Girls are from Venus, Boys are from…where again…?

September 2, 2010 § Leave a comment

It’s hard being a girl. Boys kick dirt in your face, chase you around the playground, and pull your pigtails. And guess what? It’s because they like you.

The tensions between the male and female is a tale as old as time (like the time Adam blamed Eve for eating that stupid apple; maybe Adam should’ve cooked dinner for once so Eve wouldn’t have been so hungry). Interactions between the two can make grown adults look like feuding children. The two different genders have a constant, raging battle of the sexes which always ends in the conclusion that we can’t live with each other, but we can’t live without each other. It is truly miraculous that we’ve survived millions of years with humanity not teaming up against the other sex and completely wiping each other out.

The answer of why you can still sit next to a person of the opposite sex and not want to strangle them? Tales like that of Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher. An adult reader can’t help but blush and smile at their innocent engagement or the fact that they scrawl “I love you” to one another on a schoolhouse slate. What else could restore your faith in humanity more than a line like, “…always after this, you know, you ain’t ever to love anybody but me, and you ain’t ever to marry anybody but me, never never and for ever,” (57) from a 10 year old boy?

Tom and Becky’s relationship is a rare intersection between males and females that is purely sweet and innocent. There is no lust involved. There is no fowl-play (with a small exception at the mention of past-love Amy Lawrence). Few adults can master such a mature and caring relationship as the one Becky and Tom foster.

Adults are also attracted to the relationship between Becky and Tom because it is fresh and new. They are about to enter a world unknown to them at this point, the romantic world. No matter how many times an adult has faced a tragic break-up or had their heart broken, they can read Tom and Becky’s relationship with a new kind of hope. It reminds them of the time the opposite sex appeared to them as an opportunity filled frontier. In this way the relationship between Tom and Becky is an intersection of generations in the book and for the novel’s readers. Their story reminds all of us that there is a purpose for silly boys and girls beyond basic reproductive needs.


The other Clemens…

August 31, 2010 § Leave a comment

As I was reading through the previous posts I was especially intrigued by Rachel’s and the mention of Twain losing a brother. Even more so, Twain thought himself responsible for his brother’s death. I was curious to know why felt that way.

From what I gathered it can be because of two reasons. The first, and most logical, was the fact that Twain pushed his brother Henry to get a job on the riverboat Twain was piloting. Henry had the lowest position, a “mud clerk.” Twain also felt guilty because only a few days before he had been transferred to a different boat causing him and Henry to separate. A couple days later disaster struck when the boiler on Henry’s ship, the Pennsylvania, exploded killing nearly 150 people including Twain’s brother.

However, one website sited an eerie, prophetic dream of Twain’s  saying that Twain dreamed of the death of his brother a week before the accident. It occurred one night when Twain didn’t return to the boat with his brother after having dinner with their sister. In the dream Twain sees his brother’s casket laid across two chairs and topped with a bouquet of roses with a single red one. Apparently Twain witnessed the same scene after the passing of his brother and actually saw a nurse come and place the bouquet (of white, with one red) on his brother’s casket.

Regardless of which account you read, all describe the same final heart wrenching moments between brothers. One can only believe this created Tom Sawyer’s obsession with death. I believe after such a traumatic experience Twain began to contemplate death from a very childlike point of view. For example, Twain probably wondered if his brother had watched his own funeral or Twain wished his brother could have appeared the way Tom had. Twain surely expressed his hypothesis of his brother’s moments before death in desperate scenes with Tom and Becky in the caves. For such a child-focused novel Twain refutes back to moments of despair and near death multiple times. This is likely due to the loss of his brother as such a young age (Henry was only three weeks from turning 20).

Nature MANipulated

August 29, 2010 § 4 Comments

Few things are more boring in a child’s life than being stuck in a classroom on a sunny day. For Twain’s famous protagonist, Tom Sawyer, sitting in a desk for hours on end is comparable to Chinese water torture. The earthy young man is more at home in a pair of ripped breeches running through the woods than stuffed into any sort of clothing lacking holes or tears, while studying in a school room. Yet Tom brings part of nature with him everywhere he goes, be it a pincher-bug or shiny rock. On one occasion Tom produces a tick from his pocket during a dull moment in school. These few interactions with the tiny creature reveal not only Tom’s, but any human’s tendencies toward nature.

Tom exhibits how absolutely absorbing nature is. Both him and Joe Harper are described to be, “the two souls dead to all things else,” (54) while fiddling with the tick. While holding this small piece of life in their hands they are completely deaf to all things going on around them. Both boys become hypnotized by the tick’s every move, especially when the other boy takes the pin to “start him up.” They are fascinated by the manipulation of nature. They are attracted to the fact that seemingly purposeless boys like themselves have the ability to control a living, breathing thing. Twain describes how, “The tick tried this, that, and the other course, and got as excited and as anxious as the boys themselves, but time and again, just as he would have victory in his very grasp, so to speak, and Tom’s fingers would be twitching to begin, Joe’s pin would deftly head him off and keep possession,” (54) to show how exhilarating playing with the tick is. Everyone, especially Tom, can’t wait to get their hands on nature in order to control and mold it into what they want. They’re all itching to have their own personal slice of nature-pie. This simple desire is the driving force for Tom’s adventures throughout his childhood.

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