Re-reading "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" (1876) by Mark Twain

Monday, June 21, 2021

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Golden Press edition

Illustrated by Polly Bolian

I read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer for the Classics Club, and you can find my Classics Club list HERE.

I took a week's vacation with my family at the end of May, right before Memorial Day. We headed into the Colorado Rockies for a camping trip and I intentionally brought The Adventures of Tom Sawyer with me. I read it countless times as a child and a teenager, but it had been many, many years since I'd last picked it up. I still have my original copy, very careworn at this point, and published before adding forewords and afterwords penned by the so-and-sos and whos-who of the literary world became the trend.

It seemed just the ideal reading choice for a stream-side campsite surrounded by woods, and it was indeed so.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is one of those playful books that you should only really read for pleasure. It is meant to be an enjoyable romp, following a small boy and his group of friends in his mid-19th-century childhood in Missouri along the banks of the Mississippi River. The tale wanders and weaves and follows a variety of characters, but overall it is Tom's story, the mischievous brat.

It is Tom Sawyer who managed to convince all of the boys in his community that white-washing a fence was the greatest privilege a boy could dream of and that he would only give up that privilege if they could make it worth his while. Tom came out much the richer and Aunt Polly's fence enjoyed three coats of whitewash.

It is Tom who convinced Huckleberry Finn, the son of the only true deadbeat in town, and Joe Harper, his long-standing best friend to sneak off onto an island in the middle of the Mississippi and play at pirates for days on end, whooping it up, and eating fresh-caught fish, and little thinking or caring about the anxieties caused by their absence back home.

And of course, it is Tom and Huck who witness Injun Joe murder Dr. Robinson in the cemetery. Their attempts to remain quiet are ultimately for naught since, at the heart of the matter, Tom is not an evil child, just a mischievous one. So the idea of Muff Potter (an associate of Injun Joe's), being hanged for a crime he didn't actually commit, didn't sit well on Tom's heart. 

Add to that the treasure hunt, Tom's falling helplessly in love with Becky Thatcher, Huck's courageous rescuing of the Widow Douglas, and Tom and Becky's lost wanderings in McDowell's Cave, and the story is just about complete.

Twain's style is highly whimsical and nostalgic, which only makes sense since he based Tom's home off his own childhood home of Hannibal, MO. What I especially love is how easily transported I am to the world of Tom Sawyer. I like male protagonists. I always have, which makes it rather difficult for me to find and love new books in my preferred genres when pretty much every book is written from the female perspective nowadays. That's why I cling so tightly to the old standbys like The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Since I am not male, the masculine mind intrigues me. Or at least, the masculine mind when it was allowed to be so, intrigues me.

Tom Sawyer is undoubtedly a little brat. And he needs to be trained up properly. Bless his Aunt Polly for her attempts. But overall he is just a delight to read. Boys are supposed to be harmlessly mischievous. My father was, my grandfather likely was, and that's as it should be.

I'm glad I made the time to re-read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, even though it is likely unpopular with modern readers. I can see why it would be since it does have insensitive portrayals. And readers should know that going in. But I dislike judging our ancestors by modern sensibilities so I fully confess that The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is now and always will be a favorite of mine, even when I'm old, greying, and can't even remember my own name. Samuel Clemens (MT) penned a treasure and I will forever be grateful to him.


  1. Thanks for a great review. I decided to read Tom Sawyer after I finished reading, The Prince and the Pauper. Loved it! So, I bought Tom Sawyer and I'm looking forward to reading it in the next couple of weeks.

    1. And I haven't read The Prince and the Pauper yet. I nearly bought a copy secondhand last week, but skipped it at the last moment. Hmm, I might have to go back to the store and pick it up. Hope you enjoy Tom Sawyer!

  2. I loved this book as a kid, too! I also gravitate toward male protagonists in books, and male characters in movies -- they somehow make more sense to me than most female characters. I should reread this myself, as it's been decades.

    1. I find that female characters, with a few exceptions, border on the ridiculous. They're either too timid or they're waaaaaaaaaay too into "female empowerment" which only makes me feel like they're condescending to the male characters. There has got to be a happy medium somewhere.

      It was a super fun re-read. I'm glad I plucked it off my shelf My cover is almost completely unhinged from the book at this point, I've had it so long, but I love my copy anyway.

    2. Maybe that's it -- I can suspend my disbelief better for male characters, since maybe they're just behaving in a way I haven't experienced. Whereas, with female characters, a lot of times I am more apt to roll my eyes and be annoyed.

      Or maybe I just like the more direct thinking male characters tend to use.

  3. Replies
    1. It's definitely a terrific book! I think I need to rewatch Tom and Huck now. It's been a long time since I've seen it, but I'm curious to see how accurate it is.

  4. Aah, yes, one of the great American classics and definitely worth a reread. I have an ongoing reread of a couple of series from my childhood (I won't say how LONG AGO that was...). Each series has 50 plus books in it with plenty of fun, friends, adventure, danger and more. Can you guess what series they might possibly be?


Thank you for your kind comments, which I adore!