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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

MARK TWAIN

Key Facts

FULL TITLE

AUTHOR

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Samuel Clemens, usually known by his pen name, Mark Twain

TYPE OF WORK

GENRE

Novel

Concerned with Tom's personal growth and quest for identity, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer incorporates

several different genres. It resembles a bildungsroman, a novel that follows the development of a hero from childhood
through adolescence and into adulthood. The novel also resembles novels of the picaresque genre, in that Tom
moves from one adventurous episode to another. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer also fits the genres of satire,
frontier literature, folk narrative, and comedy.
LANGUAGE

English

TIME AND PLACE WRITTEN

18741875; Hartford, Connecticut

DATE OF FIRST PUBLICATION

NARRATOR

The novel appeared in England in June 1876, and six months later in the United States.

An adult who views the adult world critically and looks back on the sentiments and pastimes of childhood

in a somewhat idealized manner, with wit and also with nostalgia


POINT OF VIEW

The narrator narrates in the third person, with a special insight into the workings of the boyish heart

and mind.
TONE

TENSE

Satirical and nostalgic


Past

SETTING (TIME)

Not specified, but probably around 1845

SETTING (PLACE)

PROTAGONIST

The fictional town of St. Petersburg, Missouri (which resembles Twain's hometown of Hannibal)

Tom Sawyer

MAJOR CONFLICT

Tom and Huck perceive their biggest struggle to be between themselves and Injun Joe, whose gold

they want and whom they believe is out to kill them. Conflict also exists between Tom and his imaginative world and
the expectations and rules of adult society.
RISING ACTION

Tom and Huck's witness of Dr. Robinson's murder; the search for the boys' bodies in the river when

they escape to Jackson's Island; Tom's testimony at Muff Potter's trial; Tom and Huck's accidental sighting of Injun
Joe at the haunted house; Tom and Becky's entrapment in the cave

CLIMAX

Huck overhears Injun Joe's plan to kill Widow Douglas, and Tom encounters Injun Joe when he and Becky

are stranded in the cave.


FALLING ACTION

Huck gets help from the Welshman and drives Injun Joe away from Widow Douglas; Tom avoids

conflict with Injun Joe and navigates himself and Becky out of the cave; Judge Thatcher seals off the cave, causing
Injun Joe to starve to death; Tom and Huck find Injun Joe's treasure; Huck is adopted and civilized by Widow Douglas
THEMES

Moral and social maturation; society's hypocrisy; freedom through social exclusion; superstition in an

uncertain world
MOTIFS

Crime; trading; the circus; showing off

SYMBOLS

The cave; the storm; the treasure; the village

FORESHADOWING

When he is frustrated by his fight with Becky, Tom declares his intention to become a pirate,

foreshadowing his later excursion to Jackson's Island; Tom's great fear of Injun Joe foreshadows his later encounters
with him; Tom's obsession with the oath he and Huck have taken never to speak about Dr. Robinson's murder
foreshadows the fact that Tom will later break the oath and testify at Muff Potter's trial.

Compare & Contrast

1840s: Slavery of Africans was widely practiced throughout the Southern states of the
nation. Slaves were considered the property of their owners and possessed no civil rights:
they could not vote, legally marry, or own property.
1876: Following the Civil War and the abolition of slavery in the United States, the
radical wing of the Republican party attempted to remake the South without slavery. This
period of reformation, called Reconstruction, ended in 1876. The civil rights gains made
during Reconstruction were lost following the end of President Ulysses S. Grant's
administration.
Today: African Americans possess full civil rights under the U.S. Constitution and hold
positions of power in the U.S. government, including seats on the Supreme Court, in the
Senate, and in the President's Cabinet. In spite of these gains, race relations continue to
be a divisive issue in American society.
1840s: In 1840, Missouri was the westernmost state in the Union. Presidents Polk and
Tyler pursued policies to fulfill America's so-called "manifest destiny" to expand to the
shores of the Pacific Ocean. The war with Mexico resulted in the annexation of the
Southwest. Texas became a state in 1845; California, virtually unknown in 1840, became
a state in 1850.
1876: Colorado entered the Union. Alaska had been purchased by the United States in
1872. The West was rapidly becoming populated, and in 1890 the U.S. government
declared the frontier closed.
Today: Alaska and Hawaii became the 49th and 50th states in the 1950s, and in the
1990s the physical boundaries of the United States appear fixed, but some wish to make
Puerto Rico the 51st state.

1840s: Industrialization was just beginning in the United States. Steam power
transformed water transportation from rafts to steamboats. Steam was also beginning to
transform travel on land with railroads. Samuel B. Morse's telegraph, a new means of
communication, first operated successfully in 1844.
1876: Industrialization was transforming the country, and the Philadelphia Centennial
Exhibition celebrated technology. Alexander Graham Bell's telephone was introduced at
the Exhibition. The transcontinental railroad had been finished in 1869, and by 1876 the
railroad had become central to the industrial economy.
Today: The information economy has succeeded the industrial economy. While the
railroad was at the center of the industrial economy, the computer is at the center of the
information economy. The Internet has produced a global communication network, and
travel by automobile and airplane has largely replaced rail travel.
1840s: From 1840 to 1855, about 3.5 million immigrants came into the United States,
attracted by the promise of wealth and freedom. Most of the immigrants in this period
came from Ireland and Germany.
1876: Changing the population and the way American cities developed, immigration had
become by 1876 a huge influence on American culture. In 1876, the nation was on the
verge of its largest-ever influx of immigrants: nine million in the last twenty years of the
nineteenth century.