Tom Sawyer introduces several significant figures in American mythology, including the hero of Huckleberry Finn, one of the central works of American literature. Nonetheless, Tom Sawyer is not just a dress rehearsal for its more powerful sequel. Allowing for 19th-century conventions of language and sentimentality in literature for young adults, the novel retains vitality and humor in exploring Questions of freedom and responsibility. Like Huckleberry Finn, the book presents limitation, alienation, and horror as elements profoundly affecting a small Missouri town’s young people, whose minds are shaped as much by superstition, romantic fiction, and nightmare visions as by social convention. It also resembles Huckleberry Finn in showing a painful moral growth that demands the risk of one’s own welfare to assist another, while at the same time treating the reader to outlandish humor, melodramatic action, and a happy ending.

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