Frank Lavallo hosts two readers and the three of them summarize the world’s greatest works of classic literature, giving their reactions along the way. If SparkNotes had an audio best friend, it would be us!
Plot: This classic tale is about a youthful trickster, Tom Sawyer and his adventures in the antebellum south. From treasure hunting and playing pirates to church pranks and schoolhouse crushes, Tom Sawyer’s childish antics make him Twain’s standout character. Although his mischief starts out as mere entertainment, it soon turns into danger as he and his band of friends, witness a murder.
Frank: Hello and welcome. I'm Frank Lavallo and this is Novel Conversations. Each week on novel Conversations I talk to two readers about one book and together we summarize the story for you the listeners. We introduce you to the characters we tell you what happens to them. And we read from the book along the way. So, if you love hearing a good story, you're in the right place.
This week's novel conversations is about the novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain and I’m joined by our Novel Conversations readers, Elizabeth Flood and Phil Setnik. Elizabeth. Phil. Welcome.
Elizabeth & Phil: Thank you. Thanks Frank.
Frank: And now onto our show. Before I start my conversation with Elizabeth and Phil let me tell you a little bit about The Adventures of Tom Sawyer published in 1876. Tom Sawyer was Mark Twain's first novel and though often dismissed as a boy's tale about boys and for boys especially when compared to Mark twain's masterpiece, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, after one hundred and forty years, Tom Sawyer remains his best known and most widely read book. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is the story of a young boy still firmly rooted in childhood but struggling with the passage to adulthood with all the trials and failings that that entails. The story of his childhood and the struggle to grow up, make up the bulk of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
Frank: So, Elizabeth is this the first time you read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer?
Frank: Phil how about you, is this the first time you read this?
(OUT: All right. I think we're going to take a quick break here and when we come back, we're gonna get into our story, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. I'm Frank Lavallo and you're listening to Novel Conversations.)
(IN: Welcome back. You're listening to Novel Conversations. And today I'm having a conversation about the novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. With our novel conversations readers Elizabeth Flood and Phil Setnik.)
Frank: Alright, with that being said, let’s get into our novel. Phil let me start with you. Our novel today is the Adventures of Tom Sawyer and it starts right off with Tom Sawyer in an adventure.
Phil: Tom plays hooky to go to the swimming hole with Joe Harper; and his aunt who he lives with, Aunt Polly, her measure to safeguard against this, is that she sews his collar together.
Elizabeth: Right. Aunt Polly is going to sew the collar closed so he can't remove his shirt and go swimming.
Phil: Tom though, has a plan to skirt this, by bringing his own thread to re-sew the collar.
Frank: A pretty good plan…
Phil: Or so he thinks.
Elizabeth: Yeah, he thought he had it covered to… he brought both black thread and white thread but unfortunately, he doesn't follow details completely. He sews the wrong color back into his collar.
Frank: So, this really does tell us a lot about Tom Sawyer within just a few pages. He's a rascal. He plays hooky but he's not a dummy.
Phil: Yeah, he's smart.
Elizabeth: And he's not afraid of getting caught. He looks her in the eye and lies to her straight away because he believes so deeply in his own conventions for tricking her.
Frank: And how does he get found out? You said he has the wrong color thread, but Aunt Polly doesn't notice that…
Elizabeth: It was Sid who gave him up, isn't it.
Frank: Who has Sid?
Phil: Sid is Tom's half-brother. He's always by Aunt Polly’s side and a little suck up.
Elizabeth: Well, he's a pain in the neck to Tom that's for sure…
Phil: But he definitely plays the little brother role…
Elizabeth: And it Sid who says, ‘but wait, it's not the right color,’ so, it's Sid who gets him in trouble here.
Frank: And Tom, he's gone. He's gone before Aunt Polly can even whirl around and check the color.
Elizabeth: Yeah, he's fast. He does that a few times in this book.
Frank: And right from there, he runs off to another adventure. He doesn't go off and sulk and try to solve his conscience. He's off to confront a new boy in town.
Elizabeth: Right. Tom sees a boy who's well dressed and he doesn't like him for that fact. And right away he wants to fight with him.
Frank: The quote is: “This boy was well dressed. Well dressed on a weekday? This was simply astounding. His cap was a dainty thing and so were his pantaloons.” Tom has to deal with this kid and how does he deal with him?
Phil: Like a standoff.
Frank: They spend the next chapter threatening to fight. (Phil: Yeah) If you cross this line, I'll beat you, if you enter this circle, I’ll double dare ya. It goes back and forth for pages and pages and finally he has no choice but to punch the kid.
Elizabeth: He really chases him home and he comes home late and he's back in trouble again.
Frank: Good old Tom.
Elizabeth: Now this is where, when I was a kid. I was like, boring. I don't want a book about just boys thinking they're so tough. (Frank: Now you understand this a little bit more…) It makes so much more sense now. Each one was terrified of the other. Tom didn't like him because he was better dressed, and we get a glimpse into Tom's strong side and his fragile side at the same time.
Frank: Now the novel immediately moves into - what is perhaps one of the most famous scenes of all of Mark Twain's novels - the whitewashing of the picket fence. This is gonna be his punishment…
Elizabeth: …for skipping school and swimming and for coming home so late. It's a beautiful day and he has to whitewash the fence. It's a Saturday so everybody's out. Everybody's ready to play; and he can't. There's no way to get around this. So, his only option is to try and convince the other boys in his neighborhood to be a part of this. And this is where you can't help but respect Tom. He's so clever here. He uses his great powers of negotiation and reverse psychology against these kids. What a lucky boy I am. How often does this kid get to paint a fence like this and he stands back and examines his work, adds a few brush strokes here, a few brush strokes there, it's wonderful detailed work.
Frank: … because he knows he now has an audience…
Elizabeth: He has an audience and that's what he lives for through this whole book. All his adventures are so much more wonderful for him if he can put a twist on it and gain an audience; a little girl, his friends, the whole town. He gets all these kids and they come over and pay him to do the work!
Frank: He got some really cool things…
Phil: Yeah he got an apple core (laughing) I'm sure those are delicious… he got marbles (Frank: 12 marbles!), a piece of blue bottle glass, spool canon - which I don't know exactly what a spool canon is - a key that wouldn't unlock anything, a fragment of chalk, a glass stopper, Tin Soldier, tadpoles, six firecrackers, a kitten with only one eye (laughing) (Frank: Excellent.)… a brass doorknob, a dog collar but no dog, handle of a knife, four pieces of orange peel, and a dilapidated old window sash.
Frank: He also had one other pretty interesting thing, a dead cat with a string, to swing it over your head with.
Elizabeth: Yeah, I remember thinking, ‘oh, but what if he found something to unlock with this key?’ and that is the theme running through this book.
Frank: Yes it is. Later on, they go looking for any key they can find. (Elizabeth: Right. Yeah, they're always on the hunt for the treasure.) Right. So Phil and Elizabeth. Tom turns his Saturday into quite an adventure. But now come Sunday, he has to go to church and he has to get dressed up. How does Tom make out in church?
Phil: Well he has to learn five verses.
Frank: This is something they do every week when they have to go to their Sunday school. They have to each come in having memorized a few versus from the Bible.
Phil: It's another detail task that Tom is not very good at.
Elizabeth: Mary helps him with them. She gets him dressed and she tries to work on his verses with him but he's just not getting it.
Frank: Remind me again who Mary was? (Elizabeth: Mary is his cousin.)
Frank: I've got a great line here from Mark Twain, how he introduces Mary to us. I wrote underneath it. Great writing. “When his cousin Mary danced in, all alive with the joy of seeing home again after an age long visit of one week to the country, he got up and moved in clouds and darkness out one door as she brought song and sunshine in at the other.” That's a great description of Mary and some really nice writing.
Elizabeth: It is great writing it and also shows us Tom's emotional range was so dramatic.
Frank: And that's sort of how his Saturday into Sunday went… his Saturday was a day in the sun, playing with his friendsm tricking them, gaining his wealth. But Sunday was gonna be a day in the clouds. But he's got a plan for Sunday school as well.
Elizabeth: He's got a plan. He spends everything he earned on Saturday on his way into this Sunday school service.
Phil: Yeah. He trades all of his wealth for the tickets that whenever you memorize a verse successively you get a ticket. And Tom basically buys all of these tickets from the other boys.
Frank: We don't know why Tom wants these tickets. As you said, you get a blue ticket for 10 verses and then once you have 10 blue tickets, you get one red ticket; and then ten red tickets get you one yellow ticket; and I believe for 10 yellow tickets they gave you a very plainly bound bible worth 40 cents, I think Mark Twain tells us. So, Tom starts to collect these tickets but what does Tom want with a Bible?
Elizabeth: Well he wants an audience. Here's the new girl coming to the Sunday school.
Frank: Let's talk about the new girl, who's the new girl?
Elizabeth: So, this new girl is Becky Thatcher. Tom's new love. He's seen her, fallen for her pretty fast, tried to show off in front of her house doing all his tricks. This is his best chance yet to really prove his worth to her. So, he's going to spend all of his earnings from Saturday buying tickets so that he can make a grand show of trading in the tickets for the Bible.
Frank: And he wants to make this grand show for Becky Thatcher. (Elizabeth: Correct.) Who's also there with her father. The judge.
Elizabeth: Right. Very prestigious visitors.
Frank: The Great Judge Thatcher. Brother of their own lawyer. But Phil, it's not just Tom Sawyer who's showing off for The Great Judge Thatcher, is it?
Phil: No. The entire town shows off in front of this judge. In the passage in the book, “The Librarians showed off running hither and thither with his arms full of books and making a deal, the splutter and fuss that insect authority delights in. The young lady teachers showed off bending sweetly over pupils that were lately being box lifting pretty warning fingers at bad little boys and patting good ones lovingly. The young gentlemen teachers showed off with small scolding and other little displays of authority and fine attention and discipline and most of the teachers of both sexes found business up at the library by the pulpit. And it was business that frequently had to be done over again two or three times with much seeming vexation.”
Frank: And when it comes to the superintendent of the Sunday school, he wants to show off by being able to give out one of the special Bibles in front of The Great Judge Thatcher. How does that work?
Elizabeth: That's the combination of his teachings. His prized pupils, who have memorized all their verses, and he gradually collected all their tickets, can finally be rewarded by receiving a Bible. He asks, who is ready to receive their Bible today?
Frank: And he's a little disappointed, because he knows, he says here, “He'd been around among the star pupils, inquiring who had enough yellow tickets. But as far as he could determine, there were not enough yellow tickets for a Bible.” And then when all hope was dead. Here comes our hero, Tom Sawyer, and what does Tom do to show off?
Elizabeth: It says, “This was a thunderbolt out of a clear sky. Walters was not expecting an application from this source, from the next ten years, but there was no getting around it. Here were the certified checks. They were good for their face.” So especially in front of the respected visitors, he has to cough up the Bible and he knows that he can't question Tom. Tom wouldn't know scripture, but our visitor doesn't know that. So, he's thrilled to meet the young star pupil and Judge Thatcher can't help but ask Tom, ‘who are your first two apostles?’ And poor Tom, all he can come up with is David and Goliath… and you just feel his pain… and Mark Twain says, “Let us draw the curtain of charity over the rest of this scene.”
Frank: Another great adventure, though, for Tom Sawyer. This really has the purpose of introducing himself to his new love. Becky Thatcher. And he sure does get her attention right away.
Elizabeth: He does. And he's not afraid of anything. He's not afraid of being embarrassed in front of this whole congregation.
Phil: Yeah, you get the sense that he's this irrepressible character. I would even say unstoppable.
Elizabeth: And an unstoppable romantic. This is all in the name of love.
Phil: …and adventure, which sometimes can be the same thing.
Frank: Alright, after Sunday school they go to church. That's a tough time for Tom Sawyer isn't it?
Phil: Tough time for any boy, I think. (Frank: Very true.) (Elizabeth: He has to sit still.) (Frank: Not allowed to catch any flies. He hates that.) So, once Tom and everyone is in church, they sit and they listen to the minister drone on “through an argument that was so prosy, either many ahead by and by, began to nod. And yet it was an argument that dealt in limitless fire and brimstone and thin the predestined elect down to a company so small as to be hardly worth the saving.”
Frank: Don't you get the feeling that Mark Twain had as much trouble sitting through a church service as Tom Sawyer did?
Phil: Yeah absolutely. Because this is obviously an aside by Twain. Yet it also reflects the actions and the thoughts of Tom Sawyer, in a way.
Frank: I like Mark Twain aside here about the church choir.
Elizabeth: They couldn't stop talking.
Frank: Right. “The choir always twittered and whispered all through service. There once was a church choir that was not ill bred, but I've forgotten where it was now. It was a great many years ago and I can scarcely remember anything about it.” But I think it was in some foreign country. (Elizabeth: That made me laugh out loud. To me that's timeless.) That's what makes it a great book timeless and timely.
(OUT: All right Elizabeth and Phil I think I want to take a break here and when we come back I want to talk about the first really big adventure that Tom goes on and actually goes on it with a friend that we haven't met yet. Huckleberry Finn. They decide to play pirates. Right now, you're listening to Novel Conversations. I'm Frank Lavallo. We'll be right back.)
(IN: Welcome back to Novel Conversations. I'm your host Frank Lavallo. And today I'm having a conversation about the novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. And I'm having that conversation with our novel conversations readers, Elizabeth Flood and Phil Setnik. All right Elizabeth. Phil. I said when we left off, that right after some of those church scenes, Tom runs into his friend Huckleberry Finn. This is the first time we're meeting Huck Finn. Tell us about that meeting.)
Frank: Alright. Elizabeth. Phil. Let’s talk about Tom’s first big adventure; one where he meets his a new friend, Huckleberry Finn. This is the first time we are meeting Huck. Tell us about that meeting.
Elizabeth: He simply says, ‘shortly, Tom came upon the juvenile pariah of the village, Huckleberry Finn, son of the town drunkard.’ So, we know right away what kind of a meeting this is. Huck is not in school. Tom's going to be late to school because he's going to hang out with this unseemly character.
Phil: And the conversation they have, really gives us the sense that these are two boys talking, because they're talking about a dead cat.
Frank: Huck got himself a dead cat. But he had to buy it, didn’t he?
Phil: Yeah. He bought it off a boy for a blue ticket and a bladder that he got at the slaughterhouse.
Frank: How did Huckleberry Finn get a blue ticket? That's for bible verses wasn't it?
Phil: Right, the same way as Tom Sawyer did. You know, he says I bought it off Ben Rogers two weeks ago for a hoops stick.
Frank: Wasn't that the mother's biggest complaint about Huckleberry Finn? Not that he's vulgar and bad and lawless. The big problem is, their children admired him, and wanted to be like him.
Elizabeth: Yeah, he's like the Fonz! (laughing)
Frank: Yeah and in a different day, he would have been wearing a leather jacket and riding a motorcycle. But what I'm really interested in right now, is this dead cat that Hucks dragging around. They've got a plan for this dead cat, Tom and Huck don't they? This is what leads to our next adventure.
Phil: Yeah the dead cat can be used for curing warts; which Huck has found out because another boy in town, Bob Tanner, has tried it.
Frank: But Tom's not so sure about the cat cure. He uses rainwater to cure his warts. He says he’s took off thousands of warts off my hands that way.
Elizabeth: Mm hmm. He’s so dramatic.
Frank: All right, so what are they going to do with this cat? They've got a plan for this cat.
Elizabeth: Huck says, “Well, take your cat, get it in the graveyard about midnight. When somebody that was wicked has been buried and when it's midnight a devil will come or maybe two or three, but you can't see him you can only hear something like the wind, or maybe hear him talking when they're taking that fellow away you heave your cat after him and say, ‘devil follow corpse - cat follow devil - warts follow cat - I'm done with you that'll fetch all warts.’” That's our first introduction to all these incantations and spells and charms that they really, really believe in.
Frank: All right. So, they decide they're gonna bury this cat at midnight in a graveyard. And that really leads to quite an interesting adventure.
Phil: That kicks off the first of the real big adventures of Tom Sawyer. So, they agreed to meet at the graveyard at midnight.
Frank: But Elizabeth, they're not there alone, are they?
Elizabeth: Well they're waiting for the Devils to come and get the soul of a man who's just been buried. For a minute, they believe that they hear them coming. It turns out, in fact, to be a doctor who's paid some guys to dig up a fresh corpse for him. We can assume for him to be experimenting on the cadaver. We learn that it's Injun Joe and Muff Potter and Dr. Robinson. Poor Muff Potter is so drunk, and Huck knows that well because he's a friend of his father's.
Frank: Tom recognizes the voice of Injun Joe. Tom says, “That murderin’ half breed, I druther they were devils, a darn sight. What can they be up to?”
Elizabeth: So, Injun Joe's just a bad guy; we know from the start.
Frank: So, Injun Joe and the drunk, Muff Potter, are digging up a body for the doctor and they have no choice but to stay hidden.
Frank: Right. Tom and Huck have to watch this. It ceases to be a game for them right here, doesn't it?
Elizabeth: Yeah. This is not about the cat anymore because now they're witnessing some very big grown up adventure. This is scary. This is grave robbing. This is murder.
Frank: Murder. Who gets murdered?
Elizabeth: Our doctor. Injun Joe decides that the money he was paid to dig up this grave is not enough. He wants more. The doctor objects. Our drunk man falls down. Injun Joe can kill the doctor, put the knife in the drunk man's hand so when he wakes up, he says I can't believe it, I was so drunk I killed the doctor.
Frank: And all this was witnessed by Tom and Huck from their hiding.
Elizabeth: But the only people who know otherwise, are Tom and Huck.
Frank: What did they do with this information?
Elizabeth: Of course they have to make a pact and seal it in blood. What else do blood brothers.
Frank: Yes, of course!
Elizabeth: And the language is fantastic. “Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer swear they will keep mum about this and they wish they may drop down dead in their tracks if they ever tell and rot.” And they swear to take this secret to their graves.
Frank: Phil what's the consequences of this murder once it's discovered?
Phil: Well Injun Joe points the finger at Muff Potter. He's then thrown into jail.
Frank: Now Tom has a conscience about this; it bothers him, doesn't it? This is one of our first glimpses, I think, into Tom's more grown up feelings here.
Phil: This weighs heavy on Tom and he is not able to sleep or really eat that much for going on a week and he's pitching around and talking in his sleep.
Frank: Yeah. Let me just get you there, on the talking in his sleep. Sid tells him that he's been saying strange things about blood and murders in his sleep. So, of course, Tom doesn't want to reveal the secret. So, Tom has a neat little way of preventing himself from sleep talking. How does he do that?
Elizabeth: He ties his face closed.
Frank: He pretends he has a toothache and literally ties his mouth shut.
Elizabeth: Of course, Sid wants to hear what's going on. He sneaks over and unties him.
Frank: I kind of like that. It showed us a side of Sid that we don't get - as the goody good kid. He's actually got a little bit of smarts to himself, doesn't he?
Elizabeth: Well sure, and especially if he can catch Tom doing something wrong. (Frank: Absolutely.) That's his motivation.
Frank: So, Tom's conscience does bother him. Tom tries to make some amends, doesn't he?
Phil: Yeah. Tom begins to take him, I’d say, small comforts via the jail window.
Frank: But eventually as the days pass, Tom's mind seems to move on; his conscience doesn't bother him as much. And actually, right at the beginning of our chapter twelve, we find out that Tom has new worries.
Phil: Right. Becky Thatcher hasn't been showing up to school, so this worries Tom. (Frank: Well he misses her. He's distressed.) Yeah. He says the charm of life was gone. There was nothing but dreariness.
Elizabeth: (laughing) He's so dramatic.
Frank: And so, in order to bring some excitement back into his life, he concocts a grand adventure…
Elizabeth: And his partners in this are Joe Harper and Huckleberry Finn, who agree to join him in being pirates.
Frank: And this scheme entails, Phil?
Phil: This scheme entails them getting onto the raft and going to an island in the river.
Frank: Some island three four five miles downstream from their little town of St. Petersburg. It starts out great doesn't it?
Elizabeth: They've brought enough food with them for a few days. (Frank: They actually have a pretty good time.) They have a great time. They do start to get homesick.
Phil: Yeah. Which none of them will admit to the other.
Frank: But they are doing a pretty good job out there. I mean they're taking care of themselves. They're having fun in the sun, fun in the water, survived a terrible rainstorm, a hurricane, I think it was. But as you said they do become a little bit homesick. And Tom decides to try to alleviate some of this homesickness.
Elizabeth: He does. Not for the sake of alleviating homesickness. I think for the purpose to continue their adventure and to continue convincing his friends to stay. He decides to go home and get some information.
Frank: And he finds out something amazing…
Elizabeth: He discovers they're going to have a funeral for them.
Frank: They think these guys have drowned. But he also makes a stop at home, doesn't he?
Elizabeth: He does. This is where he overhears the conversation of the grieving mother and the grieving aunt. His original intention was, I think, to leave a note for Aunt Polly that says, ‘We've gone off to be pirates. I'm okay.’ Instead he gets a great idea. We later learn the idea is to return to their own funerals and have the biggest audience he's ever had.
Frank: Let's talk about how this adventure then does end. They sneak back into town hide themselves in the choir loft of the church and wait for the funerals to begin.
Katie: They wait till everyone's crying.
Frank: And then, they make their grand appearance.
Phil: The relief and the joy overrides everything including, any anger that Aunt Polly and Mary would have had; and they say, ‘throw themselves upon their restored ones, smother them with kisses, and poured out thanksgivings.’ And the interesting thing about the scene is that Huck is by himself and kind of slinks away.
Elizabeth: And the sweetness in Tom, is that he says Aunt Polly, ‘Someone's got to be glad to see Huck.’ You've got to love Tom at those moments. So Aunt Polly showers her love on Huck too.
Frank: I like that scene too.
Elizabeth: And it also tells us, Tom just wants attention.
Frank: It's not only Aunt Polly and Mrs. Harper that are glad to see the boys… finally Becky Thatcher is back home and she's pretty glad to see Tom as well, isn't she?
Elizabeth: Well, Becky and Tom have had some ups and downs at this point; and she is spending some time with Alfred Temple.
Frank: Alfred Temple… that was that well-dressed kid beat up early in the novel isn't it?
Elizabeth: That's right. But he does at least secure an invitation to the picnic.
Frank: That's right. Becky Thatcher is having a picnic for all her schoolmates. She does invite Tom and it turns into quite an adventure.
Phil: Right. Because Becky and Tom end up going into a nearby cave.
Frank: Well during the picnic all the kids start out in the cave. That's one of the activities for the picnic. They're all going to go caving a bit.
Phil: Yeah. Tom takes Becky and convince her to explore deeper and deeper into the cave. And it's kind of a well-used cave. There's a lot of writing on the wall and candle drippings and they realized they have lost.
Elizabeth: Lost so deep into the cave that they miss the boat back at the end of the picnic.
Frank: But they're not immediately missed.
Elizabeth: They're not. Tom had convinced Becky to tell her mother she would be going somewhere else for the night; that they could sneak off and have ice cream afterwards, so nobody missed them until church the next day.
Frank: And then that whole town - as they did when Tom and Huck and Joe Harper were drowned in the river - the whole town comes out for the rescue.
Elizabeth: And it gets frightening here because we know this is not Tom's intention, to runaway. He doesn't have a team of people and he doesn't have an easy way to get back. This is scary because they have very short candles left. They have no food.
Frank: Like the murder in the graveyard, this is sort of an unplanned adventure. But do the searchers find them?
Phil: No. Meanwhile their final candle has blown out. And so, Tom takes it upon himself to leave Becky and find a way out. But in the process of trying to find a way out, he runs into Injun Joe who's been hiding out in the cave.
Frank: But they don't see each other at that moment.
Phil: No they don't see each other. Tom yells out and Injun Joe takes off. Tom takes off the other way and, in the process,, gets him to an opening.
Frank: And Tom finds his way out and the town is jubilant.
Elizabeth: They've never been more warmly received and yet, hard to imagine, even a larger audience.
Frank: Tom loves his audiences.
Elizabeth: Well now he's also won the affection of Becky's Father, who admires him so much for saving his daughter.
Frank: What happens to Injun Joe in that cave?
Phil: Well because the cave is so dangerous, Judge Thatcher locks the entrance to the cave, not knowing that engine Joe is in there. Tom hasn't revealed that. Tom is recovering and upon finding that out he says. ‘But Judge Injun Joe's in the cave.’
Frank: And so, the town rushes to the cave, opens the doors and finds Injun Joe, who's starved to death right at the gate. No one's too upset about that, are they?
Phil: The town wasn't sad, but Tom had a real sense of empathy here, because he had experienced what Injun Joe had experienced, being trapped in the cave; and there's actually a descriptive line, says: “Tom was touched, for he knew by his own experience, how this wretch had suffered.” Injun Joe's knife had been broken into two. He was trying to chip himself out and there were claw marks on the door.
Frank: But now, it's the death of Injun Joe in the cave that leads Tom and Huck to their last great adventure.
Elizabeth: Well, during Tom's adventure in the cave, Huck had had his own adventures too; so both of them were in bed for a while and unable to communicate with each other and share their findings. Neither one found this treasure that they had been hunting for…
Frank: A treasure that they had seen Injun Joe with…
Elizabeth: So, Tom realizes, ‘Huck the treasures in the cave. I know where it was. I can get back there.’ Now, this is a great risk because he's almost been left for dead there himself, he's willing to go back in. Secretly. They bring all the supplies they'll need; they bring food, and candles, and twine now. He takes Huck back through the river entrance. They find their way back to the mark where Injun Joe had left the cross. They dig and dig until they find the treasure and these boys come home very wealthy.
Frank: Twelve thousand dollars in coins. (Elizabeth: That's a lot of money.) That's a lot of money in fact, here's how it's described by Mark Twain: Each lad had an income, now, that was simply prodigious. A dollar for every weekday in the year, and half of the Sundays. A dollar and a quarter a week would board lodge in school a boy and those old simple days and clothe them and wash them too for that matter.” So, this is a lot of money now that these boys have.
Elizabeth: Right. These kids were set up now.
Phil: And in the process, Judge Thatcher really has a high opinion of Tom now.
Frank: Not only high opinion, high aspirations. He wants to send him, not only to West Point, but after West Point, law school. (Phil: Oh, boy.) But wealth doesn't rest easily on Huck's brow, does it?
Elizabeth: Poor Huck. That's tough for him. He has to get dressed and wash his face and wear shoes (Frank: Wear shoes!) Go to church. It doesn't last long.
Phil: Tom wants to keep him in the fold, so he convinces Huck to join the Tom Sawyer Gang of Robbers. That's his final convincing.
Frank: And a gang of robbers are better than gang of pirates because robbers have money (Elizabeth: Right.) Robbers need money for their tools and their clothes and everything …
Elizabeth: And he convinces them that they dress well.
Frank: This is a new Tom isn't it? A grown up Tom, and older Tom?
Phil: It is and it isn't. It's Tom trying to keep his old kind of mischievous, irrepressible ways in a new more civilized situation.
Frank: So, is he actually keeping a foot in Huck's world? Or is he trying to get one of Huck's feet into his world?
Phil: I just feel like he's learned how to adapt his personality or his boyish ways to let them work in a more civilized society.
Frank: I get the feeling he'll still play hooky and go to the swimming hall but I don't think he's going to fake his own death again.
Phil: Let's just say, if he becomes a lawyer, there'll be days when he's convincing his associates that he's doing work when he's actually off fishing.
Frank: But he'll go fishing and he'll get someone to write that brief for him, because it looks like so much fun.
Phil: Right. Or he'll take on a case that involves him having to fish.
Elizabeth: Or, he might just also be a very good lawyer. He'll win all his cases because he’s so convincing.
Phil: So, let's just say, he's integrating his own personality into a more civilized world.
Elizabeth: I have to say, I think that Tom has a lot of evidence to continue his persuading and scheming, because he found a huge treasure. (Frank: His route has been successful.) That's the danger for a little boy like this. And at the same time, he also has learned a lot and he recognizes that he's got to keep Huck Finn now, in his new world - because that's good for Huck. Huck has no parents. He has no home. He has no steady source for food and clothing and things. So, he's going to use his wiles to help Huck become more of a man.
Frank: And I guess that's where I see the difference - in this Tom Sawyer at the end of the novel. At the beginning of the novel, all the boys wanted to be like Huck Finn. Well now, Tom wants Huck to be more like him.
Elizabeth: And he knows what will work with Huck, he says: ‘But we can't be in the same gang of robbers if you're going to be such a scoundrel. What would people say?’
Frank: I can't have your bad name associated with my good gang.
Elizabeth: We need to be well-dressed, sophisticated robbers. We’re not pirates anymore.
Phil: Right. So, he still in a gang. But it's a well-dressed gang.
Frank: Well obviously there's other adventures that Tom and Huck have, that we weren't able to discuss here today. I can only suggest to our listeners, that you go and get this book and you read it and you have those adventures with Tom for yourself. But before we end our conversation Elizabeth and Phil, I want to know if you have any favorite passages or favorite quotes that we didn't get a chance to talk about or get to.
Elizabeth: I do. And I would join you Frank in saying, re-read it. It was a fresh read for me in many ways. (Frank: You found a romantic Tom.) I did! I don't remember that at all. You can't help but enjoy the story where Becky has actually committed a crime in the classroom. And when Tom stands up and takes the heat for her… (Frank: The worst beating ever administered by that teacher)… and Becky says, ‘Tom, How could you be so noble?’ And she's right. He's won her love forever now. And our hearts as well.
Frank: One of the things I like a lot about this novel, the asides of Mark Twain; giving us his opinions about the church, or about the state; even with Anne Polly, one of the things that made me laugh was Aunt Polly gets these health journals. Every month health journals come and they've got a new remedy; a remedy for fevers, a remedy for chills. And Mark Twain sort of tweaks her a little bit by saying this: “All the rot they contained about ventilation, and how to go to bed, and how to get up, and what to eat, and what to drink, and how much exercise to take, and what frame of mind to keep oneself in, and what sort of clothing to wear, were all gospel to her. And she never observed that her health journals of the current month customarily upset everything they had recommended the month before.” And that's still today… Eggs are good, eggs are bad, coffee's bad, coffee is good.
Elizabeth: It is true!
Phil: Yeah, I enjoyed the asides and the little interjections about the writer, about Twain, even sarcastically patting himself on the back. I mean the emblematic scene of the novel for me is the whitewashing, and Twain says about Tom: “If he had been a great and wise philosopher, like the writer of this book, he would now have comprehended that work consists of whatever body is obliged to do and that play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.”
Elizabeth: That's the theme through the book, really.
Phil: Yeah, and closer to the end, you lose the line between Twain and Tom - especially in the cave, I think, where the tone becomes more serious.
Frank: In fact, Mark Twain in his conclusion says that … “The Chronicle ends here because it's strictly the history of a boy. The story cannot go much further without becoming the history of a man.” These are boys who truly enjoy being boys. And that'll end our conversation on the novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. Elizabeth and Phil. I really want to thank you guys for coming in and having this conversation with me about The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. I hope you enjoyed it.
Elizabeth: I did. I enjoyed the book and the conversation. Thanks, Frank.
Phil: Thanks Frank. It was a lot of fun.
Frank: Great. Thank you both very much. You’ve been listening to Novel Conversations.