Teaching Adventures of Tom Sawyer Memorable moments for me in ts



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Teaching Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Memorable moments for me in TS:
Whitewash scene, Ch2

First appearance of Huckleberry Finn, Ch6 (42)

Murder in the graveyard, Ch9

Tom and the "pirates" attending their own funeral, Ch17

Tom taking Becky's punishment, Ch20

Courtroom Scene, Muff Potter saved, Ch23

Huck saving the Widow, Ch29 (176)

Tom and Becky in the cave, Ch30

Shortly Tom came upon the juvenile pariah of the village, Huckleberry Finn, son of the town drunkard. Huckleberry was cordially hated and dreaded by all the mothers of the town, because he was idle and lawless and vulgar and bad -- and because all their children admired him so, and delighted in his forbidden society, and wished they dared to be like him. Tom was like the rest of the respectable boys, in that he envied

Huckleberry his gaudy outcast condition, and was under strict orders not to play with him. So he played with him every time he got a chance. Huckleberry was always dressed in the cast-off clothes of full-grown men, and they were in perennial bloom and fluttering with rags. His hat was a vast ruin with a wide crescent lopped out of its brim; his coat, when he wore one, hung nearly to his heels and had the rearward buttons far down the back; but one suspender supported his trousers; the seat of the trousers bagged low and contained nothing, the fringed legs dragged in the dirt when not rolled up.


Huckleberry came and went, at his own free will. He slept on doorsteps in fine weather and in empty hogsheads in wet; he did not have to go to school or to church, or call any being master or obey anybody; he could go fishing or swimming when and where he chose, and stay as long as it suited him; nobody forbade him to fight; he could sit up as late as he pleased; he was always the first boy that went barefoot in the spring and the last to resume leather in the fall; he never had to wash, nor put on clean clothes; he could swear wonderfully. In a word, everything that goes to make life precious that boy had. So thought every harassed, hampered, respectable boy in St. Petersburg.
Critical Heritage, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876)
Blair, Walter. “Tom Sawyer.” (sources)

-intermingled with “Old Times” and predicted Huck Finn

- process of composition: inspiration “tank” that fills and runs dry

- boyhood recollections, autobiographical

- folklore and superstition

- very rough town on the edge of the frontier

- embryo for book, “Boy’s Manuscript” 1870

- literary influences: dime novels and melodramas

- American writers

- grave robbers, Charles Dickens

- treasure, Poe’s “The Gold Bug”

- Aldrich, “The Story of a Bad Boy (1869)

- Twain’s own earlier treatment of children

Hill, Hamlin, “The Composition and Structure of Tom Sawyer.”

- ragbag/organic theory vs. narrative plan: growth to maturity

- began work: summer 74 finished in summer of 1875

- Blair's structure recounted:

Tom and Becky story

Muff Potter story

Jackson's Island Adventures

Injun Joe story

- Hill sees plenty of support for recollected memories approach, no structure

- Also, sees support for very preliminary structure (first page of manuscript):

1 boyhood and youth

2 y & early manhood

3 the Battle of Life in many lands

4 return & meet grown babies and toothless old drivellers who were the

grandees of his boyhood. The Adorned Unknown a faded old maid & full

of rasping, puritanical vinegar piety.

- Twain "tank ran dry" at Jackson's Island, deciding which way to take the novel

Harold Aspiz, "Tom Sawyer's Games of Death"


  • death and resurrection themes throughout

  • Tom's fantasies, desire to be dead to 'show em'

  • Grave robbing as resurrection

  • Pirates considered dead then appear at funeral

  • Injun Joe's intent on deadly revenge on the Widow

  • Tom and Becky's resurrection

Cynthia Griffin Wolff, "A Nightmare Vision of American Boyhood"



  • is Tom and his life the mythic All American Boy story?

  • No real town present (no stores mentioned)

  • In Tom's world, town is nightmarish

  • Missing fathers

  • Few free positive adult role models

  • Control very feminine

Carter Revard, "Why Mark Twain Murdered Injun Joe – and Will Never Be Indicted"



  • focus on Twain's hatred of Indians and why few critics have every written about this

James Grove, "Mark Twain and the Endangered Family"



  • disrupted familial relations throughout Twain's works, mothers waiting for lost children to return, anguished relatives searching for missing loved ones, children vulnerable due to lost parents, families surviving conflicts

William M. Gibson, The Art of Mark Twain.



  • the matter of Hannibal

  • ingeniously plotted

  • four distinct lines of action

    • Tom's changing relationship with Becky

    • Tom's relation to his Aunt Polly

    • Tom, Huck, Injun Joe, Muff Potter

    • Discovery and seeking hidden treasure

  • story for children or a story about children for adults?

  • Tom's maturation process

  • Pathos of Aunt Polly's feelings for Tom

James M. Cox, Mark Twain: The Fate of Humor



  • describes TS as an "Idyl"

  • Four essential elements in the world of Tom Sawyer:

    • Figure of Tom himself

    • the summer world of St. Petersburg

    • the audience – kids and society of the town

    • the narrator, a member of the audience

  • world of children at play, Edenic

  • like a stage play, Tom performs for everyone in the town in his serious play, ringmaster in a circus

  • adults in the book "show off" in their own ways

  • "portrays all human actions, no matter how serious, as forms of play


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