Die Heuning Pot Literature Guide
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Themes

Tom Sawyer's America is, more than anything else, small. All he really knows is St. Petersburg, Missouri. And for him, for Twain and for us, that's fine. In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, America is in the details, in the way the townspeople talk, in the look of things. When America shows up – as it does, in the person of a senator – it's met with disappointment. Not because there's anything wrong with it, really, but because, for Tom, it's not as incredibly grand and fantastic as he thought it would be.

Questions About Visions of America

  1. Tom Sawyer has become the epitome of the American boy. What makes him so appealing? What makes him so "American"?
  2. For his school examination, Tom recites Patrick Henry's famous "Give me liberty or give me death" speech. Do Henry's words figure into Tom's own personal philosophy?
  3. Over the course of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, the farthest we ever get from St. Petersburg, Missouri is Jackson's Island, and we never hear much about anywhere else. What effect does this isolation have on our perception of the book's setting?

Chew on This

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

Twain's America is one where civilization is not completely established, where disorder and wildness linger around the edges.

Twain captures the spirit of America on the page via small, wry observations; his America is not one of waving flags and soaring eagles, but of small-town details and eccentricities.

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