Where Adventure and Social Satire Meet to Form an Unforgettable Story

ATS cover

“He 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.”

-Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is collectively regarded with its sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, as Mark Twain’s masterpiece. Like its sequel, Twain creates a social satire amid an unforgettable adventure and coming-of-age story. While not as eminent or scrutinized as its sequel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is still a valuable reading experience which one can learn from. For example, Huckleberry Finn is introduced. By learning about him, Huck’s nature will be easier to comprehend, thus making the reading experience of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn more enjoyable.

The story centers around a mischievous boy named Tom Sawyer in the fictional village of St. Petersburg, Missouri along the Mississippi River. The story, hence its name, is about his adventures, which range from hunting for buried treasure to wooing a girl to spying on a criminal. In theory, one could say that The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is a picaresque tale full of action, adventure, romance, and suspense. As a result, this book is perfect for children, which is why it is often categorized as a children’s book. However, as aforementioned, Twain very subtly added a social satire and coming-of-age story to this apparent adventure story. The coming-of-age element is incorporated into one of Tom’s adventures, while the social criticism is present in several instances.

Twain wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in third-person instead of first-person. Rather than being a personal narrative like its sequel, Twain decided to write The Adventures of Tom Sawyer as a biographical reflection of Tom’s childhood. Included in the reflection is a commentary of society’s hypocrisies. Twain reveals that social authority doesn’t quite function like people say it does, and is often subject to many errors. Moreover, Twain overly satirizes society’s tolerance and forgiveness. When society feels indignant and uncompromising, Twain shows that society’s tolerance and forgiveness dominate the indignation and relentlessness. For instance, Tom runs away to an island with his friends causing a huge uproar in his village. After becoming extremely upset at what Tom did, the community decides to forgive him. This shows that social indignation is equilibrated by tolerance and forgiveness.

I would recommend this book to people who like American literature, picaresque tales, satire, and general readers as a whole. The prequel to the widely-called Great American Novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is a must-read for reading enthusiasts. I read the Oxford World Classics edition, which features a solid introduction and excellent footnotes to clarify the text. All in all, this is a solid edition of a wonderful novel.

Click here to buy the prequel to the Great American Novel.

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