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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

by Mark Twain
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What type of narrator telling the story in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer? Identify the point of view being used in pages 1–29.

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer has a third-person omniscient narrator. Although this narrator closely follows the protagonist, his views are clearly his own, and he sometimes has a different perspective from Tom's. He is able to comment on the interior lives of other characters. For instance, he says of Aunt Polly,

Like many other simple-hearted souls, it was her pet vanity to believe she was endowed with a talent for dark and mysterious diplomacy, and she loved to contemplate her most transparent devices as marvels of low cunning.

The narrator generally sympathizes with Tom's point of view, as when he describes the dandified attire of the new boy at the end of chapter 1 as "simply astounding." However, although this expresses Tom's thoughts, it is couched in vocabulary very different from Tom's. It is often emphasized that the narrator is an adult who, though he clearly recalls what it was like to be a boy, has gained a wealth of wisdom and experience since boyhood. This is particularly clear in the renowned "fence-painting" episode in chapter 2. Reflecting on the moral of the story, the narrator observes,

If he [Tom] had been a great and wise philosopher, like the writer of this book, he would now have comprehended that Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do. And this would help him to understand why constructing artificial flowers or performing on a tread-mill is work, while rolling ten-pins or climbing Mont Blanc is only amusement.

Although the narrator tends to sympathize with Tom, rejoicing in his triumphs over the forces of authority and conformity, this penchant for moralizing and philosophizing marks him out as an adult. He is thus able to mediate between readers of any age and the characters, explaining Tom to the adult reader and Aunt Polly to the child. This flexibility and breadth of perspective in the narrator is one of the qualities that makes Tom Sawyer a children's book which is often re-read and appreciated in adulthood.

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