Thoughts on Reading Tom Sawyer

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 Carrie at Reading to Know is hosting a virtual book club this year. This month’s pick was The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. I have wanted to read something with the book club as a love the idea but just hadn’t done it yet. In a happy coincidence, I picked Tom Sawyer as the next assigned book for John to read. We’ve each been reading it on our own and then discussing what we’ve read every five chapters or so. I’d like to do more of this kind of family book club in the future. So far, it’s been pretty much a success. I might have over-reached with Tom Sawyer. John is a very good reader but I think he’s missing a lot of the humor of Twain and more subtle ideas in the story. It would probably have been better as a read-aloud or to wait a few years. That’s pretty much the story of poor John’s life, having to serve as guinea pig to an overeager mother and teacher. Ah well, his siblings will have to thank him one day for all I’ve learned.

Tom Sawyer is well known to most people so I’ll just mention a few thoughts I had on this re-reading.

* I had absolutely no memory that Tom has a half-brother, Sid. None at all. I think it’s interesting that even on re-reading a book that you think you KNOW something can surprise you.

* I often think of Tom as being naughty and mischievous. But what struck me this time was that he has a deeply moral conscience. Yes, he runs away and lets his aunt think he’s dead. But of the boys who run away he’s the only one who sneaks home out of a guilty conscience and the only one who figures out a way to go back (of course, he does it in a dramatic way so as not to lose face). He’s also unable to lie at Muff Potter’s trial even when faced with real danger to himself. Huck is seemingly willing to let an innocent man be hanged out of fear for his own safety. But Tom knows it’s wrong and in the end must do the right thing. I think Twain is showing a real progression from purely mischievous scamp to boy troubled by his own conscience to boy who ultimately does the right thing. As Amy says in her post at Reading to Know, it is a coming of age story.

*John and I had an interesting discussion on the difference between Tom and Huck. Tom likes to pretend exciting things like being a pirate or digging for treasure. However, Twain makes it clear that Tom knows he’s just pretending. He just wants to make life more interesting and do big things. Huck, however, seems to believe what Tom knows is false. Huck thinks they are really running away for good. Huck believes they really are going to find treasure. Huck is more simple in this way, more childlike. Which perhaps is why his conscience is less developed and he’s not willing to tell the truth to save Muff Potter.

*Twain is funny. Really funny.

It’s been fun re-reading Tom Sawyer and has made me want to re-read Huck Finn next. Be sure to stop by Reading to Know to see Amy’s guest post and to add your own thoughts on this great American classic.

4 thoughts on “Thoughts on Reading Tom Sawyer

  1. It is funny that you totally forget some aspects or characters in some stories. It happens to me all the time, and thus, I suppose, why it is good to re-read.

    I, too, suffer from the overeager mother syndrome, but I love how you put it in such a positive light for your younger children. ;-)

    I had no idea, though, really how approachable Tom Sawyer is for younger students. There goes my “good” education, huh?

    I’m so glad you played along and shared your experience!

  2. Wasn’t this fun?! :) I agree–Twain is funny!! I appreciate your insight into Tom’s developing conscience and the contrast between him and Huck. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  3. Hmm…Now I’m really wondering if I’ve been too hard on Tom! But I can definitely see that Tom’s conscience (and its influence on him) grows throughout the novel. I think Tom still has a long way to go, even at the end of the novel, towards becoming a “good person”, but he’s definitely traveling in the right direction.

    I really appreciate the contrast you drew between Tom and Huck. I’d been comparing and contrasting their experiences of life (Tom’s relatively pampered existence with his aunt vs. Huck’s fend-for-himself life on the streets), but not so much how they viewed events (if that makes any sense). I’m interested in reading Huck Finn and digging a bit further into the similarities and differences between the two boys.

  4. Sky

    Yes, I too want to re-read Huck Finn. I haven’t read either book since I was a kid so I am curious as to why I liked Huck better than Tom back then.

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