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What is the theme of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer?

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enotes-user | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted June 11, 2009 at 12:36 PM via web

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What is the theme of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 11, 2009 at 2:39 PM (Answer #1)

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At the heart of this whimsical novel is the theme of friendship.  The antics of the friends Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn are known to many Americans who have not even read this novel.  Together Tom and Huck create an exciting, imaginative world.  Many readers long remember the scene in which Tom tricks his friends into whitewashing the picket fence, Injun Joe leaping through the window of the courhouse after Tom names him as Dr. Robinson's murderer, and the cave scene in which Tom and Becky are lost have become part of American folklore.  Finally, when the children return to attend their own funerals and all the relatives are elated to find the children, Tom remarks that "it ain't fair" that Huck stands alone with no one to welcome him back.  A true friend, Tom tells Aunt Polly that someone must "be glad to see Huck."

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epollock | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted June 11, 2009 at 3:15 PM (Answer #2)

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is an iconic American romance. Tom Sawyer is the eternal child, and as such he illustrates an obsessive trait of both Mark Twain and American culture. Tom's behavior belongs in a line of American figures who either seek shelter in childhood or refuse the responsibilities of adult life: Irving's Rip Van Winkle, Hemingway's Nick Adams, Faulkner's Ike McCaslin, and Salinger's Holden Caulfield.

Tom the prankster, the trickster, calls into question a venerable line of American thinking. Having others whitewash the fence constitutes a perfect reversal of Ben Franklin's pious work ethos. Twain favors performance over labor. Tom's escapades—skipping school, sneaking a smoke, slipping out of Aunt Polly's, getting into scuffles, seeking buried treasure—may well seem quaint today, but the environment has changed. 

Tom Sawyer certainly has an astonishingly bookish character, which is often underappreciated by readers. Most of his pranks and adventures are done "by the book," following the rules he has read about in earlier romances. He is Twain's version of Don Quixote.

This book closes, with a frenzied order. Tom is now a hero, and his social prospects are underlined. The revolt against civilization has been squelched. A universal theme that we should develop our creative abilities and faculties to the limit and reach for what we think is the "brass ring" in life rings true for anyone that reads this novel.

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superbobby100 | Student | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted August 6, 2012 at 2:51 PM (Answer #3)

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here are two possible themes:

friendship or freedom

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gsmaechling | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted June 7, 2012 at 12:55 AM (Answer #4)

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the theme is tom and beckys love and finding the treasure of Injun JOE THAT IS THE PLOT I DONT KNOW WHAT THE THEME IS

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