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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
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message 1: by Heather L (last edited Jul 28, 2016 01:05PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Heather L  (wordtrix) The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (World's Classics) by Mark Twain The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain The Adventures of Tom Sawyer  by Mark Twain The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (World's Classics) by Mark Twain


This discussion is for the August group read, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, the first of four books to feature the title character. Written in 1876, the novel is about a young boy growing up along the Mississippi River with his Aunt Polly and younger brother Sid. It is set in the fictional town of St. Petersburg, which was inspired by Hannibal, Missouri — the town where Mark Twain lived.

From Goodreads:

In this enduring and internationally popular novel, Mark Twain combines social satire and dime-novel sensation with a rhapsody on boyhood and on America's pre-industrial past. Tom Sawyer is resilient, enterprising, and vainglorious, and in a series of adventures along the banks of the Mississippi he usually manages to come out on top. From petty triumphs over his friends and over his long-suffering Aunt Polly, to his intervention in a murder trial, Tom engages readers of all ages. He has long been a defining figure in the American cultural imagination.

Alongside the charm and the excitement, the novel also raises questions about identity, and about attitudes to class and race. Above all, Twain's study of childhood brings into focus emergent notions of individual and literary maturity.



If you do not have a copy of the book, free editions may be obtained from any of the following:

* Amazon
* Barnes & Noble
* Project Gutenberg


Phil J | 73 comments This book is completely nuts. I have taught it twice, and I look forward to your comments with interest.

The audio version on librivox.org is awesome, if you're into that kind of thing.


 Danielle The Book Huntress  (gatadelafuente) | 614 comments Mod
I don't think I will be able to reread to participate in the discussion, but I enjoyed this very much when I read it years ago.


Phil J | 73 comments Danielle The Book Huntress (Self-Proclaimed Book Ninja) wrote: "I don't think I will be able to reread to participate in the discussion, but I enjoyed this very much when I read it years ago."

What did you like about it? I find it very awkward to teach and have decided to swap it out for The Prince and the Pauper this year.


Nina | 449 comments Phil wrote: "This book is completely nuts. I have taught it twice, and I look forward to your comments with interest.

The audio version on librivox.org is awesome, if you're into that kind of thing."


I think I will join. Phil, which LibriVox version is the one you recommend? (Who reads it?) Thanks for the advice!


Phil J | 73 comments John Greenman is nicknamed "the voice of Mark Twain" on the librivox forums. Here's a link:

https://librivox.org/tom-sawyer-by-ma...


Nina | 449 comments Great, thanks!


Heather L  (wordtrix) Phil wrote: "This book is completely nuts."


Care to expand on that?

I finished the book over the weekend and thought it quite readable. I think it's easy to see why it would appeal to young readers -- especially boys -- not only when it was originally published, but even today. Sadly, I can also see why so many people continue to challenge/ban it.

I have also read The Prince and the Pauper, and enjoyed that one as well, though I think The Adventures of Tom Sawyer might be an easier read, depending on age of the readers.


Phil J | 73 comments Heather L wrote: "Phil wrote: "This book is completely nuts."


Care to expand on that?"


I could write a book about how crazy it is.

First of all, Twain's original premise was that Tom Sawyer would have an idyllic childhood, go out into the world, learn that civilization is evil and corrupt, return home in search of his childhood paradise, and learn that everything he once loved has been destroyed by the hypocrisy of authority figures. His editor persuaded him to stop after the "idyllic childhood" part, but some of the brutal social satire still snuck in there. That's why we have rambling, non sequitur chapters about how religion makes people boring and women shouldn't write because they're no good at it.

Then there's the plot structure. There's no plot at all for 5-10 chapters, then the Injun Joe plot starts, then it goes away for about 10 more chapters so Tom can go to the island, then it kind of comes and goes for the rest of the book.

Then there's Twain's insane concept of a perfect childhood as one in which you have absolutely no regard for others, as evidenced by the island episode.

This book is weird. It's entertaining, but it's a mess. And I didn't even bring up the race issues. (Jim is apparently a slave, but whose slave?)


message 10: by Nina (last edited Aug 07, 2016 02:22PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nina | 449 comments Chapter 10:
I quite like the book so far. I like the tone and style and Tom is a person to be liked, despite all his flaws. He never intends really to be a naughty kid, he's just bursting with energy and boyish ideas and school and church are just so boring when you could be outdoors and have an adventure. (view spoiler)

I agree to Phil that the way Mark Twain talks about 'niggers', Jim, Injun Joe etc would be quite unacceptable today. Without intending to defend it I do find it something to be common in books of that ear. Twain probably never gave it any additional thought. He might not have meant any bad with it, this is just 'how things were'. Once again, I don't mean to defend it but I find it also quite harsh to judge him on it.

Phil, why do you think that Jim is a slave? Maybe there are more clues to it later in the book, but so far in my opinion he could just as well be a servant of some sort in Aunt Polly's household.

Also, I don't that there's no plot structure in the first 9 or 10 chapters before the Injun Joe plot. These chapters are describing Tom's life, his family, his school, his friends, girl issues, what he enjoy doing, just how his life goes. It is true that there is not concrete plot to it but I don't find it incoherent either. I agree to Melanti that this way of just following a kid's life troughout the seasons and even the years is not uncommon for 19th century kids books.


message 11: by Phil (new) - rated it 3 stars

Phil J | 73 comments I'm glad you're enjoying it! I have a love/hate relationship with this book. The pinch-bug chapter is my favorite, and I think you're getting close to it.

Jim is an unpaid African-American servant who gets whipped when he doesn't do as he's told. You probably noticed during Ch. 1 that both boys misbehave, but only Jim gets swatted. The fact that Twain doesn't use the word "slave" says a lot about his level of awareness when he wrote the book.

Twain states in his autobiography that slavery was a fact of life in Hannibal MO, and it didn't occur to him that it was wrong until he got out and saw more of the world. Part of the difference was that slaves in Hannibal were treated less brutally than slaves in New Orleans. This book is largely an idealized version of Twain's childhood, and I think that for Twain to criticize the race issues of his hometown would have felt like a betrayal to him.

I am certain that Jim is a slave, that Aunt Polly is his master, and that Twain tried to push that into the background by avoiding the word "slave," which would have been politically charged in the post Civil War era.

Twain's subsequent works are much more progressive, but he wasn't ready yet when he wrote this one.


message 12: by Heather L (last edited Aug 22, 2016 08:15AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Heather L  (wordtrix) The questions of race, slavery, language and some of the situations/adventures the boys have are some of the reasons why this book, along with its counterpart, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is frequently challenged (why people try to ban) it in schools.

Many misguided souls believe that to read the book, or recommend others read it, is to condone slavery, drinking, smoking, or truancy. It doesn't. They are important books because, right or wrong, they depict an era of American history and were written by the most popular American writer at the time. Twain was known as the "greatest American humorist of his age", and William Faulkner called him "the father of American literature". Many scholars regard The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, his followup to Tom Sawyer, as "The Great American Novel."

Incidentally, while many of his books depict slavery, which was a part of Twain's life growing up, he did in fact support the abolition of slavery and emancipation of slaves, arguing that it was difficult for anyone who wasn't white (not just slaves, but also Chinese) to receive justice in this country. Many would probably say this still rings true today. Twain even paid to send one black person to Yale Law School and for another to attend a southern university to become a minister.

He also supported women's suffrage. Though I had never heard of it, his Votes for Women speech is considered one of the most famous speeches in American history. I wonder what he would think about the possibility of a female president, and on the heels of our first black president at that. Something tells me he would have proudly supported and voted for both. (And please don't let this develop into a political free-for-all; that is NOT my intention by this statement, merely stating fact and opinion.)


message 13: by Phil (new) - rated it 3 stars

Phil J | 73 comments Heather L wrote: "The questions of race, slavery, language and some of the situations/adventures the boys have is why this book, along with its counterpart, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, are some o..."

Twain gets a lot of credit for being an abolitionist, but a lot of that was after the fact. He actually served briefly in the Confederate army before deserting and developed more progressive views after the Civil War was already over. Don't get me wrong; I have a lot of respect for Twain. I just think it took him a while.

For a great and humorous essay of his mature thinking on these topics, check out On the Decay of the Art of Lying. It's like two pages long, so it's no big commitment.


Heather L  (wordtrix) His essay on James Fenimore Cooper is also hilarious.


message 15: by Myst (new) - rated it 3 stars

Myst | 58 comments I'm only about 27 pages in (too many holds came in during a 3 day stretch), but since one reason people challenge this book is due to the N word, is there a specific reason that word gets used when it does? I've seen "colored person" and "negro" show up so far, but the N word itself hasn't.

I've never read this story (that I recall), and I actually had an expectation that that word would show up a lot and am now surprised to see 2 other terms for african americans show up before the N word. (I searched the book and apparently the Word first shows up in about 10 pages.)

For anyone else whose never read this story, did you have any expectations about the book, knowing that that Word made the book controversial?


message 16: by Phil (new) - rated it 3 stars

Phil J | 73 comments Myst wrote: "I'm only about 27 pages in (too many holds came in during a 3 day stretch), but since one reason people challenge this book is due to the N word, is there a specific reason that word gets used when..."

The word is used in character dialogue (often Huck's) to refer to African Americans. The references are pretty negative- at one point saying he's fallen so low that he has to eat with the N's, at another point saying that N's always lie, but at least they know magic. There is no counterbalance in the book- Huck's comments are the only view of African Americans provided to the reader.

Honestly, Injun Joe is more problematic than the N bomb. He combines every negative stereotype there is of American Indians. He's drunk, ignorant, violent, lazy, lying, and enjoys torturing people. Near the end, Huck warns the sheriff (or someone) of the threatened mutilation of Widow Douglas. The sheriff doesn't believe him until Huck mentions that it's an Indian, because white people would never do a thing like that.


message 17: by Myst (new) - rated it 3 stars

Myst | 58 comments So there's no significance to certain phrases being used to make a point. Since people say this is such a 'must read' classic you'd think the terms for certain people would be used to make a point.

And I hate to say it, but some native americans are (still) similar to how you describe Injun Joe (maybe minus the torture). Where I used to live 16 years ago, there were certain areas of the city you didn't go since they were gathering areas for native americans to drink, smoke and generally be obnoxious (and were somewhat dangerous).

Although it's hard to blame them for being rude...their ancestral lands were taken from them and they were 'given' sub par land as compensation. Even now they're often treated like second or third class citizens.

And I think the writing is a touch clunky in introducing who all lives with "Aunt Polly". Tom, his brother, and a girl named Mary? Or is Mary Polly's daughter?


Kahel | 1 comments One of my favourite. Enjoy Reading!


Heather L  (wordtrix) Myst wrote: "So there's no significance to certain phrases being used to make a point. Since people say this is such a 'must read' classic you'd think the terms for certain people would be used to make a point...."


The book isn't saying it's okay to use this kind of language, and it's not used to make a point -- it's merely the vernacular (the way people talked) of a certain region at a particular time in American history. And, sadly, there are still people who talk like this today. It's a classic because it was one of the most popular books of its day, by the most popular American writer of that era, and depicts life in the South along the Mississippi River at that time.


Heather L  (wordtrix) I mentioned in my post above that Mark Twain, born Samuel Clemens, was the post popular writer of his day. Twain's fame started when his story, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calavaras County" appeared in the New York Saturday Press, November 18, 1865. "The Innocents Abroad" was then published in 1869, followed by "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" in 1876, and "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" in 1885.

Altogether he wrote 28 books and numerous short stories, letters and sketches. Public appearances drew crowds from miles around, and were often standing room only. Ken Burns has an excellent documentary, Mark Twain, which has aired a few times on PBS.


Heather L  (wordtrix) Quotes About Twain

"...the first truly American writer, and all of us since are his heirs."
-- William Faulkner


"All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called "Huckleberry Finn." all American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since."
-- Ernest Hemingway


"The mark of how good '"Huckleberry Finn" has to be is that one can compare it to a number of our best modern American novels and it stands up page for page, awkward here, sensational there - absolutely the equal of one of those rare incredible first novels that come along once or twice in a decade."
-- Norman Mailer


"I believe that Mark Twain had a clearer vision of life, that he came nearer to its elementals and was less deceived by its false appearances, than any other American who has ever presumed to manufacture generalizations, not excepting Emerson. I believe that he was the true father of our national literature, the first genuinely American artist of the royal blood."
-- H.L. Mencken


Heather L  (wordtrix) Thanks, Loretta! : )


message 23: by Myst (new) - rated it 3 stars

Myst | 58 comments I actually more or less enjoyed TAoTS. As far as the language went, I didn't have a problem with it. It did sound like day to day phrasing vs using it to put someone down. I guess I just expected it to be used differently due to all the hype surrounding it.


message 24: by Mark (last edited Aug 24, 2016 06:55AM) (new)

Mark André Heather L wrote: "Quotes About Twain

"...the first truly American writer, and all of us since are his heirs."
-- William Faulkner


"All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called "Hucklebe..."


Great Quotes!


Linda | 3 comments Hi Everyone,
This is my first group post and due to time allowances, I haven't participated the way I would have liked to in the past. Deck is clear now and I am enjoying reading everyone's comments about The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. While I am not finished, my reading gauge tells me I am at 70%.

This is my first reading of the book and my acquaintance with the story was in elementary school. It was read to the class and I assume it was a children's version. I bring this point up because Phil's comments about teaching this. In careful consideration I do not think it can be taught at this time. Mark Twain is still one of our leading literary writers of that time and perhaps it is easier to understand that he wrote what he knew and had a vivid imagination or perhaps, his reality of boyhood childhood at that time in history.

I sense that many children or young adult readers may not relate to the book as their childhood may be very different. This makes Tom Sawyer, not only a period piece but a nostalgic lens of a time that grows further in childhood history.

As to other commentary on the issues Mark Twain presents or skims over, again, this is a reality of the times. A short lens on history without any strong views or background on slavery, prejudice or Native American history. We learn very little on the effect of the characters.

At a bookstore or a library, I usually glance through the Summer Reading Book programs and perhaps, for students, this is a good choice if they want to read Mark Twain. As time goes on, I sense this book may fade into a little read classic. Twain's writing on the issues presented are so slight and for me, at this time, is a fictional lens on a time that grows more and more distant.


Heather L  (wordtrix) Adaptations and influences

As a child, I remember watching a movie on TV based on Twain's novel. The only scene I remember from it is the boys whitewashing the fence.

Later, in 6th grade, we saw a short performance of the cave scene between Tom and Becky.

Here are some of the many adaptations based on the novel:


Film and television
* Tom Sawyer (1917), directed by William Desmond Taylor, starring Jack Pickford as Tom

* Tom Sawyer (1930), directed by John Cromwell, starring Jackie Coogan as Tom

* Tom Sawyer (1936), Soviet Union version directed by Lazar Frenkel and Gleb Zatvornitsky

* The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938), Technicolor film by the Selznick Studio, starring Tommy Kelly as Tom and directed by Norman Taurog; most notable is the cave sequence designed by William Cameron Menzies

* The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1960), BBC television series in 6 episodes starring Fred Smith as Tom and Janina Faye as Becky. The series' theme song was "John Gilbert is the Boat", sung by Peggy Seeger.

* Les Aventur Sawyer (1968), French/German made-for-television miniseries directed by Wolfgang Liebeneiner, starring Roland Demongeot as Tom and Marc Di Napoli as Huck.

* The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1968), a half-hour live-action/animated series produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions

* Tom Sawyer (1973), musical adaptation by Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman, with Johnny Whitaker in the title role, Jeff East as Huck Finn, Jodie Foster as Becky Thatcher, and Celeste Holm as Aunt Polly.

* Tom Sawyer (1973), TV movie version sponsored by Dr Pepper, starring Buddy Ebsen as Muff Potter and filmed in Upper Canada Village

* Huckleberry Finn and His Friends (1979), TV series

* The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1980), Japanese anime TV series by Nippon Animation, part of the World Masterpiece Theater, aired in the United States on HBO

* Tom and Huck (1995), starring Jonathan Taylor Thomas as Tom and Brad Renfro as Huck Finn

* Tom Sawyer (2000), animated adaptation featuring the characters as anthropomorphic animals instead of humans with an all-star voice cast, including country singers Rhett Akins, Mark Wills, Lee Ann Womack, Waylon Jennings, and Hank Williams Jr. as well as Betty White

* Thomas Sawyer, as a young adult, is a character in the movie League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, portrayed by Shane West. Here, Tom is a U.S. Secret Service agent who joins the team's fight against Professor Moriarty.

* Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn (2014), starring Joel Courtney as Tom and Jake T. Austin as Huck.


Theatrical
* In 1956, We're From Missouri, a musical adaptation of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, with book, music and lyrics by Tom Boyd, was presented by the students at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

* In 1960, Tom Boyd's musical version (re-titled Tom Sawyer) was presented professionally at Theatre Royal Stratford East in London, England, and in 1961 toured provincial theatres in England.

* In 2001, the musical The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Ken Ludwig and Don Schlitz, debuted on Broadway.

* In 2015, the Mark Twain House and Museum selected 17-year-old Noah Altshuler (writer of Making the Move), as Mark Twain Playwright in Residence, to create a modern, meta-fictional adaptation of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer for regional and commercial production.


Ballet
* Tom Sawyer: A Ballet in Three Acts premiered on October 14, 2011 at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, Missouri. The score was by composer Maury Yeston, with choreography by William Whitener, artistic director of the Kansas City Ballet. A review in The New York Times observed: "It’s quite likely that this is the first all-new, entirely American three-act ballet: it is based on an American literary classic, has an original score by an American composer and was given its premiere by an American choreographer and company. ... Both the score and the choreography are energetic, robust, warm, deliberately naïve (both ornery and innocent), in ways right for Twain."


Internet
On November 30, 2011, to celebrate Twain’s 176th birthday, the Google Doodle was a scene from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

description


(Source: Wikipedia)


Heather L  (wordtrix) More Tom Sawyer in Pop Culture

Tom Sawyer is perhaps best known to most people as the basis for Tom Sawyer's island at Disney theme parks. There are several attractions built around Tom and Huck in Hannibal, Missouri, which annually hosts "Tom Sawyer Days."


~*~*~*~*~


The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is also referenced three times and shown a fourth in the classic film It's a Wonderful Life, which was apparently influenced by Twain's novel.


FRANKLIN'S VOICE: What's that book you've got there?
CLARENCE'S VOICE: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.


~*~*~*~*~


Clarence, secretly trying to get George's attention, now picks up a copy of "Tom Sawyer" which is hanging on the line, drying. He shakes the book.

CLARENCE: Oh, Tom Sawyer's drying out, too. You should read the new book Mark Twain's writing now.


~*~*~*~*~


George, still holding Zuzu in his arms, glances down at the pile of money on the table. His eye catches something on top of the pile, and he reaches down for it. It is Clarence's copy of "Tom Sawyer." George opens it and finds an inscription written in it: "Dear George, remember no man is a failure who has friends. Thanks for the wings, Love Clarence."



message 28: by Phil (new) - rated it 3 stars

Phil J | 73 comments I watched the '90s Tom and Huck movie with some students after they read the book. It was really entertaining! They got a lot of the setting and characters right, but completely missed the plot. It was fun to watch and tear apart.


message 29: by Nina (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nina | 449 comments Has anyone a recommendation for one or several of the movie adaptation?


message 30: by Phil (new) - rated it 3 stars

Phil J | 73 comments Nina wrote: "Has anyone a recommendation for one or several of the movie adaptation?"

I think the 1936 version gets the best reviews.


message 31: by Nina (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nina | 449 comments Thanks, Phil!


Karen (karenbess) | 23 comments I am so happy that I am reading this book with the group. Love the discussion. I picked this little book up at my local bookstore - was late starting; but felt it was "meant to be". I have always had a general idea of what the book was about, but never had a huge desire to read it for some reason. I have two daughters who are both grown now, but since I have become a new "Nanna" of a baby boy, I couldn't resist the pull as I thought it might help me understand boys better. Wow! This is an eye-opener! lol I still have approx 50 pages left to read, but will be so happy to say I have read this Classic, as now I see why it is a Classic. I couldn't agree more with Heather L's comment above about it being written in a particular "vernacular". I admit the "n" word does make me cringe, but I also really appreciate this story as a true, slice of life example of the time, warts and all - a very important piece of history. I am now looking forward to reading Huckleberry Finn, which I would never have been interested in before. I am reminded of watching a movie about Mark Twain on TCM, (missed the beginning), which included a scene of Mark Twain on his deathbed where there was a poignant reference to Halley's Comet which I didn't quite "get" at the time. It was such a touching scene and it stuck with me ever since, so finally reading the story brings it full circle. This is a fabulous group!! Thanks.


message 33: by Phil (new) - rated it 3 stars

Phil J | 73 comments Karen wrote: "I thought it might help me understand boys better."

It was Twain's concept of an idealized boyhood, which says as much about Twain as it does about boys.


Heather L  (wordtrix) I'm glad you are enjoying the book, Karen -- "warts and all!" :-)


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