Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Penguin Classics: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain - 2014 edition

Penguin Classics: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.  Mark Twain.  Introduction and Notes by R. Ken Rasmussen. Penguin Group (USA). November 2014. 272 pp. pbk. ISBN #: 9780143107330.

Penguin has reissued an edition of the classic novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, a tale that never fails to mesmerize and intrigue its readers.   It’s the story of a young Southern boy who’s a “bad boy” in the day when the only books for boys were moral novels of little adventure and minor character flaws.  Tom Sawyer is really the same type of character but his charismatic personality has more spunk than previous young heroes and he’s so much smarter than his peers that he becomes a model of misbehavior and adventure to them all.

A fascinating introduction – don’t skip it at all – compares this novel by the famous Mark Twain to the Harry Potter novel by J. K. Rowling.  Tom and Harry are said to possess the common characteristics as they “struggle against adversity, fight against evil, and are misunderstood but nevertheless emerge triumphantly in the end.” There are other similarities but that awaits the reader’s exploration.

Tom will fall in love with Becky, see a murder, lead a search for treasure, is believed to be dead, and becomes rich but unchanged from the rambunctious boy he has always been.

One may read this novel on many levels, and this new Penguin Classic edition is easy but accurate reading of the novel Mark Twain composed. The first level is that of a simple boy who rebels against the morality-ridden upbringing of Southern families, the necessary but boring elementary school lessons, and the mundane quality of everyday life that was just chores and lessons galore.  Twain on the other hand, was a master of satire, and we may read his tale as a scathing satire of church goers’ hypocrisy (Tom’s Aunt Polly, albeit a good woman at heart), the stereotyping of people in more need of help (albeit unwanted) such as Tom’s friend Huck’s alcoholic father, the false judgments of society based on image rather than actual acts (albeit in secret) as in the cave and treasure incident involving pirates and Injuns.

Reread this new edition and compare it with the thrills, magic and adventures of the Harry Potter stories.  Read it as a girls’ book and not just as the boys’ book it was believed to be years ago.  Read it and enjoy the daily unexpected excitement of friends meeting Tom Sawyer, the “safe bad boy!”

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