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Background Info

Author Bio

Full Name: Samuel Clemens

Pen Name: Mark Twain

Date of Birth: November 30, 1835

Place of Birth: Florida, Missouri

Date of Death: April 21, 1910

Brief Life Story: Samuel Clemens spent his youth in Hannibal, Missouri, a small port town on the Mississippi. His father died when he was eleven, and he worked in the newspaper business from twelve onwards, first as a typesetter at The Hannibal Journal. After self-educating himself while working as a printer in New York, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and St. Louis, he spent a decade working as a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi. He toured the territories of the American West for several years while building his reputation as a journalist. In 1865, the publication of his story "Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog" brought him national recognition. He married Olivia Langdon in 1870, with whom he had three children, and the family lived mostly in Hartford, Connecticut. By the time of his death, he was prized internationally as a prolific chronicler of American culture with an ability to expose its ills and hypocrisies in lighthearted, satirical fictions and autobiographical texts.

Key Facts

Full Title: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Genre: The novel is a hybrid of several genres, including satire, comedy, and folk narrative. It may be categorized as a picaresque novel because it's composed of a series of episodic adventures involving an impish child. As the story of Tom's moral development from boyhood into adulthood, it can also be described as a bildungsroman.

Setting: The fictional village of St. Petersburg, which is based on Twain's boyhood home of Hannibal, Missouri

Climax: Lost in MacDougal's Cave with Becky, Tom is searching the tunnels for a way out when he encounters Injun Joe, who runs away. (This is the major climax of the novel because Tom is its hero, but a secondary climax occurs at the same chronological time when Huck tells the Welchman that Injun Joe and the stranger are on their way to the widow Douglas's house to get violent revenge.)

Antagonist: Injun Joe

Point of View: The novel is narrated in the omniscient third person, though it is the voice of an adult with sympathetic insight into the struggles of boyhood.

Historical and Literary Context

When Written: 1874-1875

Where Written: Hartford, Connecticut

When Published: 1876

Literary Period: American Realism

Related Literary Works: The novel is often seen as a less serious work than its sequel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), in novel which Tom plays a minor role but which has Tom's best friend Huck Finn as its central character and explores the complex social fabric of the pre-Civil War American South. Tom is also the hero of two later, minor novels by Twain: Tom Sawyer Abroad (1894) and Tom Sawyer Neglected (1896). He appears in Twain's unfinished works Huck and Tom Among the Indians, Schoolhouse Hill, and Tom Sawyer's Conspiracy.

Extra Credit

Illustrated text: The original publication of Tom Sawyer by the American Publishing Company included 160 illustrations by True Williams. It is believed that the publisher might have intended that the pictures bulk up the rather short manuscript.

Hit rock song: The Canadian group Rush wrote "Tom Sawyer" to celebrate Twain's character for his individualism and spirited determination.