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The Variety of Style

Its style, speculates Charles A. Norton, may be Athe result of the author=s wide experience, his extensive reading, his sharp mind and his command of language--the result of his talents rather than a manipulation of his material for so-called deeper meanings@ (132). Norton also believes that Twain=s Atalent was best suited to the writing of sketches@ (132), observing that Ait is most likely that the writing of Tom Sawyer began with the authoring of individual sketches@ (133). In the end, these sketches add up to Aa unified theme, making acceptable the normal >bad= boy as opposed to the unnatural >model= boy of nineteenth-century Sunday school literature@ (133).

Gregg Camfield concurs, noting that Clemens was perpetually at war with the ASunday School literature in which model children always get rewarded and children who step out of the straight and narrow path get seriously punished@(115). Twain enjoys reversing this nonsense by having Tom get punished for something he didn=t do and for a noble deed, both in the same schoolroom scene. The schoolmaster whips him for spilling ink on his notebook, though Becky Thatcher, who is angry with Tom, saw who really did it. As if this were not enough, rather than let Becky take the blame for tearing a color plate in the schoolmaster=s anatomy book, he takes it himself, which gets him a severe flogging. AIn a conventional Sunday school book,@ Camfield notes, Aself-sacrifice is of course the highest good, but would be rewarded not punished . . . Clemens makes clear that Tom, as much as he usually loves to >show off,= does not act here in order to earn praise, he sacrifices himself out of sympathy . . . Clemens thus outflanks his Sunday School-book enemies on the sentimental side@ (115). The schoolmaster is shown to be a brute taking out his thwarted ambition to be a doctor on Tom, making the reader cringe at the idea of this martinet becoming an M.D.

Although a good deal of the book is a cont...

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The Variety of Style. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 00:50, August 24, 2017, from
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