An essay I did last year for English. It was a literary analysis for a classic Author. I chose Mark Twain, just because he's amazing, and paired him with Point of View.

Tom Sawyer's Point of View

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain, is a worldwide classic about a young boy living out a long summer in nineteenth century Missouri. (Kipen, Web.) What makes this book famous, however, is the innocent feeling strategically placed by Mark Twain through his characters and with point of view. Told behind the observation of a child, Twain brings entertainment to the reader through a child's interpretation of the events. For these reasons, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer heavily relies on point of view to tell the charming tale of a young, and somewhat mischievous, boy.

Point of view is used in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by explaining the events of the book through the eyes of a child named Tom Sawyer. Tom is an ordinary, adventurous boy, who is not above the occasional trick to get out of working. "Indeed, the world of Tom Sawyer… appears to be piquant and sweet largely because it is… a bright world set off by the shadowy terrors of death." (Aspiz, "Tom Sawyer's Games of Death.") Children, however, thought that death, as well as life, was one large game just waiting to be played. Game, though, without a villain- "in this instance, the supposedly unimaginative, sentimental, and vulnerable adults of St. Petersburg." (Aspiz, "Games of Death.") Children thought that just because a game was dangerous did not mean that it should be banned, like the grown ups would think, especially today's children. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is a story about the boy-mind, "which inhabits a world quite distinct from that in which he is bodily present with his elders." Imagination allows a person to see things in a different light, such as Tom seeing an old split tree and thinking that their might be treasure buried there. Where an adult would see a murderer in Muff Potter, Tom sees an innocent man that, if saved, will endanger Huck's and his lives.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer depends on point of view because it allows the reader to become more involved in Tom's schemes and adventures, which usually lead him ending up in trouble. One aspect of a story that will grab a reader's attention is if the reader is allowed to experience the story along with the characters. "[Twain] insists on highlighting that personal experience because in his mind it gives his writing a certain legitimacy… because it grows directly out of experience." (Lowry, "Littery Man".)

Tom Sawyer came from escapades that "really occurred; one or two were experiences of [Twain's] own, the rest of boys who were schoolmates of [his]." (Twain, Tom Sawyer.) In any story, point of view is the element that allows the reader to feel the same as a character, to think like him, to wonder like him, or to even hurt like him. Twain understood that a good story grabs a reader's attention this way and used point of view to do so.

Life is a completely different world in the mind of a child. Fantasies are realities, fairy tales are history, the wealth of an item is determined through bartering for another, and the days of the week determines what is suitable to wear. These simple matters are changed into subjects of importance with point of view. In the simple things in life "lies it's great charm and it's universality." (Howells, "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain.") To Tom and his friends the story of Robin Hood was similar, in a sense, to the bible. They would often reenact scenes from the book word for word, then, when the fun was over, the boys would go home "grieving that there were no outlaws any more." (Twain, Tom Sawyer.) To a boy, in concerning importance, being President of the United States was placed behind being an outlaw. The serious matters of adults held no meaning to children; they, instead, placed their undivided attention as to whether or not someone had changed the story line to fit his own liking. Twain's use of point of view helps the reader to see that this was a terrible crime.

Throughout the book, point of view helps the reader to see the prices that the boys, mainly Tom, barter for with small trinkets. Wealth, in Tom Sawyer's days, could be the same as "a brass door knob, a dog collar… the handle of a knife, four pieces of an orange peel, and a dilapated old window sash." (Twain, Tom Sawyer.) Tom gains these treasure by allowing boys to white wash his aunt's fence, a trick to get out of doing it himself; and although Tom was "a poor poverty-stricken boy in the morning, Tom was literally rolling in wealth." (Twain, Tom Sawyer.) Such treasures were used to gain even more expensive objects, like tickets to buy a bible.

To adults of the nineteenth century, children being always dirty and unkempt was unacceptable. To Tom and his friends, however, retaining that layer of dirt could mean freedom from a confinement to school, while being well dressed constrained your movements, and in turn, keep you from playing. Boys looked down on those children who dressed well to please their parents. An excellent example would be Tom reaction to first seeing the Model Boy. Throughout the book, "this boy was… well dressed on a weekday…" (Twain, Tom Sawyer.) He would often have "shoes on- and it was only Friday" (Twain, Tom Sawyer.) and "had a citified air about him that ate into Tom's vitals." (Twain, Tom Sawyer.) Point of view allows a reader to see that what an adult thought was acceptable was loathed by an adolescent.

Children are not perfect, and, most often, the antics that lead to trouble are the results of their broad imaginations. Mark Twain reminds the reader of this through a child's point of view. Children "were not angels, but fellow human beings, and…more loveable for their imperfections and bad grooming" (Rasmussen, "Tom Sawyer, Adventures of (1876)".). Children needed to be free to enjoy their childhood while they could, and not be forced to grow up so quickly in a corrupt world. They did not shy away from breaking rules, rather, they broke them simply for the thrill of breaking the rules. For instance, when Tom and Huck sign a blood pact, Tom enjoyed the idea thoroughly simply because it was "deep, and dark, and awful." (Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.) Therefore, point of view helps the reader understand the mindset behind their actions and the resulting emotions once they have been punished for them. Even now, the attitudes of today's children have not changed from the attitudes of children growing up in early nineteenth century America.

In the book, Tom always considers what his Aunt Polly would think if he were dead, especially after she scolds him. He romanticizes the idea of death and how his aunt would feel sorry for him and how she "would throw herself upon him, and how her tears would fall like rain, and her lips pray God to giver back her boy and she would never abuse him any more!" (Twain, Tom Sawyer.) Every adolescent feels rebelliousness toward the adults that scold them for their behavior, and Twain reveals this thought process very well in the story.

Outside of the book, the character Tom Sawyer was created from a mixture of Twain's childhood friends. Some of the adventures Tom experiences are born from adventures of real boys with their own stories, and Twain tells these stories with third-person limited point of view, following mainly Tom's ideas and mannerisms. Twain and his friends lived in a small town in Missouri, similar to Tom. Summers were spent swimming in the lake and "exploring a huge cave three miles south of Hannibal." (Cox, Mark Twain: America's Humorist, Dreamer, Prophet: a Biography.) Twain later made the cave famous by using it in his story and turning it into Injun Joe's hideout. During the school year, however, one could "find [Twain] playing hooky with his friends and finding new ways to get into trouble." (Cox, Mark Twain.)

Twain obviously remembers those times well because he inserts them into Tom Sawyer with such a passion that a reader can't help but relate the happiness and humor exerting from the pages into his or her own life experiences with the help of a child's point of view. For instance, the reader can feel Tom's pride at receiving a bible for supposedly memorizing one thousand verses, a feat few children had done before, as well as his embarrassment at having that pride explode in his face when the fact was brought to light that he did not know those verses because he could not answer the simple question of who the first two disciples were. (Twain, Tom Sawyer.)

Tom Sawyer's tale could not be told so well as it is in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer without the help of Point of view. A reader would not be able to see the events of the book through the imaginative and romantic eyes of a boy, but rather through the logical eyes of an adult. Without point of view, a reader could not be drawn into what Tom sees, feels, and hears, and through Tom, the thoughts of every child. The memory of Twain and his schoolmates is written in this book and he makes a point of trying to make the reader remember their own similar experiences, and what their own children are experiencing now. Twain wanted to remind people that children are not adults. They need to live and grow wild and free, much like Tom, and not be forced to grow up. After all, the innocence of a child only lasts for a little while.


Aspiz, Harold. "Tom Sawyer's Games of Death." Studies in the Novel, Vol. 27, No. 2 (Summer 1995): 141-53.

Cox, Clinton. Mark Twain: America's Humorist, Dreamer, Prophet: A Biography. New York: Scholastic Incorporated, 1995.

Howard, Patrick. "Biography". May, 2000. Web.

Howells, William Dean. "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain". The Atlantic Monthly. May 1876: 1.

Kipen, David. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer "Preface". 2006. Web.

Lowry, Richard S. Littery Man. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Neider, Charles, ed. The Autobiography of Mark Twain. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, Incorporated, 1959.

Rasmussen, R. Kent. "Tom Sawyer, Adventures of (1876)". Mark Twain A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Writings. New York: Facts On File, Incorporated, 1995.

Twain, Mark. Adventures of Tom Sawyer. New York: Dover Publications, Incorporated, 1988.