I have to write a 2 page reflection paper on The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain.

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In the composition a reflection paper, an essential component is the interaction of the writer with the text. Therefore, the writer will integrate his personal reactions and thoughts with what he has read in the text of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, using first person in this act of composing. As suggested above, an examination of theme is one that lends itself well to a reflection paper. For, some of the episodes of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer may easily trigger memories of similar personal experiences, or of ideas about what Tom should have done or could have done instead in a certain episode.

Here are some other considerations in the composition of a reflection paper:

  • With the driving point of a reflection paper being the writer's understanding of the material and its impact upon his ideas and future actions and thoughts, finding passages that are personally meaningful is essential as these, then, become part of the topic of reflection/discussion. For example, with regard to the important theme of Friendship, Tom initially exerts his energy by playing tricks on others and other schemes; however, in Chapter 20, Tom exhibits maturity and friendship towards Becky when he takes the punishment for tearing a page from the teacher's anatomy book kept in his desk drawer. For, when Mr. Dobbins asks Becky, "...did you tear this book?" Tom quickly springs to his feet, shouting, "I done it!" and takes a whipping and the added punishment of staying two hours after school. Tom's unselfish sacrifice of himself for Becky causes her pangs of conscience as she more deeply feels her guilt. As a result, she confesses to Tom in her shame the act of Alfred Temple's pouring ink on his spelling book.
  • It is essential to provide an explanation of how the reading of the novel has altered the reader's prior knowledge and perspective about particular issues in the novel, and how it has provided new ideas that have been generated from the reading of the book. For instance, in a discussion of the theme of Friendship, in the beginning Tom cleverly tricks those who observe his whitewashing to do the work for him, and is proud of his exploitation of his friends. Perhaps, the ethical mistake that he makes in doing so generates in the reader the realization that people sometimes exploit others. But, if one is truly a friend, one is unselfish. As verification of this point, the writer can use the example of Tom's true friendship with Becky and with Huck as exhibited in such episodes as his testifying against Injun Joe as he knows that Huck is afraid to do because Joe can retaliate against him since he is not as secure in the society as Tom. (Then, the writer can reflect upon his own feelings and experiences in learning the meaning of friendship.)
  • The reflection paper contains the necessary opening paragraph, body, and conclusion of any essay. 
  • This paper must include documented citations from the novel (in-text references put in parentheses after what is quoted). It may also require a reference page at the end if other works have been cited, too.

For your convenience, there are links cited below which offer valuable pointers on the composition of a reflection paper.

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gpane's profile pic

gpane | College Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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There are several interesting aspects of this text that you could write about, including themes, characterization, and narrative point-of-view.

To begin with, you could look at theme. The most obvious theme of this book is the pleasures and escapades of childhood, inspired by Mark Twain's own nostalgic longings for his boyhood days in the town of Hannibal. This theme is apparent in the very title, with the references to 'adventures'. Tom Sawyer, the enterprising and imaginative young protagonist of the tale, has many adventures whether real or imaginary. He plays at pirates and outlaws with his close friends Huck Finn, Joe Rogers and Ben Harper, and actually runs away for a time; he goes digging for treasure - and finds it; is witness to a grim murder, and finally is lost for some terrible days in a cave with his girlfriend Becky. All this is very much in the vein of juvenile literature, with the young hero emerging triumphant at the end and none the worse for wear from the sometimes hair-raising experiences he has been through. The theme of childhood innocence and joy pervades the entire story. The less engaging aspects of life in this town, for example with the hints of poverty and racial prejudice, are simply not dwelt on. The main focus remains firmly on the more appealing side of life, as enshrined in the youthful world of Tom and his companions.

The characterisation, in keeping with it being a children’s book, is quite simple. There is little psychological depth to the characters, but there are some memorable ones, most of all Tom himself. He is mischievous and unruly, but essentially good-hearted as illustrated, for example, in his remorse for hurting Aunt Polly by running away. He is blessed with a vivid imagination which can enliven even the most mundane things. Other major characters include his simple, loving Aunt Polly, the villainous, bloodthirsty Injun Joe, and Huck Finn, probably Tom’s closest friend, who strikes an interestingly different note from all the other characters as he lives on the periphery of society. He is the son of the town drunkard and as such is barred from conventional life – something which he hardly seems to mind as he is free to do whatever he pleases. (This town outcast is the main character and narrator in Twain’s later book, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which is generally considered to be a much more serious novel.)

One very significant feature of this story is the way in which it is narrated. Although a children’s book, it has quite a mature, and somewhat wry narrative voice. This mode of narration is an example of third-person narration, that is to say it stands well outside the characters and events and provides commentary on them. It does so in a way that might sometimes appear too difficult for younger readers to understand, in its use of sophisticated language and sense of irony; but the overall affectionate tone is never really in doubt. All in all, the book remains, to this day, an engaging portrayal of youth, with its endless sense of possibilities and promise, those delightful days before the advent of all the cares, worries and responsibilities associated with life in the grown-up world.

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