Wednesday, 11 April 2012
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
A few weeks ago, I decided the time had come to see whether this horrible teaching led to me missing out on a great book or whether the book really was just boring after all. Telling episodes in the childhood of Tom Sawyer, a cheeky rapscallion living in Illinois in the 1800s, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is a chronicle of the kind of childhood not many people experience anymore, one filled with outdoor adventure, exploration, brushes with danger, tricks and imagination. It also offers a vivid portrait of the South at that time, especially the Mississippi river.
Thankfully, it was only poor teaching putting me off a great book as I thoroughly enjoyed Tom Sawyer. It grabbed my attention from the moment I picked it up and transported me to the rural South. Each time I had to put the book down, I had to remind myself that I was in England in 2012 and not on the banks of the Mississippi. Tom endeared himself to me immediately; he's a lovable rogue who gets into lots of scrapes and does lots of bad things, but you never doubt that his heart is in the right place. Twain does a remarkable job at capturing the wonder of childhood with all its imagination and emotion.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is a romantic book, not because it contains romance, but because it presents an idyllic picture of rural childhood where children are free to roam and play until their hearts' content. Although there is danger (Injun Joe!), it never feels real or as if it will threaten the bubble of childhood. As a teacher it made me reflect on how different childhood is now and how sad it is that many children now don't play Robin Hood or cowboys and Indians, don't use their imaginations in the way Tom and his friends did. They don't explore their surroundings and aren't given the freedom they once were. I remember trekking along a muddy river bank and climbing trees when I was younger, but how many children do that now?
Although Tom was an engaging character, the character that really interested me was Huckleberry Finn. Tom is a 'safe' character to write about as he has family that loves him and a decent education, however much he gets into scrapes he will grow out of it and turn out OK. Huck on the other hand has none of the opportunities Tom has, deserted by an alcoholic father and living on the fringes of society. Tom thinks this is all very glamorous and exciting, but Huck himself is aware of how lucky Tom is. It made me want to read Huckleberry Finn soon, I have a feeling it might be better than Tom Sawyer.
I enjoyed the initial sections of the book the most (loved the chapter where Toms tricks his friends into doing painting the fence for him) but thought that parts of the story surrounding Injun Joe and the treasure were a bit silly. Injun Joe was a good 'bad guy' but Twain was treading a fine line between the believable and the unbelievable. For this reason, it wasn't a 5 star read for me, but one that I enjoyed very much. I can't believe what I was missing out on for all these years!
First Published: 1876
Score: 4 out of 5