History of the Text
Publication History: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was published eight years before The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the more well-known of the two books. The character Tom Sawyer would go on to star in several more of Twain’s novels, but none would achieve the fame and widespread acclaim of the original.
- When Tom Sawyer was published, Mark Twain was already a well-known and respected writer, both in the US and UK. For the most part, contemporary reviews were enthusiastic and praised Twain’s realistic depiction of growing up in rural, small-town America. Some pushback, however, was leveled on Tom’s character, because he did not espouse good morals for children.
Inspiration for Setting and Characters: Samuel Langhorne Clemens—pen name Mark Twain—was raised in Hannibal, Missouri. He used his hometown as the inspiration for St. Petersburg, both Tom’s and Huck’s birthplace and where the majority of Tom Sawyer’s action takes place. Many of the characters who appear, including Tom and Huck, are supposedly based on actual people from Twain’s childhood and later life.
- Mark Twain is now classified as an important figure in the regionalism literary movement—also known as local color writing—which esteems writing that is rooted in a specific geographic area. Regionalist novels often make use of dialect, local customs, and traditions from a particular real-world setting to create a sense of realism. This and Twain’s other works contributed to the popularity of regionalism as a literary form throughout the US and abroad.
Traditions and Prejudices in the 19th-century American South: The American Civil War had ended about one decade prior to the novel’s publication. Though slavery had been abolished, black Americans were still seen as less refined or civilized than white Americans. This prejudice also extended to those of any mixed races—such as the character of Injun Joe, who is half-white and...
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