The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Critical Overview - Essay

Mark Twain

Critical Overview

(Novels for Students)

Often discussed alongside its critically acclaimed and more popular sequel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is generally thought by critics to be artistically a lesser work than Huckleberry Finn. Yet in spite of its shortcomings as a work of art, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer has remained popular around the world throughout the more than 120 years since its publication in 1876. Twain himself called this novel his "hymn to boyhood."

About Twain in general, Henry Nash Smith says that "there can be no doubt that Mark Twain was an artist of the people. His fresh handling of the materials and techniques of backwoods storytellers is the clearest example in our history of the adaptation of a folk art to serious literary uses." Walter Blair discusses in his article "Tom Sawyer" the novel's sources, both autobiographical and literary. Twain is widely known to have used people and places from his childhood in the writing of Tom Sawyer, and Blair also shows in his article that "Literary influences ... shaped both incidents and the overall pattern of Tom Sawyer." In his 1960 book Mark Twain, Lewis Leary refers to the fact that upon its publication, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer "placed Mark Twain once more at the head of best-seller lists." Leary states, "Probably no more continuingly popular book has ever appeared in the United States." Leary discusses the construction of the novel, claiming that although it seems "loose and shambling ... there is artistry in it also ... [and] ... perhaps because [Twain] worked long over it, this first independent novel is better constructed than any he was to write again."

Granville Hicks writes in The Great Tradition (1935) that The Adventures of Tom Sawyer starts out as seeming to be more...

(The entire section is 747 words.)