly, his cousin Mary, and his sweetheart, Becky Thatcher. Repeatedly referred to as “the old lady,” Polly is essentially a desexed parent figure whose gender is relevant mainly because it permits her to express feelings of affection for Tom more openly than a male character easily could. Modeled on Mark Twain’s older sister, Pamela Clemens, Mary appears frequently but has little to do beyond helping Tom prepare for church and worrying about him when he is in trouble. If she were completely removed from the novel, her absence would scarcely be noticed.Becky Thatcher’s name is closely associated with Tom’s in popular perceptions of the book, but even she is given little to do beyond behaving coquettishly, reacting to Tom’s initiatives, and needing him to rescue her from danger. She is mentioned by name in almost half the chapters but ceases to help drive the narrative after her reconciliation with Tom in chapter XX. Mark Twain is known for rarely creating strong female characters in his fiction, and he makes Becky such a cipher it is even more difficult to estimate her age than that of Tom, who seems to grow older while she remains much younger. By the time Mark Twain started writing Huckleberry Finn he had so nearly forgotten Becky he wrote “Bessie Thatcher” in that novel’s only mention of her name. He corrected the mistake in the book’s proofs, but its typesetters overlooked his correction and “Becky” was not restored to the text until one hundred years after the first American edition.Becky’s rival for Tom’s affections, his former sweetheart Amy Lawrence, fares even worse than Becky in Tom Sawyer. Depicted as fawning over Tom, she is mentioned in five chapters, but the only time she actually converses with Tom, her only quoted remark is a single word. Meanwhile Tom’s growing impatience with her “happy prattle” is another reflection of his boyishly disapproving attitude toward girls in general.Despite Tom Sawyer’s treatment of its female characters, girls seem to have liked the book as much as boys have. Among the letters Mark Twain received from young readers, a surprising number were from girls. In 1883, for example, a nine-year-old Ohio girl named Florence Dean Cope (coincidentally, a distant relative of William Dean Howells) asked Mark Twain to write another book about Tom Sawyer, whom she described as “just perfect.” Writing in 1907, another Florence, fourteen-year-old Florence Benson of New York City, called Tom “the nicest boy I have ever known.” Eleven-year-old Fannie James of Wisconsin, writing in 1891, went further:I am a little girl living in Eau Claire, and admire “Huckleberry Finn” and “Tom Sawyer.” Although I am a girl, I would like to play with them and get into such scrapes and would be delighted to find twelve thosand dollars. I didn’t like them to take the dead cat, to the graveyard; for I love kitties and wouldn’t have one killed for all the warts in Christendom.As much as girls may have enjoyed reading Tom Sawyer, they have not failed to notice the book’s gender bias. In the prologue to her 1997 book Lighting Out for the Territory, the distinguished scholar Shelley Fisher Fishkin recalled thinking “Huck and Tom could be a lot of fun” when she was a child, but at the same time she “dismissed Becky Thatcher as a bore.” When novelist Lenore Hart was young, she had a similar view of Becky, whom she regarded as more “weepy and romantic and silly” than real girls are. Years later, she undertook to remedy that deficiency by writing Becky: The Life and Loves of Becky Thatcher (2008), a novel in which an elderly Becky relates the story of her life. She begins by correcting “lies” Sam Clemens told in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Hart’s Becky asserts she “was never that pale, limp, blond-curled girl-child from a sentimental chromo. I was tough as any boy, and kept my own secrets.” She longed “to be part of Tom’s wild gang” and was even with Tom and Huck the night they saw Dr. Robinson murdered in the graveyard.Mark Twain expressed profeminist views later in his life, but none are evident in Tom Sawyer, in whose world schoolboys are punished by being made to sit with girls. At the school’s “Examination Evening,” dainty girls—“their mothers before them, their grandmothers, and doubtless all their ancestors in the female line clear back to the Crusades”—recite sappy, melancholic compositions.Much of that chapter, incidentally, Mark Twain could have intended only for adults, as its humor lies mostly in the excruciating tediousness of the children’s recitations. Those passages constitute a broad denunciation of the dreary monotony of exercises like “Examination Evening” in all schools. “There is no school in all our land where the young ladies do not feel obliged to close their compositions with a sermon . . . But enough of this. Homely truth is unpalatable.”Children who get through that entire chapter are rewarded at its conclusion with high comic relief. The long-suffering boys in Mr. Dobbins’s class exact their revenge on the slightly drunk schoolmaster for his past cruelties by lowering a cat from the ceiling above his head as he struggles to draw a map on the blackboard. The cat removes his hairpiece and reveals his bald head has been painted gold by one of the boys when he was napping. “That broke up the meeting. The boys were avenged. Vacation had come.”For whom, finally, is Tom Sawyer best suited? Children, adults, or both? Regardless of Mark Twain’s intentions, it is clear that for well over a century, both children and adults have loved the book, so perhaps the more pertinent question is whether children and adults are reading the same book. For this reason, it is crucial that readers remain aware constantly of the perspective they themselves bring to Tom Sawyer as they read it.Anderson, Frederick, ed. Mark Twain: The Critical Heritage. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1971.Berkove, Lawrence I., and Joseph Csicsila. Heretical Fictions: Religion in the Literature of Mark Twain. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2010.Bird, John. Mark Twain and Metaphor. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2007.Blair, Walter. Mark Twain and Huck Finn. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1960.Budd, Louis J., ed. Mark Twain: The Contemporary Reviews. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999.Camfield, Gregg. The Oxford Companion to Mark Twain. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.Cox, James M. Mark Twain: The Fate of Humor. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1966.David, Beverly R. Mark Twain and His Illustrators. Vol. 1: 1869–1875. Troy, N.Y.: Whitston Publishing, 1986.De Koster, Katie, ed. 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Mark Twain Among the Scholars: Reconsidering Contemporary Twain Criticism. Albany, N.Y.: Whitston Publishing, 2002.Horn, Jason Gary. Mark Twain: A Descriptive Guide to Biographical Sources. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 1999.Howe, Lawrence. Mark Twain and the Novel: The Double-Cross of Authority. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1998.Hutchinson, Stuart, ed. Mark Twain: Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn. Cambridge, England: Icon Books,1998.Kaplan, Fred. The Singular Mark Twain: A Biography. New York: Doubleday, 2003.Kaplan, Justin. Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain: A Biography. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1966.LeMaster, J. R., and James D. Wilson, eds. The Mark Twain Encyclopedia. New York: Garland, 1993.Messent, Peter. Mark Twain. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997.Messent, Peter, and Louis J. Budd, eds. A Companion to Mark Twain. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Publishing, 2005.Michelson, Bruce. Mark Twain on the Loose: A Comic Writer and the American Self. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1995.Norton, Charles A. Writing “Tom Sawyer”: The Adventures of a Classic. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 1983.Ober, K. Patrick. Mark Twain and Medicine. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2003.Paine, Albert Bigelow. Mark Twain, A Biography: The Personal and Literary Life of Samuel Langhorne Clemens. New York: Harper & Bros., 1912. 3 vols.Powers, Ron. Dangerous Water: A Biography of the Boy Who Became Mark Twain. New York: BasicBooks, 1999.———. Mark Twain: A Life. New York: Free Press, 2005.Quirk, Tom. Mark Twain and Human Nature. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2007.Railton, Stephen. Mark Twain: A Short Introduction. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2004.Rasmussen, R. Kent. Bloom’s How to Write About Mark Twain. New York: Bloom’s Literary Criticism, 2008.———. Critical Companion to Mark Twain: A Literary Reference to His Life and Work. 2 vols. New York: Facts On File, 2007 (expanded edition of Mark Twain A to Z).———, ed. Dear Mark Twain: Letters from His Readers. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013.———, ed. Mark Twain (Critical Insights). Pasadena, Calif.: Salem Press, 2011.

Editorial Reviews

"Twain had a greater effect than any other writer on the evolution of American prose."