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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

by Mark Twain

Manipulation Theme

Without manipulation, there wouldn't really be many adventures of Tom Sawyer to speak of. If Tom couldn't coerce his friends into joining him on kooky adventures, they would never have happened. And if Injun Joe weren't so cunning, well, he wouldn't be much of a villain. By allowing these two manipulators to co-exist, Twain muddies the waters a bit. It's a lot of fun watching Tom dupe unsuspecting fools, but as a result we have to ask ourselves: are we being duped? Tom may always be the good guy, but he's not the "model boy," and his motives aren't always clear. (To learn more about the similarities and differences between Tom and Injun Joe's trickery, check out "Character Roles.")

Questions About Manipulation

  1. In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Twain gives us two world-class manipulators: Tom himself and Injun Joe. Could their common skill signal that they may share some other skills or traits?
  2. It is certainly entertaining to watch Tom bamboozle people, but is what he does right? Should we really be OK with it?
  3. Though Tom is constantly using his imagination to beat the system, can he be called a rebel? If so, does he have a cause?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Tom's schemes – though occasionally mean-spirited – are just boyish manifestations of what might be called a uniquely American kind of ingenuity.

Through Tom, we get to live out one of man's basic fantasies: we get to watch David beat Goliath.

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