This irresistible tale of the adventures of two friends growing up in frontier America is one of Mark Twain's most popular novels. The farcical, colorful, and poignant escapades of Tom and his friend Huckleberry Finn brilliantly depict the humor and pathos of growing up on the geographic and cultural rim of nineteenth-century America. Originally intended for children, the book transcends genre in its magical depiction of innocence and possibility, and is now regarded as one of Twain's masterpieces. Generations of readers have enjoyed the ingenuous triumphs and feckless mishaps of boyhood days on the Mississippi. This classic of American wit and storytelling introduced Tom Sawyer, Becky Thatcher, Aunt Polly with her Bible-based morality, the Widow Douglas, and many other characters to the world; including, of course, the boy who "was cordially hated and dreaded by all the mothers of the town, because he was idle and lawless and vulgar and bad — and because all their children admired him so," Huckleberry Finn. The book is no saccharine tale of childhood; Tom and Huck also witness grave-robbing and murder one night at the graveyard where they've gone seeking adventure and a cure for warts. Twain's themes of adult hypocrisy and the importance of character remain resonant with today's readers.
Many of the heroes in current teen movies are modeled after classic characters like Tom Sawyer, and it is through a novel study that students can analyze the way humor was presented to an audience long ago like it's presented to them today. The murder trial is a super event that keeps the plot going, and my students love this part of the story! Some even enjoy the romantic bantering between Tom and Becky as this is becoming more relevant to them as well.