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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

by Mark Twain

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What is the setting of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer?

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Setting refers to the time and place in which the events of a narrative occur. Mark Twain's classic novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, published in 1876, is set in the fictional small town of St. Petersburg, Missouri, which rested on the Mississippi River, during the 1840s, in the antebellum period before the United States Civil War and the abolition of slavery. It is likely that the town was inspired by Twain's own boyhood home of Hannibal, Missouri, which today has several tourist attractions inspired by the Tom Sawyer connection.

Important locations to the events of the story within this setting include: Tom's Aunt Polly's house, the school house, the church, the river and Jackson Island where Tom and his friends play pirates, the caves where Tom and Becky get lost, and the town's graveyard.

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer takes place in St. Petersburg, Missouri, along the Mississippi River, in the 1840s. The small town and surrounding area is Tom’s playground for all the adventures he goes through in the novel. The town of Hannibal is considered the present day setting of the novel, and if you go there, you will see a replica of the fence Tom talks Ben into painting and the boyhood home of Mark Twain. There is also a magnificent cave nearby that the boys explore (Tom and Becky Thatcher get lost in the cave) and Jackson Island where the boys stay while pretending to be pirates. Other setting sites include a graveyard, where the Tom and Huck see Injun Joe kill the doctor, and an abandoned house, where Huck and Tom overhear the plans of Injun Joe to kill the Widow Douglas. 

The novel takes place during the United States' “adolescence” and the settling of the West.  It is also takes place during the time of slavery.


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