The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

‘THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER’


JUMP TO SECTION:

OPENING LINE:

Tom Sawyer is unquestionably the literary ancestor of both Dennis the Menace and Bart Simpson.


PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY:

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, 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.
©2002 Mark Twain; (P)2004 Brilliance Audio, Inc.


THE PLOT:

What can really be said about ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’ that has not already been said? Tom Sawyer is an icon of American literary history. He is so well known in our culture that his name is invoked often in the debate over the amount of school children diagnosed with ADHD.
The book is a series of adventures that become more and more connected as the book progresses. Some of these adventures remain very famous. Consider how Tom was able to get other boys in the village to do his white washing simply by making it seem like a task that they were not worthy enough to even attempt. There are several instances in the story where it is said that the surest way to get someone to want to do something is to tell them that they can’t do it. This was true in Tom Sawyer’s day, Mark Twain’s day and this day as well.
An early chapter also displays an example of why this book is timeless. The villagers start to put on a performance because a celebrity, the judge, is in their midst. While reading that chapter, it occurred to me that there is a reason why people say the phrase: “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Our culture is no less obsessed with projecting a certain image to certain people than the one depicted in this novel.
This is the first in a series of four novels to feature Tom Sawyer. The second is ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ and it is just as well known as this one. ‘Tom Sawyer, Abroad’ and ‘Tom Sawyer, Detective’ are the final two volumes in the series and are the least well known.
This was one of my favorite books to read when I was a child, and I was pleased to discover that I still enjoyed it as an adult. I enjoyed it as a child for all of the different adventures that Tom experienced. As an adult, I understood some of the commentary much better and there is a lot that Twain chooses to comment on in this book. There are no sacred cows in ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’. Religion, politics, social order, education, the fickleness of young love – none of these things escape Twain’s comment.


THE AUTHOR:

As difficult as it can be to find anything new or provocative to say about the text, the same holds true for the author himself. Mark Twain is a pillar of American literature, known for his wit and satire.
However, the fact that he is a good storyteller might get lost in the shuffle. Twain’s description of setting is very vivid. I noticed this a great deal when he was describing Jackson’s island, where Tom, Huck and Joe Harper hid out while being pirates.
Twain is also able to create some compelling characters. I found Aunt Polly to be one of the more fascinating characters in the whole story. Her internal struggle over how to properly punish and show love to Tom is at times quite moving. Her internal conflict is something I think every parent can definitely relate to.


THE NARRATION:

Dick Hill is a prolific narrator of audiobooks, and has won several awards. He has hundreds of titles to his credit, and as a result it is difficult to determine how early in his career he first narrated ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’.
I am generally a fan of Hill’s work. However, while I think he gives a spirited performance here, at times I felt like the acting was a bit over the top. I found this to be most evident whenever a character was either displaying fear or anguish.
There is another version of this book narrated by Dick Hill available for purchase. It might be interesting to compare that performance to this and to see what types of changes Hill made to his performance.


THE PRODUCTION:

This is a track with a performance copyright of 1992. The track generally sounds all right, but there are some times when it shows a bit of age. I detected a bit of fading in Chapter 17 where the volume drops a bit before returning to normal. I won’t call this a perfect track, but it is at least passable.
There are no music cues to be found anywhere on the track. Oddly, there was an effect added. There is an echo whenever there is dialog in the cave between Tom and Becky or Tom and Huck. Although it doesn’t seem to be consistent throughout their conversations. There are chapter stops in all of the expected places.


FINAL THOUGHTS:

‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’ is an iconic piece of American literature. The book is a product of the time in which it was set, but is just as relevant today as it was then. The circumstances may be different, but the lengths people will go to today to rationalize certain behavior are no less drastic than the lengths Tom and Huck would go to.
If you have somehow missed the opportunity to read this book, I would advise you to pick it up. If you are an adult and haven’t read it since childhood, it is worth reading again. You may discover things in the text that you never noticed in your youth.
The nice thing is that since ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’ is in the public domain, you have many options to choose from when it comes to narrators. I would suggest listening to available excerpts and see if you find one more appealing than the others. There are also sources such as Librivox where you can get it for free.


QUICK FACTS:

Title Author Narrator Publisher Genre Release Date Running Time Score
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Mark Twain Dick Hill Brilliance Audio American Literature 09/14/2004 8 hours, 51 minutes 8/10

DISCLAIMER:

A copy of ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’ was purchased from audible for review.

Advertisements