Book review of the Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Book review of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
This particular edition of the story reprinted from a first edition text published in 1876 by the American Publishing Company. All spellings and punctuation were preserved as they appeared in the original editions. This aspect of the original brings the book wonderful color of a unique era together with a degree of difficulty in comprehensive reading. For example, when Tom Sawyer attempts to entice their Negro help, Jim, into switching chores with him, Jim’s answer goes like this,
“Can’t, Mars Tom. Ole missis, she tole me I got to go an’ git dis water an’ not stop foolin’ roun’ wid anybody. She say she spec’ Mars Tom gwine to ax me to whitewash, an’ so she tole me go ‘long an’ tend to my own business -- she ‘lowed she’d ‘tend to de whitewashin’.”
Although delighting in the authentic language of a by-gone era, it does take time to grasp. One cannot just ‘read’ such a paragraph word by word, sentence by sentence. The paragraph needs to be read as a whole, thereby conjuring up a picture of the speaker, which enables a picturesque comprehension. To do this takes time. “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” with its provocative and energetic language cannot and indeed should not be read quickly. Instead, the reader aught to sit down in comfort and with plenty of undistracted time, prepared to enjoy the delectable taste of an age gone by and strange to our modern pallet.
Twain is a master of character development. From his first introduction of the individual character, one gets a sense of their personality. Not one character, I have found, is flat taking up space in this spell binding narrative of suspense and intrigue. I would suspect Mark Twain and the author John Grisham would have had many interesting conversations, had they been given the opportunity to meet.
It is often said, a writer should write about what they know. Twain illustrates this fully. Growing up in a port town on the Mississippi River, Twain had the occasion to apprentice as a steamboat pilot. (Hence, the pen name, Mark Twain, which means two fathoms deep.) This experience filled Twain with enough knowledge to confidently and successfully write such books as “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”
I was fascinated by Twain’s ability for showing the environment and character through action and spontaneous dialogue. I was instantly transported to the three great elm trees in the graveyard, waiting and listening with Tom and Huck, urging suspenseful caution at the very first, “Sh!” In addition, because Tom and friends were such extravagantly imaginative boys, I was able to envision their surroundings as they whooped and hollered through their Robin Hood Adventures. One could ‘feel’ the despair of both Tom and Becky as their attempts at manipulating jealousy failed. Twain created a moving picture for us in his masterful use of the descriptive. Letting what was not said influence events as well, and as fully, as what was said.
Books by Mark Twain
This has been my first opportunity to read a Mark Twain book. Being exposed to Twain’s expert skill and craftsmanship with words was incredible. Yet, as a story, I personally, discovered the events to be very dark. As a whole, the story had some absolutely delightful moments but its darker side astounded me. As a children’s book, I would not recommend it. As a book of literature, I would love to study it. The politics and culture of the times and how it invaded the lives of these children is a study in itself.
The story portrays a great deal about the personality of the man, Twain, himself. What must have been his experience in his tender years that would have given him such a jaded outlook on life, on both Christianity and the culture as a whole? That Twain was a romantic is no question. Sawyers’ bouts with depression and melancholy in contrast to his over excited reaction in love and joy clearly shows that forth. Yet Twain’s cynicism in regards to people, especially adults, stands out starkly. Sawyer has a much firmer grip in his trust of the superstition of the day than in the words and actions of the adults that surrounded him. Twain brings out his own opinion of the badly shaded hypocrisy of disenchanted adults.
In the story one can feel Tom’s struggle with growing up and accepting responsibility. Tom fights with everything inside himself to hang on to his carefree childhood. In the end, without awareness, the sinister creeping of maturity finds Tom walking the steps of responsibility to protect Becky when she is found to be in danger. In addition, Tom’s friendship with Huck changes as he convinces Huck to take on respectability. I would say, “Tom Sawyer” may quite possibly be America’s version of Britain’s famous “Peter Pan.” The story was well read and well done.