Monday, May 28, 2012

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer


I have to confess that I inwardly groaned when Amy said that she'd wanted to read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer during the month of May for the Reading to Know book club. I had read this book before and recall not liking it, mostly because Tom is so very disobedient. I generally am not amused by disobedient behavior. So I wasn't very eager to spend time with Tom again.

In the end though, I am very glad that Amy choose this book because I ended up rather enjoying myself! I still don't like Tom very much, as a character, but I really like Mark Twain's sense of humor. He amuses me. He amuses me very much. Despite my early misgivings, I ended up chuckling through quite a bit of this book and finding The Adventures of Tom Sawyer to be quite diverting!

The basic plot of the book, should you be unfamiliar with it, surrounds the boyish romps and mischief making of Tom Sawyer and his friend, Huckleberry Finn. It is a series of stories of the scrapes that Tom gets into, more or less. The chief subject of interest in this book is a murder, which Tom and Huck witness. That sounds rather gruesome and in some ways it most certainly is. However, Twain deals with the subject in the most lighthearted manner possible, while still holding to the idea that the murder is serious, scary business. Tom and Huck's escapades including dodging the murderer while living their normal life, playing hookey from school and Tom climbing out his bedroom window every night to explore the world while his guardian and aunt, Polly, frets and worries about him endlessly. Tom really is a most selfish boy and is horribly disrespectful towards his aunt. Twain brushes this off by explaining that he's a boy and is thoughtless by nature. I'm still unimpressed with him in general.

What I am impressed with is how Twain seems to peg Sawyer as being a wild hooligan who is very immature. Although Twain does try to dress-up Sawyer's character has having a "heart that is in the right place" and who doesn't mean to worry people so, he also does not make excuses for Tom's behavior. I felt like Twain was walking a fine line between loving his character so much that he didn't feel he deserved to suffer some consequences, and painting Tom in such a ridiculous manner that you couldn't help but see that Twain found the boy to be deserving of whatever ultimately came his way. There were no excuses for bad behavior and that is something I appreciated. (It also allowed me to relax with the story.)

My favorite passage:

Tom lay thinking. Presently it occurred to him that he wished he was sick; then he could stay home from school. Here was a vague possibility. He canvassed his system. No ailment was found, and he invested again. This time he thought he could detect colicky symptoms, and he began to encourage them with considerable hope. But they soon grew feeble and presently died wholly away. He reflected further. Suddenly he discovered something. One of his upper teeth was loose. This was lucky; he was about to begin to groan, as a "starter" he called it, when it occurred to him that if he came into court with that argument his aunt would pull it out, and that would hurt. So he thought he would the tooth in reserve for the present, and seek further. Nothing offered for some little time, and then he remembered hearing the doctor tell about a certain thing that laid up a patient for two or three weeks and threatened to make him lose a finger. So the boy eagerly drew his sore toe from under the sheet and held it up for inspection. But now he did not know the necessary symptoms. However, it seemed well worth while to chance it, so he fell to groaning with considerable spirit. (Chapter 6)

I was home schooled growing up but I still hated doing school. I remember many a time, um, waking up and, um, checking my system for possible ailments which would keep me in bed and firmly away from my school work. Only once was I able to achieve a workable plan. I discovered that if you put your face in your pillow and breathed into it heavily for some time, your face would become flushed and hot. Insta-fever! It worked! (No potential loss of limbs are remotely necessary for this experiment.) It bought me one day on the couch watching movies, drinking lots of liquids and "resting" my "fever" away. Highly effective, but I didn't want to chance doing that more than once. (I confessed to my mother when I was twenty or so and in no risk of punishment for my falsehood.)

Ahh, good memories. ;)

I really did have a good time with Tom so I must apologize to Amy for my initial groanings! Then I must follow that up with a quick Thank You for choosing such a fun and light hearted read. I appreciated it!

This also, by the way, proves the point that it's a good idea to read a book more than once. Your first impression, while important, might be better improved upon a deeper knowledge and understanding of the work.

Reading to Know - Book Club


Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

Yes, I agree---reading a book more than once (especially after you've reached a certain maturity ;-) ) is a good thing!

Carrie, you bad girl, you! Making yourself have a "fever"? For shame! ;-)

Shonya said...

I'm glad you "made yourself" read it again and slightly revised your opinion. ;)

I had to giggle at some of your thoughts and I somehow knew you wouldn't like Tom because he's not a good boy (like Anne and all the other good little girls of literature, like Amy mentioned). My experience with little boys (three sons, a brother, countless sons of friends) confirms that they frequently are, indeed, thoughtless. So Tom rings true to me. I also seem to recall reading somewhere that Tom is a composite sketch of several boys Twain had known, so I sort of take him that way. All the (yes) selfish, thoughtless escapades several little boys experienced rolled into one likable character. (I thought about typing 'likable' in all caps, giggle) I see it as a dream world for a little boy and all the grand adventures he could have, if only he didn't have to submit to his mama's training. :D It will be interesting to see what your boys think of it as they get older.

Carrie said...


HA! I forgot to mention in my review that I think I DID enjoy it more because I read the introduction by Twain in which he said that Tom was made up from three different boys that he knew. That was helpful in understanding that no one particular boy could have POSSIBLY fallen into as much trouble as Tom did. I was eased into the book that way.

Parts of it are a dream world, yes. I can see that. (Who wouldn't want to go and spend DAYS alone with your best friends on an island? And actually finding legitimate treasure!? Hello.)

I'm very glad to have re-read it, yes. And I know, Amy. For shame!

Annette Whipple said...

Initially I struggled with his behavior/attitude, too.

Thanks for teaching me about Insta-Fever. I may need that someday. :)

Barbara H. said...

I do agree it is good to reread books some times, even books we didn't like at first, because perspective changes. I wish I'd had time to do so with Tom this time, but maybe some day.

Diary of an Autodidact said...

The kids and I still have a few chapters to go - life got busy on us - but I hope to finish it this week. I'm glad that everyone else enjoyed it. I was a bit worried that the "bad boy" thing would be a problem for the "good girls" ;)
I'll try to post from the perspective of a former (ahem - who am I kidding?) boy.

Diary of an Autodidact said...

The kids and I still have a few chapters to go - life got busy on us - but I hope to finish it this week. I'm glad that everyone else enjoyed it. I was a bit worried that the "bad boy" thing would be a problem for the "good girls" ;)
I'll try to post from the perspective of a former (ahem - who am I kidding?) boy.

Susanne said...

I must confess I have never read the book either but remember it as a favorite movie from childhood.

Your "making" of a fever antics cracked me right up.

Sky said...

I think there is a bit of Tom Sawyer in all of us. I may even feel a bit Tom-ish when I leave the dirty dishes to play in the pool with my kids! I can brush off the naughty little boy in the story because of Mark Twain's writing. I very much enjoy a writer with a slightly twisted sense of humor. I do think its sad that Twain is no longer "required reading", in fact I think most of the required reading lists are a terrible vision of how decrepit our literary classes have become! (Sorry, different post huh?)
I will admit that as a child I like Huck Finn better.

bekahcubed said...

I don't usually tend to be super conservative when it comes to "naughty" characters--so I was a little surprised when I ended up reacting as strongly as I did to Tom's naughtiness. However, like you, I found myself appreciating Twain's humor amidst Tom's appalling behavior.

Your fake fever cracks me up. My mom never let us skip schoolwork unless we were vomiting--and none of us were willing to induce that! (Then again, we surreptitiously took days off all the time--only to have the hammer come down when Mom started checking our work days later.)

Stephanie Kay said...

I once tried to gag myself so I'd throw up and could stay home. It didn't work. :( The gagging part. Just couldn't do it.

As the mom of 3 boys, I think Tom is absolutely a believable character. No offense to your lone male commenter, but as a general rule, boys don't think through their actions or how others will be affected.

For example, my #2 boy hanging from our climber by a rope hooked to his belt loop a couple of years ago. (He was repelling from a helicopter.)

My #3 son just this morning ran into my kitchen with nothing on but a smiley face sticker over his belly button. (He's 3 yrs.)

Life with boys is never dull!!

Shonya said...

Amen, Stephanie!

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