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A tale of two halves
on 22 March 2014
It seems somehow irreverant to dislike a classic that’s so, well, classic, as Tom Sawyer. In fact I only disliked the first half. When Tom and his friends really embark on their adventures, it becomes a great story.
It could be partly cultural. English kids don’t do many American classics at school, well, we certainly didn’t, and although I can relate to 1830s life through other tales,films and programmes, it doesn’t mean I enjoy them. I didn’t feel that Tom’s school adventures were told as well as say, in The Ninja LIbrarian. It was difficult to understand the voices of the characters, the idioms and accents. Maybe because of that, I found it hard to distinguish between the young people. Long passages of dialogue between Tom and Huckleberry Finn, for example, became just dialogue to me with no clear understanding of who was talking.
This changed when Tom went on his adventures. The power of the writing drew you into the scene, the hardships, the danger, imagined or not. Some of Tom’s antics are cringeworthy but eventually he and his friends become embroiled in serious danger, however lightly they started out.
So, do I think The Adventures of Tom Sawyer worthy of its accolades, worthy of being classed as one of the greatest classics? Yes and no. Written in 1876, it is a powerful and evocative telling of an era some thirty or forty years earlier. As a picture of a medium sized town and its characters, as an adventure story, it works and works well. By the time I’d finished it, I was enjoying it. It took me a while, though.
I’m glad I’ve read it, but I don’t think I’d read another.