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The Adventures of Tom Sawyerby Mark Twain
Synopses & Reviews
"What's gone with that boy, I wonder? You TOM "
The old lady pulled her spectacles down and looked over them, about the room; then she put them up and looked out under them. She seldom or never looked through them for so small a thing as a boy; they were her state pair, the pride of her heart, and were built for "style," not service;-she could have seen through a pair of stove lids just as well. She looked perplexed for a moment, and then said, not fiercely, but still loud enough for the furniture to hear:
"Well, I lay if I get hold of you I'll-"
She did not finish, for by this time she was bending down and punching under the bed with the broom-and so she needed breath to punctuate the punches with. She resurrected nothing but the cat.
"I never did see the beat of that boy "
She went to the open door and stood in it and looked out among the tomato vines and "jimpson" weeds that constituted the garden. No Tom. So she lifted up her voice, at an angle calculated for distance, and shouted:
"Y-o-u-u Tom "
There was a slight noise behind her and she turned just in time to seize a small boy by the slack of his roundabout and arrest his flight.
"There I might 'a' thought of that closet. What you been doing in there?"
"Nothing Look at your hands. And look at your mouth. What is that truck?"
"I don't know, aunt."
"Well I know. It's jam-that's what it is. Forty times I've said if you didn't let that jam alone I'd skin you. Hand me that switch."
The switch hovered in the air-the peril was desperate-
"My Look behind you, aunt "
The old lady whirled around, and snatched her skirts out of danger. The lad fled, on the instant, scrambled up the high board fence, and disappeared over it.
His aunt Polly stood surprised a moment, and then broke into a gentle laugh.
"Hang the boy, can't I never learn anything? Ain't he played me tricks enough like that for me to be looking out for him
by this time? But old fools is
the biggest fools there is. Can't learn an old dog new tricks, as the saying is. But my goodness, he never plays them alike, two days, and how is a body to know what's coming? He 'pears to know just how long he can torment me before I get my dander up, and he knows if he can make out to put me off for a minute or make me laugh, it's all down again and I can't hit him a lick. I ain't doing my duty by that boy, and that's the Lord's truth, goodness knows. Spare the rod and spile the child, as the Good Book says. I'm a-laying up sin and suffering for us both, I know. He's full of the Old Scratch, but laws-a-me he's my own dead sister's boy, poor thing, and I ain't got the heart to lash him, somehow. Every time I let him off my conscience does hurt me so, and every time I hit him my old heart most breaks. Well-a-well, man that is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble, as the Scripture says, and I reckon it's so. He'll play hookey this evening, * and I'll just be obleeged to make him work, to-morrow, to punish him. It's mighty hard to make him work Saturdays, when all the boys i
A graveyard rendezvous becomes a test of bravery for two adventurous youths who witness a murder along the banks of the Mississippi
1. In his preface, Mark Twain remarks that "Although my book is intended mainly for the entertainment of boys and girls, I hope it will not be shunned by men and women on that account, for part of my plan has been to try to pleasantly remind adults of what they once were themselves. . . ." Do you think Twain succeeds in this "plan"? Discuss the ways in which Tom Sawyer can be read by both children and adults-do different aspects of the book appeal to different kinds of readers? Are different episodes designed, as some critics have suggested, to appeal to different audiences?
2. How does Tom Sawyer relate to the world of adult authority and responsibility? Can he be said to "mature" during the course of the novel, as critics have asserted? If so in what ways?
3. Discuss the town of St. Petersburg, Mississippi, Tom Sawyer's home. How would you describe it? What literary devices or descriptions, to your mind, make Twain's portrayal of rural American life in the years before the Civil War interesting, unique, appealing?
4. Virginia Wexman notes that in Tom Sawyer "we are confronted with two clearly separate worlds. The first world is a light and engaging one . . . where life is played at . . . the world of Tom himself. . . . But there is another world here too, a darker world where actions have real meaning and real moral consequences-the world of people like Injun Joe and Muff Potter." Discuss each of these "two worlds," and the ways in which they are related to each other in the novel.
5. Discuss Tom's relationship with Huckleberry Finn, from their first encounter, through their subsequent adventures. What do you make of this friendship? Why are these characters drawn to each other? Compare this relationship with other relationships in the novel, for instance Tom's relationship to Becky Thatcher.
6. Discuss Twain's use of particular geographical settings as scenes for episodes in the novel: the river, the island, the cave. Why do you think these particular landscapes are chosen? How do they inform the action of the novel?
7. Tom Sawyer is one of the most recognizable and revered characters in American literature; as Lyall Powers writes, "Everybody knows Tom's story whether he has actually read the book or not." What do you think accounts for the enduring popularity of Twain's literary creation?
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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