Monday, July 21, 2008

Adventures of Tom Sawyer

jacket image for The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain - large version

Twain, Mark. 1876. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

It is my hope and prayer that no one is ever assigned Tom Sawyer for "required reading." Why? Because this one is just too much fun to be boiled down to work. That and the fact that Tom himself would hate it. He has no use for school, you see.

In my opinion, Tom Sawyer is one of the best characters ever. He's young. He's playful. He's trouble, it's true, but beneath the surface he is a good boy. I like seeing life through Tom's eyes. I like hanging out with him. He's just a good companion.

Tom Sawyer is proof that Twain is a genius. Plain and simple. Anyone who could write a book as funny and as charming as Tom Sawyer is a genius.

"Monday morning found Tom Sawyer miserable. Monday morning always found him so, because it began another week's slow suffering in school. He generally began that day with wishing he had had no intervening holiday, it made the going into captivity and fetters again so much more odious." (52)

Definitely recommended as proof that classics are NOT boring and are EASILY accessible to the modern reader.

Loved this quote:

"I was rereading Tom Sawyer. I couldn't read it the day before because Mark Twain, like most of my favorite writers, is not thought suitable reading for a Sunday. I've tried to argue with Ma about this.
"When does a person need comfort from a good book more than on a Sunday?" I asked. Beth [his sister] just snorted. Seems all her favorite books are suitable for Sunday reading." From PREACHER'S BOY by Katherine Paterson, p. 24-25

Dewey asks, "Who is your favorite character in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer?"

That would probably be Tom himself. Though I love Becky as well. Their budding relationship is just cute.

Heather asks a series of questions:

1 - Have you read this before? If so, did your opinion of the book vary from last time?

This is actually my second time to read Tom Sawyer. My first experience with this fun-loving rascal of a boy was in the fall of 2003. I must say that it only improved on rereading. My memory isn't always the I found the humorous parts to be just as charming, surprising, and delightful as before. The humor is what I loved most. Though this one has a lot of heart too.

2 - Some people complain about the racism in Twain's books. Does the racism of that time period bother you in the same was a modern writer making racist comments would? (I don't know if I'm making sense here ... let me know if you don't get what I'm asking.)

No and yes. I'll explain. I didn't find the use of the n-word to be negative in this book. I didn't think it was used in a negative way. It wasn't a slam or a slur. It wasn't a hate-filled word. Tom was not using it venomously. It was used a handful of times it's true. But it was casual. I think looked at in context, it was just a word that was common, casual, and natural at that time period. It just was.

I think Twain's books both because of the n-word and because of the character of "Injun Joe" should be read thoughtfully by placing the book in context. I'm not sure if kids are as gullible as we sometimes think. Meaning that I think most are smart enough to figure out that just because things used to be a certain way doesn't mean they should still be that way. You can't really see progress, see change, unless you ground everything historically. You need to know about the past so you can see the present clearly and plan on an even better future.

I didn't find Tom Sawyer racist. Not in the same way that other books are. For example, Gone With The Wind is much more racist--openly racist than Tom Sawyer is. And Little House on the Prairie is much more racist than Tom Sawyer is. So when viewed in a spectrum of other literature, I think Tom Sawyer is a fairly safe.

3 - If you have not read other books by Twain, will you? If you have, how does this compare with his other works?

I've read Tom Sawyer twice. Diary of Adam and Eve once. And Huck Finn once, though Huck was required reading in school and thus wasn't much appreciated. Tom Sawyer is probably my favorite. I hope to read more Twain this year or next.

Chris asked, " As an adult, did you find Tom Sawyer to be charming or a brat? "

Well, I felt like a kid when I was reading it. It's one of those that if it was my son or my nephew or my cousin or my student that I'd probably find him to be bratty. If I was in charge of "disciplining" him, he'd be too much to handle. But I just find him so likable. I just genuinely found him to be charming. I think this would be a textbook of hate the sin, love the sinner.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Amanda 4:34 PM  

Thanks for the review! I've actually never read a Mark Twain book and was going to pick one for a Classics Challenge. So...thanks to your review I know which one I will pick :)

Nymeth 6:04 PM  

"You can't really see progress, see change, unless you ground everything historically. You need to know about the past so you can see the present clearly and plan on an even better future."

I agree. And I think Tom is one of the best characters ever too! I love this book. It's one of my favourite classics.

Cuileann 9:33 PM  

Yay! :) Yes, definitely proof that classics aren't necessarily boring. When I first read it, I was in an "I'll read a classic to improve my mind" mood, but I was amazed at how entertaining it is.

Kya 12:59 AM  

Good review, it made me smile just to read how much you liked Tom. He truly is an American original.

Heather J. 7:46 AM  

Hi Becky! Thanks for answering my questions. We agree totally on the racism issue - I just thought it would be a good questions since it's often the cause of book banning. I'm glad you enjoyed this book - it's one of my childhood favorites.

Julia 2:06 PM  

Thanks for the review, Becky! I didn't have any Twain as required reading at school - and I kind of wish I did, because I would have read Tom Sawyer sooner and not just last year. I agree with your point of view on the racism issue. I never took anything Tom said as racist.

Trish 1:19 PM  

Ha ha--I was required to read this in 7th grade. My mom and brother are reading it right now, but he's not all that interested unfortunately (he's going into 7th grade). But their reading of it has really made me want to pick it up again!

Anonymous,  12:44 PM  

I just found this review of yours! It's exciting to see someone enjoy Mark Twain! You see, I was born in Hannibal, MO, and grew up right near there. So I have been to the Mark Twain cave (where Injun Joe hid and Becky and Tom got lost), the Becky Thatcher house (supposedly where Becky lived), visited the Mark Twain boyhood home, ridden a steamboat on the Mississippi, and been to the Tom Sawyer Days! Having grown up around all of this, it's hard not to love "all things Twain!" And equally as hard not to love Tom and Huck and Becky. So I've read Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn many times as a kid and young adult. As a teacher directing an Elementary play, I even directed "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer". All of the kids loved and the audiences as well! I own several copies of the books and it's about time I re-read them! So thanks for the prompt and thanks for the great review on a well-loved classic!

Anonymous,  11:00 PM  

Tom Sawyer is one of my favorite books, but Huck Finn is LOTS better, I think. you should read him again, you would probably like it.

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