Back To CourseEnglish 102: American Literature
11 chapters | 114 lessons
Megan has tutored extensively and has a Master of Fine Arts Degree in Fiction.
During this lesson, we will learn about Mark Twain's classic novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by studying an overview of both the plot and the main characters. We will also analyze the events that occur in the story.
We also recommend watching Mark Twain's The Million Pound Bank Note: Summary and Analysis and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Plot Summary and Characters
Someone reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer today might be familiar with the character of Tom Sawyer from another novel by Mark Twain: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which is a sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Mark Twain wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in 1876, eight years before The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, but The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is more frequently taught in high schools.
Tom Sawyer is a troublemaker. After Tom gets in trouble, he is ordered by Aunt Polly, with whom he lives, to whitewash their fence. When his friends see him painting the fence, Tom pretends like he loves the chore to make his friends jealous. They beg him to let them help. This is a prime example of the type of trouble Tom Sawyer is always getting up to.
Part of the novel is devoted to Tom's romance with Becky Thatcher, a new girl in town. They like each other, but Becky is hurt when she finds out that Tom liked someone else before her. Eventually, he takes the blame for a book she ruined, making her like him again.
Tom is always getting into trouble, usually with his friend, Huckleberry Finn. Together they sneak out to a graveyard at night, where they witness Injun Joe murder Dr. Robinson.
Tom, Huck, and their friend, Joe Harper, run away for a little while, making the town think they are dead. Eventually they come back, though, and Tom testifies against Injun Joe in court.
Afterward, Injun Joe runs away and Tom is terrified for his life. His terror does not stop him from making trouble, though. While he and Huck are hunting for treasure one night, they discover that Injun Joe, who is disguised as a deaf-mute Spaniard, has treasure of his own to bury.
Huck agrees to spy on Injun Joe to see where he buries the treasure, while Tom goes on a picnic with his class to McDougal's Cave. During the picnic, Tom and Becky wander off and get lost.
Huck figures out that Injun Joe plans on hurting Widow Douglas. He reports the crime and Injun Joe runs away to McDougal's Cave. Meanwhile, Tom and Becky are lost for several days in the cave. Eventually they stumble across Injun Joe, but hide before he sees them. Shortly after, Tom figures out how to get out of the cave with Becky. He tells Judge Thatcher about Injun Joe being inside and the town decides to seal Injun Joe inside the cave.
Later, Tom returns to the cave, where he discovers Injun Joe's starved corpse. Shortly thereafter, he and Huck discover where Injun Joe hid his gold. The Widow Douglas adopts Huck, who is unhappy about this development. Tom convinces him to give it a try, promising that it won't stop them from getting up to the occasional mischief.
The main character. A troublemaker, but he is a good boy when it counts.
Aunt Polly is Mary's mother. She is the sister of Tom's deceased mother. She takes care of Tom and his brother, Sid. She is religious, yet cares deeply for Tom. Mary is Tom's cousin. She is a good girl and stands up for Tom, even when he is a troublemaker.
Tom's half-brother. He frequently tells Aunt Polly when Tom misbehaves.
The star of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huckleberry Finn is raised by his father, Pap Finn, an abusive drunk who does not care if he goes to church or school.
He runs away with Tom and Huck to the island after they witness the murder in the graveyard. All three boys return to town before too long.
Two girls in Tom's class. When Becky moves to town, Tom decides he loves her instead of Amy.
The main bad guy. He is part Native American. He murders Dr. Robinson and tries to hurt Widow Douglas. He dies when the town seals off the cave.
The drunk man Injun Joe convinces to take the fall for him. Tom saves Muff by pointing the finger at Injun Joe during the trial.
Murdered by Injun Joe, Dr. Robinson wanted to dig up a corpse to experiment on it medically.
A kind religious lady, Widow Douglas adopts Huck at the end of the novel.
Becky Thatcher's father. He seals off the cave and traps Injun Joe inside.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is primarily a coming-of-age story for Tom Sawyer. Since the story just describes a short period of time in Tom's life, it is not a comprehensive look at who he is. But even over the short span of the book, the reader gets to see how Tom evolves. In the beginning of the book, he is jealous of Huck Finn's freedom from school and church, but after the events of the book, such as the trial and getting lost in the cave, Tom Sawyer seems to realize that the rules of society exist for a reason. By the end of the book, he convinces Huck Finn to stay with Widow Douglas and try going to school and church. By no means is Tom done with all his trouble-making ways, of course: he encourages Huck to stay by bribing him with the possibility of pretending to be robbers.
In addition to being a coming-of-age story, the novel deals with how people influence the behavior of others by how they treat them. For example, Tom has many positive influences in his life, such as his Aunt Polly and his cousin, Mary, neither of whom give up on Tom no matter how much trouble he gets into. Similarly, Tom is a positive influence on Huck.
For an example of how people can adversely affect another person, look no further than Injun Joe. Even though he wrote over a hundred years ago, Mark Twain was a satire writer with a strong moral conscience. For example, Injun Joe, the main bad guy in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, is motivated by revenge. He has been severely socially ostracized because he is part Native American and part white. Now, Mark Twain is not making an excuse for Injun Joe's behavior, but his novel does ask readers to reflect on how people might be pushed further along one path or another by the way others treat them.
While most people will be more familiar with Mark Twain because of his character Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is still one of his most popular and beloved novels. The novel tracks Tom Sawyer as he comes of age and takes his first few steps toward becoming a more responsible member of his community. This novel by Mark Twain remains exciting and engaging and is a childhood classic.
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Back To CourseEnglish 102: American Literature
11 chapters | 114 lessons