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Tom Sawyer Research Papers

Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer essays show that it is one of the most popular American novels of all time—“a sacred text within the body of American literature”. Tom SawyerIt has managed the virtually unparalleled dual success of enchanting generations of youthful readers and of inspiring heated debate and thoughtful deliberation among scholars. The precocious, impetuous young central characters have long been revered as the quintessence of American boyhood. Indeed, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn—particularly as they appear in this text rather than in the rather dissimilar Adventures of Huckleberry Finn—have for generations been regarded as “the American boys of legend,” lads who epitomize the “fabled delicious freedom of boyhood”. Twain continues to be celebrated as a writer unmatched in American literary circles in his ability, through Tom Sawyer and other works, to portray boyhood as so perfect a state, incomparable and sufficient unto itself.  

Tom Sawyer is most commonly interpreted by both scholars and lay readers as a rather innocuous and simple child’s tale, a series of joyful reminiscences from Clemens’ own childhood in the Missouri village of Hannibal, along the Mississippi River, and as “a short narrative written for children”. Observers have repeatedly asserted that what Twain intended to promote in Tom Sawyer was: the idea of boyhood as a state sufficient to itself, entirely removed from the anxieties and responsibilities of adulthood—an innocent period removed even from the looming sexuality of childhood and adolescence.

Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, while both adolescent male creations of Mark Twain, present radically different solutions to the American puzzle in their approaches and philosophies to elements of American life

  • Tom can be said to serve as a foil to Huck, an individual prone to flights of fancy and wild imagination. 
  • Where Huck is boisterous and ambitious, Tom strict and rigid, always deferring to societal convention. 
  • They have vastly contrasting upbringings – Huck is a disadvantaged youth from a broken home
  • Tom has grown up in a cloistered environment of relative comfort and security. 

Tom's upbringing has made Tom a self-centered individual who prefers his position of privilege more than the idea of helping others. This can also be seen in a number of episode after the death of Miss Watson.  Tom knows that Jim is now a free man, although he fails to inform anybody of that fact, and instead entertains himself with Jim’s captivity. Huck would not be so heartless.  Tom and Huck also contrast significantly in that Tom seems to need to create trouble for himself, where Huck has plenty of trouble to go around (particularly with his Pap).  This can be seen in Tom’s fantastic “Robber’s Game” which Huck aspires to join.  At the end of the novel, Tom and Huck also differ in how they perceive their future.  While Tom returns to his life of comfort and privileged upbringing, accepting a return to the status quo, Huck eschew convention and a society who knows to be flawed and declares his intentions to head West and makes his fortune elsewhere.  Ultimately, where Tom can be seen as an automaton of contemporary society, Huck is constructed as an emotional, adaptable being who can think can act for himself in response to the moral and ethical quandaries which present themselves.

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