Mark Twain's publication in 1876 of his popular novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer reversed a brief downturn in his success following the publication of his previous novel, The Gilded Age. Twain wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer while he and his family were living in Hartford, Connecticut, and while Twain was enjoying his fame. The novel, which tells of the escapades of a young boy and his friends in St. Petersburg, Missouri, a village near the Mississippi River, recalls Twain's own childhood in a small Missouri town. The friendship of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn is one of the most celebrated in American literature, built on imaginative adventures, shared superstitions, and loyalty that rises above social convention. Twain's American reading audience loved this novel and its young hero, and the novel remains one of the most popular and famous works of American literature. The novel and its characters have achieved folk hero status in the American popular imagination.
Scenes such as Tom Sawyer tricking his friends into whitewashing Aunt Polly's fence for him, Injun Joe leaping through the window of the courthouse after Tom names him as Dr. Robinson's murderer, and Tom and Becky lost in the cave have become so familiar to American readers that one almost doesn't have to read the book to know about them. But the pleasure of reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer has kept readers coming back to the novel for over a century.
Beyond the fact that The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is fun to read, there is another reason for the novel's contemporary popularity: It introduces the character of Huckleberry Finn, who, with the publication of Twain's 1884 novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, would become one of the greatest characters in American literature.