Critical Assessment

“Mr. Clemens, on the contrary, has taken the boy of the Southwest for the hero of his new book, and has presented him with a fidelity to circumstance which loses no charm by being realistic in the highest degree, and which gives incomparably the best picture of life in that region as yet known to fiction. . . . The local material and the incidents with which his career is worked up are excellent, and throughout there is scrupulous regard for the boy’s point of view in reference to his surroundings and himself, which shows how rapidly Mr. Clemens has grown as an artist. We do not remember anything in which this propriety is violated, and its preservation adds immensely to the grown-up reader’s satisfaction in the amusing and exciting story. . . . The story is a wonderful study of the boy-mind, which inhabits a world quite distinct from that in which he is bodily present with his elders, and in this lies its great charm and its universality, for boy-nature, however human nature varies, is the same everywhere.”

William Dean Howells, “Recent Literature,” The Atlantic Monthly, May 1876.

First Excerpt

“The sun rose upon a tranquil world, and beamed down upon the peaceful village like a benediction. Breakfast over, Aunt Polly had family worship; it began with a prayer built from the ground up of solid courses of scriptural quotations, welded together with a thin mortar of originality; and from the summit of this she delivered a grim chapter of the Mosaic Law, as from Sinai.

“Then Tom girded up his loins, so to speak, and went to work to ‘get his verses.’ Sid had learned his lesson days before. Tom bent all his energies to the memorizing of five verses; and he chose part of the Sermon on the Mount, because he could find no verses that were shorter.

“At the end of half an hour Tom had a vague general idea of his lesson, but no more, for his mind was traversing the whole field of human thought, and his hands were busy with distracting recreations. Mary took his book to hear him recite, and he tried to find his way through the fog.

“‘Blessed are the – a – a –’

“‘Poor –’

“‘Yes – poor; blessed are the poor – a – a –’

“‘In spirit –’

“‘In sprit; blessed are the poor in spirit, for they – they –’

“‘Theirs –’

“‘For theirs. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs – is the kingdom of heaven.'”

TSSecond Excerpt

“There comes a time in every rightly constructed boy’s life when he has a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure. This desire suddenly came upon Tom one day. He sallied out to find Joe Harper, but failed of success. Next he sought Ben Rogers; he had gone fishing. Presently he stumbled upon Huck Finn the Red-handed. Huck would answer. Tom took him to a private place, and opened the matter to him confidentially. Huck was willing. Huck was always willing to take a hand in any enterprise that offered entertainment and required no capital, for he had a troublesome superabundance of that sort of time which is not money.

“‘Where’ll we dig?’ said Huck.

“‘Oh, “most anywhere.”’

“‘Why, is it hid all around?’

“‘No, indeed it ain’t. It’s hid in mighty particular places, Huck – sometimes on islands, sometimes in rotten chests under the end of a limb of an old dead tree, just where the shadow falls at midnight; but mostly under the floor in ha’nted houses.’

“‘Who hides it?’

“‘Why, robbers, of course – who’d you reckon? Sunday school sup’rintendents?’

“‘I don’t know. If it was mine I wouldn’t hide it; I’d spend it and have a good time.’

“‘So would I; but robbers don’t do that way, they always hide it and leave it there.’

“‘Don’t they come after it any more?’

“‘No, they think they will, but they generally forget the marks, or else they die.’”