Quick Tom Sawyer facts
Full Title: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Date Written: 1874-1875
Date Published: United Kingdom in June 1876, and the United States in December 1876
Genre(s): Literary adventure novel
Setting(s): The fictional town of St. Petersburg, Missouri, modelled on Mark Twain’s hometown of Hannibal, Missouri, USA, in the mid-nineteenth century
Point of view: Third person, limited omniscient, with Tom Sawyer as the central consciousness
About Tom Sawyer
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is the first attempt of its author, Mark Twain, to write a novel. Before that he had written several successful prose works, consisting of journalism, autobiography and literary criticism.
After the success of Tom Sawyer in 1876 he went on to write many more novels and short stories, and by the end of his life he had become an American icon – the most quoted American writer and possibly the most quoted 19th Century writer anywhere – noted particularly for his witty and wise observations about life. Typical of those are “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” and “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” Not only was he a revered writer but he was also an American national treasure.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is an American classic. Mark Twain wrote two more novels featuring its protagonist, Tom Sawyer, but a third, in which Tom makes an appearance but features his friend Huckleberry Finn as its protagonist, is a far more significant book. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has a credible claim to the title ‘the Great American Novel,” along with The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald, not only for its American theme but also for its excellence as a fictional work.
Tom Sawyer plot
This is the story of a mischievous boy living in a small mid-west American town in the mid 19th century. He keeps getting into trouble and finding his way out of it again.
Some of the novel is about Tom’s romance with Becky Thatcher, a new girl in town. They like each other and experience relationship problems, which are eventually resolved.
Tom hooks up Huckleberry Finn, the son of the town drunk. One night they sneak out to a graveyard where they see Injun Joe murdering Dr. Robinson. Most of the story is now about that murder and its repercussions. After various adventures connected with Injun Joe and some treasure he is hiding, during which Tom and Becky are lost in a cave for days, Tom solves the mystery surrounding Injun Joe and his whereabouts.
Read a full summary of Tom Sawyer.
Tom Sawyer has raised controversy for its use of the racial “N” word. However, when publishers bowdlerized the text that raised controversy as well: it interfered with the way characters spoke and made them less believable, so the original is generally considered among literary critics to be the better option.
The novel has also been criticised for the caricature-like portrayal of Native Americans through the character Injun Joe. He is characterised as being evil just for the sake of it and not given the chance by the author of redeeming himself. He dies an horrific death in a dark cave and his body is then treated as a tourist attraction. The townsfolk regard the cause of his malevolence as being his Indian blood.
Mark Twain does not deal with race in any depth in this novel and there is hardly a mention of slaves. He makes up for that in a big way in Huckleberry Finn, however.
That’s our overview of Tom Sawyer. Make sense? Any questions? Let us know in the comments section below!
Read an introduction to this famous Mark Twain novel, along with some quick facts around dates, period, setting, genre, historical context, and more.
Read a 5-minute summary on one page, to get an understanding of the key plot lines and character actions.
See a list of all the characters in Tom Sawyer, along with a detailed description and analysis of each major character.
Read an explanation and analysis of the various themes Mark Twain deals with in Tom Sawyer.
Read a biography and facts about Tom Sawyer author Mark Twain, plus famous quotes, a quiz to test your knowledge, and more.