What is the historical context of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer?

I am doing a book report on The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and the one part I don't understand is that the report asks that we place the book in its historical context. I don't think I fully get what it is asking me to do and I'm confused about it. What is the historical context of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer? Or at least help me comprehend what historical context means better.

3 Answers

  • Anonymous
    9 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    Historical context means the time, the place, and the social attitudes when the story of Tom Sawyer takes place. Mark’s Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was published in 1867 but takes place in the 1840s. During this era in American history there was still slavery. And in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain uses the word ‘******’ quite a lot to reflect the speech of the people during that time. It wasn’t until 1862 that President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emanicipation Proclamation declaring that all slaves in rebel states should be free as of 01 January 1863. This took place during the American Civil War from 1861 to 1865.

    “Mark Twain was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens in the town of Florida, Missouri, in 1835, and grew up in nearby Hannibal, a small Mississipi River town. Hannibal would become the model for St. Petersburg, the fictionalized setting of Twain’s two most popular novels, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. . . .

    . . . Twain based The Adventures of Tom Sawyer largely on his personal memories of growing up in Hannibal in the 1840s. . . .”


    Mark Twain’s Adventures of Tom Sawyer: The New South Edition

    By Alan Gribben

    Page xvi

    Slavery and Freedom in Tom Sawyer:

    “. . . Tom Sawyer contains several references to slavery, a brief appearance by a young African American slave named Jim (evidently Aunt Polly’s slave, and not to be confused with the adult Jim who will later accompany Huck), and casual talk by the boys about folk beliefs they learned from slaves. If these allusions to an inhumane institution (accompanied by a total of nine instances of the n-word) rankle us by marring the picturesque village scenes, we should ask ourselves this question: Would we rather have a novel written about the American South of the 1840s that entirely avoids the existence of slavery? . . .”


    Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer

    By Eric F. Oatman

    Page 45

    “NOTE: Use of the word ‘******’

    The first mention of black people in the novel, in Chapter 2, is a reference by the narrator to ‘***** boys and girls.’ Here, however, Tom and Huck emply the ugly and disparaging word ‘******.’ Twain’s use of the word has gotten his books labelled racist and banned from some libraries.

    Actually, Twain uses the word ‘******’ only when trying to give a realistic report of the speech of the people with whom he grew up. . . .”


    Below is a link showing a brief timeline of other events that took place in the United States in the1840s to give you an overall idea of the historical setting of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.


  • 4 years ago

    Tom Sawyer Setting

  • 5 years ago

    Don't believe that is right

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