When most people think of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, a picture of a boy whitewashing a fence pops into their head. Tom Sawyer is one of the most well known books in the world. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is based largely on it's author, Mark Twain, and his childhood. Mark Twain is a pseudonym for Samuel Clemens. Tom Sawyer is about a young boy and his adventures. Twain's memories make Tom and his adventures realistic. Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born on November 30, 1835 in Florida, Missouri. Clemens' father, a lawyer, died when Clemens was twelve. After his father's death, Clemens worked as a printer's apprentice. Later, Clemens worked as a printer, and also published stories. He even became a riverboat captain, before he left to join the Confederate army. After deserting the army, Clemens attempted silver mining, and, finally, adopted the pseudonym, Mark Twain, while working at a newspaper. Twain wrote for several newspapers. He married Olivia Langdon in 1870. Twain published The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in 1875. Twain also published many other writings. In Twain's final years he wrote his autobiography. Twain died of heart disease in 1910. Only Twain's daughter, Clara, succeeded him.1 Twain's boyhood in Hannibal, Missouri gave him the background for Tom Sawyer. The town of Hannibal was transformed into the town of St. Petersburg. Characters were also taken from Twain's life, and written into the book. Many character's were based of the Hannibal townspeople.2 Twain, in the preface of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, wrote: ...Most of the adventures recorded in this book actually occurred; one or two were experiences of my youth, the rest those of boys who were schoolmates of mine. Huck Finn is drawn from life. Tom Sawyer, also, but no from an individual - he is a combination of the characteristics of three boys whom I knew....3 Tom Sawyer is mainly based on Mark Twain, but he is also based on two other people; Twain's friends, John Briggs and Will Bowen.4 Twain has stated that Huck is based on Tom Blankenship, a poor-white outcast, that lived in Hannibal.5 Clemens' mother, Clara, was Aunt Polly. Clemens' brother, Henry, is portrayed by Tom's brother, Sid. The characters and places in St. Petersburg like: Injun Joe, Tom's gang, Becky Thatcher, the caves, and the island, are based on Clemens' childhood in Hannibal.6 Aunt Polly also resembles Mrs. Parrington, a character from B.P. Shillaber's newspaper serial.7 Tom's adventures not only derive from Twain's memory and imagination, but in parts, come from other books. The graveyard scene comes from Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities. The treasure hunt was taken from Poe's story, "Goldbug".8 The most popular example is of Cervante's Don Quixote. John Lauber considers the relationship of Tom and Huck as "...The most creative adaptation of Don Quixote on American literature...."9 Huck plays the realist, Sancho Panza, and Tom, the romantic Don Quixote. Huck doubts Tom's fantasies of adventures, which were inspired by books.10 "...It was Twain's genius to understand that the games Quixote played out of "madness" were, in fact, those played by children with deadly seriousness...."11
contains a lot of folklore and superstition. In the preface of Tom Sawyer, Twain wrote, "....The odd superstition touched upon were all prevalent among children and slaves in the West at the period of this story..."12 The use of superstition in Tom Sawyer is authentic, and sometimes grotesque. The superstitions and folklore paint a picture of the idyllic South.13 Twain wrote, under the title "superstitions", half a dozen cures for warts and freckles or preventatives of witchcraft. These notes were used in Tom Sawyer.14 Tom Sawyer is considered autobiographical fiction. The book is based on Twain's memories, but is also changed by his imagination.15 In Twain's writing, he utilized the American colloquial language. There are also many dialects in Tom Sawyer. Twain meticulously chose his dialects and words.16 Tom Sawyer exhibits clarity, skill, and naturalness.17 Twain used; "...exaggeration, stalwart treverence, deadpan seriousness, droll cynicism, and a pungent commentary on the human situation...." Twain's style is careful and conscientious.18 He used American literary techniques like tall tales and hyperbole, which characterized Twain as a frontier humorist.19 Tom Sawyer is told in the third person narrative point of view. The story is narrated by an adult from New England. Twain, after Tom Sawyer was published, felt he probably should have written Tom Sawyer in first person. Diction is one of Tom Sawyer's faults. "...Language becomes a barrier between subject and reader, preventing Twain's audience from entertaining a Missouri childhood as if it were their own...." The language makes Tom Sawyer seem mannerly, and is often too proper for the characters.20 Tom Sawyer is divided into three parts. The first part is ten chapter, the second parts has ten chapters, and the last section has thirteen chapters. Each of these sections is separated by an interchapter. In each section the events happen slowly and are very detailed. The interchapters move very quickly and with little detail. Each section is different because of it's tone, the events in it, and it's relationship to the theme.21 Twain called Tom Sawyer, "simply a hymn, put into prose form to give it a worldly air". Critics call Tom Sawyer, "the history of a boy"22 and "a panorama of happy memory"23. "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is a delightful book because it confirms the profoundest wishes of the heart".24 Twain's writing has influenced and earned the admiration of twentieth century authors: Gertrude Stein, William Faulkner, and Ernest Hemingway.25 During the writing, and after the completion of Tom Sawyer, Twain wasn't sure whether Tom Sawyer was written for adults or children. Twain said, "'It's not a boy's book at all. It will only be read by adults. It is written only for adults.'"26 Twain also "'...saw his book as intended mainly for the entertainment of boys and girls,' but he hoped that it would not be 'shunned by men and women on that account, for part of my plan has been to pleasantly remind adults of what they once were themselves....'"27 Though Twain wasn't sure who he intended Tom Sawyer for, some critics believe, "...It should be read first and last for pleasure, first by children then by adults...."28 Twain knew many people in his life. The people who he had known are really what makes Tom Sawyer great. Without these people Tom Sawyer would be empty. Tom Sawyer is also influenced by Twain's detailed memory. Tom Sawyer could not have been written by any other man. Twain is Tom Sawyer.
Atchity, Kenneth J., "Tom Sawyer," 1,300 Critical Evaluations of Selected Novels and Plays, vol.4. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Salem Press, 1978. Baldanza, Frank, Mark Twain.