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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

by Mark Twain

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So you’re going to teach The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Whether it’s your first or hundredth time, this classic text has been a mainstay of English classrooms for generations, even though it has often been overshadowed by its follow-up, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. While it has its challenging spots, teaching this text to your class will be rewarding for you and your students. It will give them unique insight into American coming-of-age stories in the 1800s, Twain’s satirical wit—which still holds up all these years later—and small-town traditions and prejudices. This guide highlights the text's most salient aspects to keep in mind before you begin teaching.

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Facts at a Glance

  • Publication Date: 1876 
  • Flesch-Kincaid Reading Level:
  • Approximate Word Count: 69,100 
  • Author: Mark Twain 
  • Country of Origin: United States of America 
  • Genre: Bildungsroman, Picaresque 
  • Literary Period: Regionalism 
  • Conflict: Person vs. Person 
  • Narration: Third-Person 
  • Setting: St. Petersburg, Missouri, 1840s 
  • Structure: Prose Novel 
  • Tone: Satirical, Nostalgic

Texts That Go Well With The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. This coming-of-age novel portrays a more modern and realistic portrait of Native American life. Like Tom Sawyer, the protagonist of this novel undergoes many trials on his way to adulthood. 

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. This novel continues the stories of many of the characters of Hannibal, Missouri, though Huck wrestles with some darker themes than Tom. 

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. Likely a source of inspiration for Twain, this adventure novel features another iconic hero whose influence has endured throughout the centuries. 

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift. This novel, published in 1726, has some of the same humor and satirist qualities employed in Tom Sawyer. Using an episodic structure, Swift is able to critique a variety of his contemporaries. 

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. Published around the same time as Tom Sawyer, this is another coming-of-age story filled with adventure and danger.

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Key Plot Points