The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Introduction
In A Nutshell
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, written by Mark Twain in 1876, is about twelve-year-old Tom Sawyer living the small-town life – and getting into a lot of trouble with his friends – in antebellum (pre-Civil War) Missouri. The book, loosely based on Twain's childhood exploits, has become a classic portrait of mischievous youth – well, in America anyway. As is the case with many now-classic books, Tom Sawyer was not well-acclaimed upon its initial release; and even now Twain's thicker, weightier sequel-of-sorts, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which borrows its setting and characters from Tom Sawyer, is considered his masterpiece.
Still, Huck himself would be the first to tell you what a great book Tom Sawyer is. Huck Finn opens The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by making a plug for Tom Sawyer:
"YOU don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain't no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly. There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth. That is nothing." (Huckleberry Finn 1.1)
Twain attempted to write a bunch of Tom Sawyer adventures, including Tom Sawyer Abroad (1894) and Tom Sawyer, Detective (1894), along with the unfinished Huck and Tom Among the Indians, Schoolhouse Hill, and Tom Sawyer's Conspiracy. There have been tons of film adaptations, TV specials, and spin-offs. And the Canadian progressive-rock band Rush has a song called "Tom Sawyer." (An excerpt: "Though his mind is not for rent / don't put him down as arrogant. / His reserve, a quiet defense, / Riding out the days events.")
Sure, a lot of the particulars of Tom's life – whitewashing, marble-playing, spelunking – may not be familiar to the average American anymore, but there's something about Tom, something about his spirit and the way Mark Twain renders it in prose, that's remained relevant for all these years. Heck, you don't see rock bands writing about The Portrait of a Lady, now do you?
Why Should I Care?
In 1995 a film called Tom and Huck was released, starring teen heartthrobs Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Brad Renfro. This movie, based on Mark Twain's Adventures of Tom Sawyer, had an advertising slogan that ran:
A lot of kids get into trouble.
These two invented it.
Tom and Huck
The Original Bad Boys
Pretty good, huh? Tom and his buddies get up to some pretty sweet hijinks; heck, they even get to attend their own funerals. Tom and his pals are basically like other modern pranksters – think Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn in Wedding Crashers – they're a ton of fun.