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In daily life, we assume as certain many things which, on a closer scrutiny, are found to be so full of apparent contradictions that only a great amount of thought enables us to know what it is that we really may believe. In the search for certainty, it is natural to begin with our present experiences, and in some sense, no doubt, knowledge is to be derived from them. But any statement as to what it is that our immediate experiences make us know is very likely to be wrong. It seems to me that I am now sitting in a chair, at a table of a certain shape, on which I see sheets of paper with writing or print. By turning my head I see out of the window buildings and clouds and the sun. I believe that the sun is about ninety-three million miles from the earth; that it is a hot globe many times bigger than the earth; that, owing to the earth's rotation, it rises every morning, and will continue to do so for an indefinite time in the future. I believe that, if any other normal person comes into my room, he will see the same chairs and tables and books and papers as I see, and that the table which I see is the same as the table which I feel pressing against my arm. All this seems to be so evident as to be hardly worth stating, except in answer to a man who doubts whether I know anything. Yet all this may be reasonably doubted, and all of it requires much careful discussion before we can be sure that we have stated it in a form that is wholly true....
‘Now he found out a new thing – namely, that to promise not to do a thing is the surest way in the world to make a body want to go and do that very thing.’
An idyllic snapshot of a boy’s childhood along the banks of the Mississippi River, Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is the author’s work that comes closest to his boyhood experiences of growing up in Hannibal in the 1840s.
Mischievous and full of energy, Tom enjoys childish pranks and pastimes with his friends, Huck Finn, the town outcast and Joe Harper, his best friend. However, at the town graveyard, Huck and Tom witness a murder, carried out by local vagabond Injun Joe. They vow never to tell a soul about what they have seen and so begins their journey into adulthood as Tom wrestles with his own morality, guilt and anxiety.
A ‘coming of age’ tale, it is through Tom’s adventures and relationships with others that he becomes more responsible and more aware of his own inner conflict. Through the central characters of Tom and Huck, Twain satirises the moral rigidity of society and adult hypocrisy, whilst at the same time giving a nostalgic portrayal of a young boy’s journey into adulthood.