“Adventures of Tom Sawyer”: meaning and analysis of the book Mark Twain

"Adventures of Tom Sawyer" Literature

The children’s adventure novel was born in the imagination of the American writer Mark Twain and was soon published in 1876. The plot of the book is the story of a tireless adventurer, a rebel among peers – a boy named Tom Sawyer. It is noteworthy that the author originally conceived the novel for an adult audience, but the book became more popular among young readers.

Twelve-year-old Tom lives in the provincial American town of St. Petersburg with his aunt Polly – a diligent citizen, constantly instructing Tom on the “true path”.

She diligently raises Tom after the death of the boy’s mother. But he has friends. And soon a girlfriend will appear… This is not surprising, because desperate Tom is able to lead the crowd, his thirst for adventure not only attracts a lot of attention of other guys, but also manages to deftly involve them in their troubles. However, this is no longer on his conscience.

What is the “Adventures of Tom Sawyer” about

The events of the novel take place in the 1840s in the fictional town of St. Petersburg, Missouri, near the Mississippi River. Orphan Tom Sawyer lives with Aunt Polly, half-brother and sister-in-law Sid and Mary. Tom is a fidget and a brawler who gets into adventures all the time. His aunt punishes him, but he really loves him. One day she orders the guy to whitewash the fence, but Tom makes the other guys do the work for him, and he also gets various trinkets.

Becky Thatcher, a girl, moves to the town, and Tom falls in love with her, trying to show himself all the time. One day, with Huckleberry Finn, a tramp boy who is respected by all the boys in town, Tom goes to the cemetery at midnight. They witness the murder. Mafa Potter, who is considered guilty of murder in the town, is later acquitted by Tom in court, and the real killer, Joe the Indian, escapes. One day, Tom, Huck and Joe Harper flee to Jackson Island to start a “pirate” life. While the boys are enjoying their newfound freedom, the townspeople begin their search, believing they have drowned in the river … Another time, Tom and Huck decide to search for treasure and thus encounter Indian Joe and his accomplice again.

Huck later rescues Douglas’ widow from the Indian, and Tom and Becky are lost in a cave and everyone is looking for them. Looking for a way out of the cave, Tom suddenly comes across an Indian Joe, who, however, does not notice the guy. In the end, Tom manages to find a way out and return home, which he was able to please all the residents of the city. To avoid such situations in the future, Judge Thatcher, Becky’s father, ordered the entrance to the cave closed with an iron door.

A few weeks later, Tom finds out about the installed door. The boy is horrified to realize that inside the cave was hiding Indian Joe. The dead body of an Indian is found at the entrance. A week later, Tom and Huck visit the cave again and find the hidden gold, thus becoming rich. Widow Douglas adopts Huck.

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Meaning of book “Adventures of Tom Sawyer”

Mark Twain decided not to focus on one manifestation of the boy. There is meaning in each of the chapters, but we will analyze the main story lines and what the author wanted to invest in them.

The theme of friendship. The most important line of the book. Tom and Huck go through a lot together, supporting each other in the most difficult situations. The book teaches to cherish friends, appreciate them, because with a reliable friend – at least on fire!

The theme of first love. Tom falls in love, though he tries to deny it. His awkward jealousy, attempts to please the girl – all this causes the most touching feelings. The boy only knows himself and his own feelings, so it seems even more endearing.

Adventure theme. Undoubtedly, one of the most important lines. Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn are overcoming a lot. They are looking for their dream and adventure. And this spirit of youthful adventurism is conveyed tremendously. Mark Twain is a real master!

Family theme. Aunt Polly, though often overwhelmed by Tom’s antics, loved him. And the boy himself was warm to the woman who replaced his dead mother. At first it may seem that they are just trying to tolerate each other, but by the end of the book we see that they are warm to each other. This line shows that a family can be different. Even between an aunt and her bully-nephew, family ties can arise. And it is important to appreciate it, because the family is sacred. Everyone should have it, because without close people we simply cannot exist in this world. At most, we will be very, very lonely.

How did Mark Twain come up with “Adventures of Tom Sawyer”

The first work in a series of adventures of American boys was published in 1876, the author was just over 30 years old at the time. Obviously, this played a role in the brightness of the book’s images. America of the late 19th century had not yet gotten rid of slavery, half the continent was “Indian territory,” and boys remained boys. According to many testimonies, Mark Twain described in Tom himself, not only real, but all his dreams of adventure. Feelings and emotions are described as real, which excited the boy of that time, and which continue to excite boys today.

The main characters are two friends, Tom, who is being raised by his own single aunt, and Huck, a city homeless man. Inseparable in their fantasies and adventures, both boys are typical characters, but the main character remains Tom Sawyer. He has a younger brother, more rational and obedient, he has schoolmates, a boyish love – Becky. And like any boy, the main events in life are related to the thirst for adventure and first love. Unquenchable thirst constantly involves Tom and Huck in dangerous adventures, some of which, of course, are invented by the author, some – are real events. It is easy to believe in such things as running away from home or going to the cemetery at night.

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And these adventures, interspersed with descriptions of ordinary boyish everyday life, ordinary pranks, joys and annoyances, become a reality thanks to the genius of the author. Impressive description of American life at the time. What is lost in the modern world is democracy and the spirit of freedom.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer themes

The main themes in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer are friendship, imagination, truth, and falsehood.

  • Friendship: Tom, Joe, and Huck’s friendship enables them to create their own adventurous world. Their trust in each other allows them to overcome obstacles and create fun wherever they go.
  • Imagination: Tom’s imagination allows him to escape from many of the limitations of the adult world, and Tom and his friends view the world in a way that is inaccessible to adults.
  • Truth and falsehood: Despite his mischievous nature, Tom’s conscience leads him to tell the truth after disappearing and to help Muff Potter escape false prosecution.

“The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” main Characters analysis

All the main characters of the story are the thoughts and feelings of the author, his memories of childhood, his sense of the same American dream and universal values. When Huck complained that he could not live in idleness, Tom answered him uncertainly: “Everyone lives like that, Huck.” In these boys, Mark Twain writes out his attitude to human values, to the value of freedom and understanding between people. Huck, who has seen more of the bad, shares with Tom, “It’s just a shame for everyone,” when he talks about the insincerity of relationships in high society. Against the romantic background of a story about childhood, written with good humor, the writer clearly outlines all the best qualities of a little man, and the hope that these qualities will last a lifetime.

Tom Sawyer

A boy raised without a mother and father. The author does not reveal what happened to his parents. The story gives the impression that Tom got all his best qualities on the street and at school. Aunt Polly’s attempts to instill in him elementary stereotypes of behavior could not succeed. Tom is the perfect boy and a jerk in the eyes of boys around the world. On the one hand, it’s hyperbole, but on the other hand, having real prototypes, Tom really carries all the best that a growing man can carry. He was brave, with a keen sense of justice. In many episodes, he shows these qualities in difficult life situations. Another trait that can’t even affect an American’s feelings. This is account and entrepreneurship. It remains only to recall the story with the whitewashing of the fence, which is also a far-reaching project. Burdened with various boyish prejudices, Tom looks like a completely ordinary boy, which bribes the reader. Everyone sees in it a small reflection of themselves.

Huckleberry Finn

Homeless with a living father. The drunkard appears in the story only in conversations, but it already somehow characterizes the living conditions of this boy. Tom’s constant friend and faithful companion on all adventures. And if Tom is a romantic and a leader in this company, then Huck is a sober mind and life experience, which is also necessary in this tandem. The attentive reader is of the opinion that Huck is registered by the author as the second side of the medal of a growing man, an American citizen. Personality is divided into two types – Tom and Huck, which are inseparable. In subsequent stories, Huck’s character is revealed more fully, and often, in the reader’s soul, these two images are mixed and always gain sympathy.

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Aunt Polly

Tom’s somewhat elderly aunt and guardian. Religious, simple-mannered, and kind-hearted, Aunt Polly is respected among the citizens of St. Petersburg. Responsible for Tom’s discipline and upbringing, Aunt Polly is constantly torn between expressing her exasperation and showing her lover for Tom. Every time he causes trouble, another hair on her head turns gray; she often wishes Tom would behave properly like his brother, Sid.

Sid Sawyer

Tom’s younger half-brother. Always trying to tattle on Tom, Sid keeps a close on eye his brother’s wrongdoings. A goody-two-shoes, he is a punctual and studious pupil.


Tom’s older cousin who resides with Aunt Polly. Mary is depicted as a sweet and good-hearted young lady who sees the good qualities in Tom’s character. Religious and pious, Mary was an exceptional student ­ the opposite of Tom.

Becky Thatcher

The daughter of Judge Thatcher. Becky is Tom’s age and has recently moved into town. Prim and proper, Becky is the opposite of Tom: she has never been in trouble and is used to obeying her mother’s words. With blonde hair and dressy frocks, she quickly wins Tom’s affection and attention.

Judge Thatcher

Becky’s father. A proud and well-respected man of justice, whose family has recently moved into town.

Mrs. Thatcher

Becky’s mother, wife of the Judge.

Injun Joe

The antagonist of the novel. Guilty of several murders, Injun Joe possess a violent temperament is set on seeking revenge on those who have treated him harshly in the past. He attempts to frame Muff Potter for one of his own crimes and is pursued by the village authorities.

Muff Potter

The town drunk who is framed for the murder of Dr. Robinson. Although his kind nature and drunken state make him harmless, Potter is persecuted by the entire town that believes that he is a murderer.

Mr. Jones/Old Welshman

The old Welshman who lives with his two strong sons in the vicinity of Widow Douglas’s house. With Huck’s help, the Welshman is able to come to the widow’s aide.

Widow Douglas

A rich, upper-class widow. With a kind spirit and a devotion to the Christian faith, the widow Douglas is known for her open hospitality and good nature. She also appears as a major character in Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Dr. Robinson

The young doctor, guilty of grave robbing, whose murder instigates the chaotic happenings in St. Petersburg.

Joe Harper

Tom’s bosom friend. One of Tom’s “gang” of pirates, Joe accompanies Tom on some of his adventures.

Mrs. Harper

Joe’s mother

Amy Lawrence

Tom Sawyer’s former girlfriend, whom he occasionally flirts with and was previously “engaged” to.

Alfred Temple

A well-dressed boy whom Tom thinks is snobby. Alfred also vies for Becky Thatcher’s attention.

Mr. Dobbins

The schoolmaster. Hated by all the children, Mr. Dobbins is depicted as a stern and pathetic man who uses lashings as a method of discipline.

Mr. Walter

The Sunday School Superintendent who issues Bibles to the top students.

Mr. Sprague

The long-winded minister.

Ben Rogers

A young boy who is Tom’s friend.

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