The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
by Mark Twain
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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Theme of Youth

Ah, youth! A time for fun and games and puppy love. Well, sort of. Over the years, Tom Sawyer has become shorthand for a mischievous, carefree boy. And he is, for the most part. That said, you can't forget that, no matter what audience Twain is writing for, he's looking back on his own childhood. Tom may be a kid, he may have a kid's feelings, and a kid's way of looking at the world, but, well, kids can be strange. And remember: Twain's all mixed up in there too, calling the shots, and giving the colorful commentary.

Questions About Youth

  1. In his conclusion, Twain writes, "It being strictly a history of a boy, it must stop here; the story could not go much further without becoming the history of a man" (Conclusion.1). Clearly, he did not want to make Tom Sawyer a coming of age story. That said, does Tom show any signs of growth over the course of the novel?
  2. How does Twain's presence, as narrator, influence our perceptions of Tom's actions, of his age, and his growth as a character?
  3. Some material in the novel – for instance, the "orgy" discussion in Chapter 34 – is clearly meant for adult audiences. How different would the reading experience be for, say, a ten-year-old and a fifty-year-old?

Chew on This

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

Though Twain intended The Adventures of Tom Sawyer to be "mainly for the entertainment of boys and girls," and only secondarily for adult readers, Tom's story is invested with so much nostalgia and so much feeling for youth that it transcends the boundaries of children's literature.

Though he remains a child at book's end, Tom is not the same person at the conclusion of the book that he is at the beginning.

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