The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Discuss how the meanings of a word may change over time and differ from one part of the country to another. Point out the role of dialect in this story.


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The essence of small-town life is captured perfect in Twain's writing with his use of colloquial syntax and diction. Critics often comment on the accuracy at which Twain was able to record various modes of speech, revealing a patient his keen ear for dialects. Many attribute Twain's use of the vernacular to his background as a frontier writer and humorist, where realism was a defining characteristic of the style. In using their "natural speech," Twain is able to present his characters in a truthful light to the reader in a language that is both vivid and clear at the same time.

There are critics, however, who have chided Twain for his lack of reality in the novel. The lingo, they argue, of the boys are incorrect and with each twist of the plot, the story become more outrageous, losing the reader in a pile of dramatic wish-wash. Many claim The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was an example of Twain's "escapism" from a society from which he felt alienated. But even these voices agree that there is a kind of magic about the novel and that at least in its atmosphere and setting, Twain has remained truthful.