Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

  This is the first time I've really really read Tom Sawyer.  When I was in grade school, I had an abridged version, which I loved.   In college, I took a 16-week Mark Twain course and the book was on the reading list, but I reread my favorite episodes and skimmed the rest.

Now that I'm truly done, I can see that Mark Twain seemed to waver about whether this would be a children's book or a book about a boy for adults.  During the "Pinch-Bug" chapter, Twain had a few sharp and funny comments about organized religion, but managed to hold himself down.  By the time the chapter in which the yearly student examination/exhibition took place, it seems as if he could restrain himself no longer and he scathingly and at great length satirized the young lady students' original compositions.

 Twain took pains to give his audience three of these literary groaners in their entirety and I figured that he had lost control, (like in those final chapters of  Huckleberry Finn, when he seemed to not only lose control but his damn mind) but he brought it all back for a superbly comic chapter finale, in which the boys in the class got very creative revenge on their schoolmaster using a cat, some rope and a fair amount of gold paint.

Since I was just in Hannibal last month, it was fun to try and match up the fictional location names with their real counterparts.  My favorite:  Tom's love interest, Becky Thatcher, spends most of the summer in "Constantinople".  According to the foreword, this was actually Palmyra, which is only a few miles from Hannibal.  (For some strange reason, my mother kept wanting to take the exit to Palmyra.  She seemed to like the name. "There's nothing in Palmyra," I told her.  "Let's press on."  Maybe I was wrong.)

The ending of Tom Sawyer seems a little weak, with Tom talking Huck into returning to the widow's house by threatening not to let Huck join his gang if he's not "respectable", but it sets up the action nicely for the beginning of Huckleberry Finn, and gives the reader a preview of the controlling (not to mention bizzare) behavior Tom will exhibit late in that novel.

 A fun summer read, and the first in my new stockpile for my planned Mark Twain binge.


Ken & Carol said...

Have you compared a read with a listen to the same novel? Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer seemed better listening.

Gilion at Rose City Reader said...

I've been planning a MT binge myself for a while now, ever since Hubby gave me a nice little matching set. I have the first one on my night stand and have vowed to get this binge started.

Thanks for some inspiration.