Posts tagged ‘Tom Sawyer’

Getting Back Between the Pages with an Old Friend: Part II



Getting Back Between the Pages with an Old Friend: Part II
By Charles Johnson

Over Christmas 2019, I dug out a book I hadn’t read for a long time and wrote about it here. That book was TOM SAWYER by Mark Twain, and I mentioned that next it would be HUCKLEBERRY FINN.

. . . And it came to pass that in February 2020 I started reading. I was expecting the same tone, the same boyish misadventures magnified by the literary mind of Mark Twain. Wrong.

TOM SAWYER pretty much stayed around his home town and in one summer. Geographically static and chronologically short. Small-town flings of puppy love, cave explorations and camping on the river, misguided decision making like attending one’s own funeral, and yes, a more adult circumstance like a murder to make it interesting.

However, in HUCKLEBERRY FINN, this is not the case. So much for small towns and adolescent concerns with a few adult issues.

The reader is fed a raft trip running over a couple hundred miles at least and for a good several months with several different settings. There is an alcoholic, abusive parent who is as villainous as any other literary figure. Con artists appear who bilk entire towns of their riches via fraudulent schemes. People pose as others to gain advantage. Houses are knocked off their foundations float down the river with some grizzly cargo. And while we’re at it, how do you help a runaway slave gain his freedom without being found out?

Read that last paragraph again and tell me it makes you think of TOM SAWYER.

There’s the Twain humor. There’s wit, desperation, ignorance and so many other traits that comes out of the wonderful characterizations that spin out of Mark Twain’s imagination – and yet, I can’t help but think he based some of his characters on people he actually knew. For those of you who write, you probably do the same thing.

As for the time period, by the way, we’re in the mid-1800s – the mighty southern plantations were losing their grip on their system of labor through slavery. One of the central plots in HUCKLEBERRY FINN is the relationship of Huck with the slave Jim. They travel together, getting to know one another better as they float down the river. Huck is revealed often as thinking “what a nice guy Jim is . . . for a N.” (Clue: politically incorrect term that starts with N and ends with IGGER). But by the time we reach the conclusion of the book, that last part seems to disappear from Huck’s thought patterns as he realizes Jim is a person who need not be categorized in any way at all – and that’s perhaps the lesson we need to derive from this Mark Twain work. The more we get to know people the less we categorize them with “for a ____.” You can fill in that blank with your own personal prejudice, don’t you think?

I had considered HUCKELBERRY FINN as a sequel to TOM SAWYER. Let it be said here and now – that’s like thinking it was a mere step between Wilbur and Orville Wright at Kitty Hawk in 1903 to the Apollo 11 Moon Landing in 1969.

Read them both – I’m curious to know if you agree.


Getting Back Between the Pages With an Old Friend

Free retro clipart illustrations at
During a recent trip, I brought a book with me that I hadn’t read in a long, long time. I figured it would be a good time to reacquaint myself with this old friend. I’ll tell you the well-known title a bit later – see if you can figure it out.

Almost immediately, I found the kind of humor I expected, but it came so quickly at me in the image of a lady wearing glasses more for style than need. As the author said, she could just as well as used oven lids as lenses on her glasses to satisfy her need for style. Funny!

And descriptions? The murder and the battle leading up to it were detailed in every way, pulling at every sense. It was dark, it was creepy, it was lethal – and all while our hero watched it come to pass. In other places, I could feel the weather as it happened because the descriptions were so vivid, and yet so concise.

Dialogue? I could hear the voices of the characters – some innocent, some craggy, some illiterate but heartfelt in the wisdom of their years. Idioms, literary references from Bible verses to Robin Hood and back again appeared throughout the book as the characters discussed matters at hand.

And there was love – pure, doting love. I read of total commitment from one character to the other, only to see it unravel, rebuild as one of lovers was absent for a time – and then joyous reunion. Hate, too, boiled out of other characters, finely tuned to a revengeful level. Joy, industriousness, and even trickery and tomfoolery appear in the pages.

The story line engages the reader – it is everyday life for its time, and rather universal, so the time period isn’t all that crucial. A little knowledge of history helps, but the story of our hero might as well have been you or me or someone else. Adventures abound – some swashbuckling, some truly dangerous – but adventurous nonetheless.

I finished the book and decided I’ll need to read more of this author. So, I have the next logical book ready to go on my bedstand. My next book? HUCKLEBERRY FINN by Mark Twain.

And yes, this one was TOM SAWYER. Never mind that its reputation is that of a boy’s tale – I enjoyed it as a sixty-six-year-old kid. I hope you have a book that you’ll dig out and find your joy in spending time with an old friend like I did.