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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

By Mark Twain

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Mark Twain

When Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born in November 1835, “Halley’s Comet was streaking across the sky, a blazing phenomenon that thrilled the world. During his life Mark Twain would say that he came in with Halley’s Comet and that he would go out with it when it returned after seventy-five years. He did just that. Mark Twain died in April 1910, while the comet was blazing its way across the sun.”

- Jean Craighead George

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  • Born Samuel Langhorne Clemens in 1835

  • Spent his childhood is Hannibal, Missouri, a small frontier town on the Mississippi River

  • Father died when he was 11 years old

  • Left school after 5th grade to work as a printer’s apprentice

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  • At 18, moved to New York and spent time as a journalist for various newspapers

  • Returned briefly to the Mississippi River to work as a riverboat pilot

  • Traveled out West in hopes of striking it rich in Nevada’s silver rush

  • While out West, began publishing short fiction as well as travel articles in newspapers and magazines

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  • Adopted the pen name “Mark Twain” (a riverboat term) in 1863

  • Married Olivia “Livy” Langdon in 1870

  • Moved to Connecticut in the 1870s

  • Had four children, but son Sam died at 2 years of age

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  • Published his most famous works in the 1870s and 80s

  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, 1876

  • The Prince and the Pauper, 1881

  • Life on the Mississippi, 1883

  • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, 1884

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Later Years

  • Made several bad investments in new inventions, causing financial problems

  • Had to set out on an international lecture tour to earn money

  • Writings became dark, focusing on human greed and cruelty

  • Died in New York in 1910

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Twain Sayings

  • “Supposing is good, but finding out is better.”

  • “The difference between the right word and almost the right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.”

  • “Whatever you say, say it with conviction.”

  • “Thousands of geniuses live and die undiscovered -- either by themselves or by others.”

  • “Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”

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More Twain Sayings

  • “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.”

  • “When I was younger I could remember anything, whether it happened or not.”

  • “There are basically two types of people. People who accomplish things, and people who claim to have accomplished things. The first group is less crowded.”

  • “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

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  • Movement in writing and art in the 1800s

  • Writing should reflect real life

  • To make Tom Sawyer realistic, Twain uses

    • dialect

    • local color

    • depictions of the good and the bad

  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is at times a critical look at Twain’s world, with jabs at church, school, and the rules of society

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Humor and Satire

Look for Twain’s deliberate attempts at humor through the following devices:

  • Satire: a subtle or biting attack on accepted institutions, values, and systems. It can also be directed at individuals

  • Hyperbole: exaggerating for effect

  • Irony: when what happens is the opposite of what is expected to happen

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Tom Sawyer

  • Most of all, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is a story of boyhood and growing up

  • Tom is essentially a good boy who sometimes makes mischief and causes trouble

  • No matter what trouble he gets into, his conscience is always at work