By Mark Twain

generally a fan of Twain, i didn’t really enjoy this one as much as i expected to. i had read selected excerpts of this book as a child in a book of short stories and remembered enjoying them, but as an adult i have a vantage that makes the hyjinx of this child less than amusing.

i attribute it somewhat to the cultural divide between myself and the post-civil war south. the behavior seen as customary or appropriate for a pre-adolescent boy at that time and place seems appallingly bad to my mind. what’s more, the tolerant attitude displayed toward Tom by his aunt serves to reinforce the behavior she rails against. self-assured and cocky, i fail to sympathize with this child on almost any level. the callous way he regards (or fails to regard) the feelings of others is not charming in the least. and when i cannot identify with my hero, i’m left fairly cold.

i also felt certain elements of the plot were not only fantastic, but repetitive. a child can only disappear so many times and muster the panic of the town, yet it seems Tom can go missing again and again and warrant the despair of all around him every time anew. as far as it goes, i enjoyed the casual language and the cadence of the story shows the deftness of Twain in his element, but i simply failed to find anything endearing about his portrayal of a child he meant to paint as a scamp but whom i can only see as a wretched brat.

Penguin Classics (2006), Paperback, 272 pages
tags: middle reader, literature, southern culture