Tone

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

by

Mark Twain

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer: Tone 1 key example

Definition of Tone
The tone of a piece of writing is its general character or attitude, which might be cheerful or depressive, sarcastic or sincere, comical or mournful, praising or critical, and so on. For instance... read full definition
The tone of a piece of writing is its general character or attitude, which might be cheerful or depressive, sarcastic or sincere, comical or mournful, praising or critical... read full definition
The tone of a piece of writing is its general character or attitude, which might be cheerful or depressive, sarcastic or sincere, comical... read full definition
Preface
Explanation and Analysis:

Twain’s tone in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is overall playful and sympathetic. While he gently mocks the characters in the novel (children and adults alike), he understands the workings of their minds and sympathizes with their hypocritical and manipulative ways. The content and tone of the book's preface establish that Twain approached his writing from a place of caring:

[P]art of my plan has been to try to pleasantly remind adults of what they once were themselves, and of how they felt and thought and talked, and what queer enterprises they sometimes engaged in.

Twain intentionally uses adult language inside of children’s minds, allowing older readers to sympathize with the young characters while also finding humor in the juxtaposition. This comes across in how he captures Tom’s inner monologue when he seeks to stay home sick from school in Chapter 6:

Presently it occurred to him that he wished he was sick […]. He canvassed his system. No ailment was found, and he investigated again. This time he thought he could detect colicky symptoms, and he began to encourage them with considerable hope. But they soon grew feeble, and presently died wholly away.

The language Twain uses here does not match the way Tom speaks, which is usually quite casual and in a regional dialect. Twain’s use of mature, literary language (such as describing Tom as “canvassing” and “investigating” with “considerable hope”) in juxtaposition with the triviality of his efforts (to get out of school) leads to a humorous, tongue-in-cheek tone.

That said, Twain’s tone becomes much more serious in dire moments, such as when Tom and Huck witness Injun Joe kill Dr. Robinson in the graveyard in Chapter 10:

The two boys flew on and on, toward the village, speechless with horror […]. Every stump that started up in their path seemed a man and an enemy, and made them catch their breath; and as they sped by some outlying cottages that lay near the village, the barking of the aroused watchdogs seemed to give wings to their feet.

Here, Twain is not encouraging readers to poke fun at Tom and Huck but to experience the terror with them, which comes through in the tense and fearful tone.

Chapter 6
Explanation and Analysis:

Twain’s tone in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is overall playful and sympathetic. While he gently mocks the characters in the novel (children and adults alike), he understands the workings of their minds and sympathizes with their hypocritical and manipulative ways. The content and tone of the book's preface establish that Twain approached his writing from a place of caring:

[P]art of my plan has been to try to pleasantly remind adults of what they once were themselves, and of how they felt and thought and talked, and what queer enterprises they sometimes engaged in.

Twain intentionally uses adult language inside of children’s minds, allowing older readers to sympathize with the young characters while also finding humor in the juxtaposition. This comes across in how he captures Tom’s inner monologue when he seeks to stay home sick from school in Chapter 6:

Presently it occurred to him that he wished he was sick […]. He canvassed his system. No ailment was found, and he investigated again. This time he thought he could detect colicky symptoms, and he began to encourage them with considerable hope. But they soon grew feeble, and presently died wholly away.

The language Twain uses here does not match the way Tom speaks, which is usually quite casual and in a regional dialect. Twain’s use of mature, literary language (such as describing Tom as “canvassing” and “investigating” with “considerable hope”) in juxtaposition with the triviality of his efforts (to get out of school) leads to a humorous, tongue-in-cheek tone.

That said, Twain’s tone becomes much more serious in dire moments, such as when Tom and Huck witness Injun Joe kill Dr. Robinson in the graveyard in Chapter 10:

The two boys flew on and on, toward the village, speechless with horror […]. Every stump that started up in their path seemed a man and an enemy, and made them catch their breath; and as they sped by some outlying cottages that lay near the village, the barking of the aroused watchdogs seemed to give wings to their feet.

Here, Twain is not encouraging readers to poke fun at Tom and Huck but to experience the terror with them, which comes through in the tense and fearful tone.

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Chapter 10
Explanation and Analysis:

Twain’s tone in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is overall playful and sympathetic. While he gently mocks the characters in the novel (children and adults alike), he understands the workings of their minds and sympathizes with their hypocritical and manipulative ways. The content and tone of the book's preface establish that Twain approached his writing from a place of caring:

[P]art of my plan has been to try to pleasantly remind adults of what they once were themselves, and of how they felt and thought and talked, and what queer enterprises they sometimes engaged in.

Twain intentionally uses adult language inside of children’s minds, allowing older readers to sympathize with the young characters while also finding humor in the juxtaposition. This comes across in how he captures Tom’s inner monologue when he seeks to stay home sick from school in Chapter 6:

Presently it occurred to him that he wished he was sick […]. He canvassed his system. No ailment was found, and he investigated again. This time he thought he could detect colicky symptoms, and he began to encourage them with considerable hope. But they soon grew feeble, and presently died wholly away.

The language Twain uses here does not match the way Tom speaks, which is usually quite casual and in a regional dialect. Twain’s use of mature, literary language (such as describing Tom as “canvassing” and “investigating” with “considerable hope”) in juxtaposition with the triviality of his efforts (to get out of school) leads to a humorous, tongue-in-cheek tone.

That said, Twain’s tone becomes much more serious in dire moments, such as when Tom and Huck witness Injun Joe kill Dr. Robinson in the graveyard in Chapter 10:

The two boys flew on and on, toward the village, speechless with horror […]. Every stump that started up in their path seemed a man and an enemy, and made them catch their breath; and as they sped by some outlying cottages that lay near the village, the barking of the aroused watchdogs seemed to give wings to their feet.

Here, Twain is not encouraging readers to poke fun at Tom and Huck but to experience the terror with them, which comes through in the tense and fearful tone.

Unlock with LitCharts A+