Ideas for Group Discussions

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Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 433

Experience suggests that people love to discuss The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Its humor delights most people, and the adventures of its characters provide many opportunities for discussion. Young people seem to find the fence-painting passage of special interest, and through discussion, they tend to try to work out the ethical implications of Tom's behavior. Older readers tend to find violence and death in the novel to be particularly interesting topics. Somehow, the novel maintains a cheerful atmosphere in spite of the deaths. Worthy of consideration is the contrast between the imagined deaths of the youngsters and the real ones, especially that of Injun Joe. What are the social attitudes toward the deaths? How do they come about? Why would Twain organize them the way he does?

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1. Twain prefaces the novel by stating that it is intended to "pleasantly remind adults of what they once were themselves," but much of the book deals with unpleasantness. Discuss the darker side of the book. How does Twain remind his readers of some of the fears and insecurities of growing up?

2. Twain is sometimes called a "realist" writer. Are Tom, Huck, and Becky accurate portraits of young people?

3. Discuss Tom Sawyer as an adventure book. Compare its plot with those of other books, films, or television shows in which young people are menaced by villains, search for treasure, and win community approval.

4. Does Tom change in the novel? Discuss ways in which he "grows up." 5. Discuss the setting of the book. How does each significant place help in telling the story? Are some places more memorable? Why? Read again the descriptions of the places you remember best. What details are significant?

6. Is Injun Joe a believable character? Why? Is he given any motivation for his actions? Is he extended any sympathy?

7. Tom Sawyer also appears in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. How does his character differ in the two books?

8. Twain claims that his portrait of Huckleberry Finn in this book is drawn from life. Investigate Twain's early life to see how he derived Huck and other elements of the story.

9. Compare the language of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer with that of its sequel. Choose a significant passage from each and compare vocabulary and tone. What differences occur as a result of Huck speaking for himself?

10. Compare The Adventures of Tom Sawyer to one of Twain's later works (other than The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn) in which Tom appears. Is the later story less effective? Why or why not?

11. Discuss Tom as a rebel. Which conventions of society does he accept? Which does he reject?

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