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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is a fun-filled adventure story, where the author looks at life through the eyes of boys approaching their teenage years. Through them, Twain reveals that life is an adventure - filled with fun, romance, surprises, humor, sorrow, and fear. The boys are not presented in a romantic manner; instead, they reflect the realities of life. On a deeper level, the novel also has a socio-critical theme where the author makes fun of the oddities of society by using Tom and Huck as his instruments.
The major mood of the story is light-hearted fun and humor, as developed through the antics and pranks of Tom and his friends in St. Petersburg. But there are also moods of fear (over Injun Joe and in the cave), sorrow (over the death of Doc Robinson), seriousness (at the trial of Muff Porter), and piety (in the church scenes).
BACKGROUND INFORMATION - BIOGRAPHY
Samuel Langhorne Clemens, one of Americaís most popular and humorous
authors, was born on November 30, 1835, in Florida, Missouri. As a young
child, his health was poor, but he outgrew his health problems and turned
into a mischievous boy, much like Tom Sawyer. In 1839, his family moved
to Hannibal, Missouri, where he spent his boyhood years, swimming and
fishing in the Mississippi River and playing in the nearby woods. As an
adventurous child, he ran away from home and almost drowned in the Mississippi
several times. He often spent his summers at his Uncle Quarles farm, where
he was involved in the pranks of a "gang" of boys, much like
the one found in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
During his stays at the farm, he also witnessed some disturbing incidents, like slave beatings and murder, events that he would later incorporate into his novels.
In 1847, Samís father died, and the young Sam was forced to leave school and become a printerís apprentice in order to help support his impoverished family. In 1853, he left Hannibal to pursue his printing work in St. Louis, New York, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Iowa. From 1857 until the Civil War broke out in 1861, he served as the pilot of a riverboat on the Mississippi River, an experience that he later used in creating his novels. After the war, he went to Nevada with his brother Orion to prospect for silver and gold, but he did not like the rigors of the West. He returned to the East where he worked as a reporter.
On February 2, 1863, Samuel Clemensí writings first appeared in a newspaper, under the pseudonym of "Mark Twain," which was a boating phrase that indicated two fathoms of water and that he had heard as a boy. In 1864, he went to San Francisco, where he worked as a reporter and wrote for local magazines. In 1865, the New York Saturday Press printed one of his stories and introduced him as an author in the East.
Having more financial resources at his command, Samuel Clemens began to travel extensively. In 1866, he went to Hawaii, and the next year he toured Europe and the Holy Land, the basis for his travel book entitled Innocents Abroad. Wherever he went, Clemens observed life and people in order to gather material for his writings. He most appreciated the comedy he saw around him, but at times he also had a gloomy outlook. Both these views of life are developed in his novels.
On the European voyage, Clemens met Charles Langdon, who later introduced him in 1867 to his sister Olivia. Clemens immediately fell in love with her and married her in 1870 after a long courtship. They had a son who died in infancy and three daughters. The family lived in Hartford, Connecticut from 1871 until 1891, the period of Mark Twainís best writing. In 1872, he published his first book Roughing It (about his experiences in the western United States), quickly followed by his first novel, The Guilded Age, in 1873. In 1876, he published The Adventures of Tom Sawyer . Then came A Tramp Abroad about his walking trip in Europe (1880), The Prince and the Pauper which satirizes England (1882), Life on the Mississippi about his time as a riverboat pilot (1883), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, considered to be Twainís masterpiece of writing (1885), and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthurís Court which is another satire about human insensitivity (1889).
The last twenty years of Samuel Clemenís life were not happy ones. Despite his extra-ordinary sense of humor, he grew depressed and melancholy, wrestled with his belief in God, and shifted between liberal and conservative social ideas. He also invested in many financial schemes, almost all of which were failures. In order to pay back his debts, he went on an extensive lecture tour in Europe in 1895 and 1896. During the tour, his favorite daughter, Suzy, passed away. His wife Olivia, whose health had never been strong, grew worse and died in 1904. His youngest daughter, Jean died in 1909. As Twain grew bitter about his losses and his own failing health, his writing became pessimistic, attacking U.S. governmental policies and manís basic selfishness.
Despite his worsening condition in the 1900ís, Mark Twain received many honors and much recognition for his writings. In 1901, he received an honorary degree from Yale and in 1902, from the University of Missouri. I n 1907, he received an honorary degree from Oxford. His last steady pleasure was endless games of billiards that he played with his biographer, Alber B Paine. Clemens died of Angina on April 21, 1910.
Twains Other Works::
1873 The Gilded Age (with Charles Dudley Warner)
1882 The Prince and the Pauper
1884 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
1889 A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
1892 The American Claimant (with William Dean Howells)
1894 The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson and the Comedy of Those Extraordinary Twins
1896 Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc
1894 Tom Sawyer Abroad
1896 Tom Sawyer, Detective
1916 The Mysterious Stranger
1869 The Innocents Abroad
1872 Roughing It
1880 A Tramp Abroad
1883 Life on the Mississippi
1897 Following the Equator
1897 How to Tell a Story and Other Essays
1906 What is Man?
1907 Christian Science
1907 Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven
1959 The Autobiography of Mark Twain (Charles Neider, ed.)
STORIES AND SKETCHES
1867 The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, and Other Sketches
1875 Sketches, New and Old
1876 "The Facts Concerning the Recent Carnival of Crime in Connecticut"
1882 "The Stolen White Elephant"
1893 "The L1,000,000 Bank Note"
1899 "The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg"
1902 "The Five Boons of Life"
As the title suggests, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is a series of independent and overlapping adventures of one particular boy, Tom Sawyer. It is set in St. Petersburg, Missouri, which is totally modeled after Hannibal, Mark Twainís boyhood home. Twain once told his friend Brander Mathews that he began writing Tom Sawyer as the recollections of his boyhood memories, and the characters in the book are based upon real people from the authorís childhood. Judge Thatcher is based upon the personality of his own father; Aunt Polly is much like his mother; Mary and Sidney are patterned after his own brother Henry and sister Pamela; Huck Finn is much like Tom Blankenship, the son of the village drunk in Hannibal; Laura Hawkins, an early sweetheart of Twain, become Becky Thatcher; and Tom Sawyer is much like the author himself. In fact, many critics claim the novel to be highly autobiographical.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is much more than a simple book about a boy growing up. It is an idyll of boyhood that contains some of the most delightful scenes ever written in a novel. The whitewashing of the fence, the boys returning to their own funeral, Tomís adventure in the cave with Becky are so well known that they are recognized the world over. The book, in fact, transcends time and place and presents a universal picture of childhood as well as a picture of the weaknesses and humanity of mankind. Twainís gentle satire, open humor, realistic descriptions, wonderful character development, and clear and simple style of writing make Tomís adventures become a literary masterpiece.