Monday, May 31, 2010

Tom Sawyer - Chapters 4 - 6

I really like this book cover.  First, it's not the cover of the book we're reading, but of the graphic novel.  This cover is so visual, you see Tom as the protagonist with his sidekicks by his side.  You all get the feeling that he's not the perfect hero, but instead his character has many shades of dark and light.  (Hence the colors)  I love how one image can really foreshadow the events to come.

On to Chapter Four:

If you had any doubt how awesome a writer Twain is, I hope it's dispelled with that first paragraph in this chapter.  This is such a great mentor passage, you'll see it often next year when we focus on using great authors as guides for writing.  Look at how Twain plays with his words, how he builds your desire to read on while he talks about Aunt Polly building a prayer.  I just love the way these words play on each other.

Following Aunt Polly's prayer, Tom must recite his own prayer.  What I love most about this is that no matter how hard he tries at the table, his lack of preparation before the dinner gets him. Isn't that the way it is with everything?  No matter how hard we try in the given moment, it's the practice and the preparation beforehand that really matter. What a great text to real life connection!

When it is apparent he didn't memorize everything Tom's called a "poor thick-headed thing."  I wonder if Mary and Polly realize that he's really not "thick-headed" he just doesn't want to memorize.  The meaning of the lesson is there,  the route memorization of the lines is not.

What I find most amusing, is how Tom in his cunning way, gets the Bible at the end of this chapter.  While he did not come across the Bible honestly, he did learn something in the end.

Chapter Five has always been "The Bugs" chapter in my head.  I can't catch a fly in my hands. Well, actually I've never tired, but I don't think I could do it.  I am impressed that Tom can, and I wonder why his aunt doesn't let him just do it.  I also wonder if Tom would have been able to pay more attention to the lesson if he'd have been able to hold the fly in his hand.   I also wonder why anyone would want to keep a beetle in their pocket.  Let alone a beetle that bites. 

One connection I always make with this chapter is the movie BeetleJuice.  I understand that you guys might not have seen that movie, but if you see it, you'll see why I make the connections.

One of the best things about this chapter, is the way Twain characterizes Tom.  Tom is so distracted by anything.  An ant, a fly, a bug and these distractions end up causing the entire congregation to become distracted.  Tom isn't bad at all, he's just a normal kid pulled by normal distractions.  I love how Twain captures that essence of his character.

But, just to add, I hate bugs.  (Just sayin')

Monday Morning Misery is how chapter 6 starts.  The alliteration in this chapter really helps me get the overall feeling Tom has when he is waking up.  Aunt Polly's fear that Tom was really "Dying" was short-lived as she realized he was just trying to get out of going to school.  All-in-all, I'd say just about every kid in the world has tried to pull that "I'm too sick to go to school" routine, but it's always fun to read about it.

What really tickles me about this chapter is how Tom becomes almost idolized for a missing tooth.  Actually, he's idolized for the way he can spit because of the missing tooth.  I am sure that, being a grown girl puts me at a disadvantage here, but spitting doesn't excite me.  Having two older brothers, I can see that many boys would be beyond excited at a new and improved way to spit.

Then we meet Huck.

Huckleberry Finn is one of my favorite literary characters.  You'll read Huck Finn some day, and you'll see why I like him so much.  We get a glimpse of him now, his true character comes in another book.  (I'm hoping you'll see the text to text connections that come later when you read Huck Finn.)

We also see more of Becky Thatcher.  I don't want to reveal too much about her now, like Huck she serves a greater purpose that we'll find more about as we read more.  She helps serve as Tom's muse on most of his future adventures.

Becky, Tom and Huck are the three characters we'll trace in class next year.  We'll look at the heroic traits of each and discuss how each of them could be considered an American Knight.  We will also discuss the hero/anti-hero archetype found within these complex characters.

Just a note:  Like all books written in a particular time period, Tom Sawyer reflects the dialect and the prevailing culture of Twain's life.

If you have questions, please email me at

Have a great week!

Ms H
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