Introduction to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

First published in 1876 and set in the 1840s, Mark Twain’s classic novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer recounts the humorous boyhood exploits of its eponymous hero. Twain drew heavily on his own childhood experiences along the Mississippi River and based Tom’s fictional small town of St. Petersburg, Missouri, on his own hometown of Hannibal. Over the course of the story, the orphaned Tom uses his intelligence, imagination, and talent for troublemaking to escape from both duty and danger, at one point even faking his own death only to reappear at his funeral. In the end, he and his friend Huckleberry Finn become local heroes for evading and trapping the murderer Injun Joe, whose buried treasure the boys discover in a cave. Though less frequently studied than its sequel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), The Adventures of Tom Sawyer remains one of Twain’s most popular books and an iconic work of American literature.

A Brief Biography of Mark Twain

Mark Twain (1835–1910) was an American writer who is primarily known for his novels The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Born in 1835 as Samuel Langhorne Clemens, Twain worked as a river boat captain on the Mississippi while a young man. When the pilots called out the depth of the river, “mark twain” meant that the river was two fathoms deep. A master of vernacular English, Twain eventually traveled all over the United States (and beyond), paying attention to how people really spoke and what really entertained them. He published poetry, jokes, tall tales, nonfiction, and, of course, some of the greatest novels in American history. His characters Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn seem to capture something of the meaning of boyhood, America, and life on the wild Mississippi River.

Frequently Asked Questions about The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Jim is a young boy who is enslaved to Tom's aunt Polly. He appears only briefly in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. In the first chapter, Tom tries to trick Jim into whitewashing the fence. Jim...

Latest answer posted September 8, 2021, 9:24 pm (UTC)

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

At first we might hesitate to classify Tom Sawyer as a hero in Mark Twain's classic The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Tom is, after all, first and foremost a mischievous boy with a knack for getting...

Latest answer posted September 8, 2021, 1:46 pm (UTC)

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

In chapter 1, Tom gets into a fist fight with Alfred Temple, a new boy in town. Tom is put off from the start by the new boy's spiffy clothing: Alfred wears a "dainty" hat, a necktie, delicate...

Latest answer posted September 8, 2021, 11:47 am (UTC)

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Tom Sawyer's actual age in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is not mentioned in the narrative; however, it is clear that he is a young adolescent. At the beginning of the story, Tom is portrayed as a...

Latest answer posted September 8, 2021, 11:43 am (UTC)

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

A dynamic character is one who changes over the course of a story (as opposed to a static character, who never changes). Tom Sawyer is certainly a dynamic character. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is...

Latest answer posted September 8, 2021, 11:15 am (UTC)

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

In Mark Twain's classic novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Tom has already known and admired Huckleberry Finn before he meets him in person. Huck has the freedom that every boy longs for. He...

Latest answer posted September 7, 2021, 3:32 pm (UTC)

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Mark Twain's novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is a fictional story about a mischievous young boy named Tom Sawyer and his friend Huckleberry Finn. Although the story is fictional (which means it...

Latest answer posted September 7, 2021, 1:12 pm (UTC)

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Tom Sawyer is a mischievous boy who seems to have a knack for finding trouble. He gets into a fight, sneaks around in graveyards, hides the truth of a murder for a period of time, and tricks his...

Latest answer posted September 7, 2021, 12:05 pm (UTC)

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Near the beginning of the novel, Tom is punished by Aunt Polly by being forced to whitewash the fence in front of his house on a Saturday morning. With a thirty-by-nine-yard fence in front of him,...

Latest answer posted September 7, 2021, 11:22 am (UTC)

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

While Huck Finn is a fictional creation, Mark Twain did largely base him on a real person he knew during his childhood. This individual was Tom Blakenship, an alcoholic sawmill laborer's son and...

Latest answer posted September 7, 2021, 11:12 am (UTC)

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Injun Joe is the villain in Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. He is a nasty fellow, but he has a streak of cleverness about him that allows him to get away with much before he is finally...

Latest answer posted September 6, 2021, 1:47 pm (UTC)

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is the story of a series of loosely connected, often humorous stories involving the titular character. Tom is a dynamic character who learns to adapt to the rules of...

Latest answer posted September 6, 2021, 1:09 pm (UTC)

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Tom is famous for his pranks and ability to get into get into trouble. Tom is cheerful and charismatic, able to live by his wits and convince others to do what he wants. Mostly, Tom is famous for...

Latest answer posted September 6, 2021, 11:53 am (UTC)

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Tom Sawyer does not get married in the book. As the narrator notes at the novel's end, it is "a history of a boy" and must therefore stop before a marriage, which is how, the narrator says, adult...

Latest answer posted September 6, 2021, 11:33 am (UTC)

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Despite the disapproval of the adults in St. Petersburg, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn are close friends. Huckleberry Finn is an outcast, the son of the local drunk, but his mischievous nature...

Latest answer posted September 6, 2021, 11:10 am (UTC)

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Despite being a children's classic, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer does feature a few deaths. Dr. Robinson is stabbed to death by Injun Joe in a graveyard. He, Injun Joe, and Muff Potter are all in...

Latest answer posted September 5, 2021, 12:15 pm (UTC)

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was published in 1876, and it was almost immediately met with consternation. That same year, it was removed from the children's section of the library in Brooklyn and...

Latest answer posted September 5, 2021, 12:02 pm (UTC)

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Though it is ultimately a children's adventure story, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer's main message regards coming of age. Tom is a young boy bordering on adolescence, and his adventures push him...

Latest answer posted September 5, 2021, 11:58 am (UTC)

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Tom Sawyer's best friend is Huckleberry Finn, a preteen social outcast who lives free of civilized constraints and rules. Most of the children envy Huck's liberty, even thought it comes with a...

Latest answer posted September 5, 2021, 11:34 am (UTC)

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Summary