<i>Tom Sawyer</i>, Audience, and American Indians

Beverly Lyon Clark

in The Oxford Handbook of Children's Literature

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780195379785
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Tom Sawyer, Audience, and American Indians

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  • Literature
  • Children's Literature Studies
  • Literary Studies (19th Century)


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This article reviews Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer (1876) in terms of the depiction of Indians and in relation to audience. It argues that Injun Joe performs an essential mediating function between adult and child. The article aims to do what Machor and Goldstein might consider a postmodern reception study, in two movements: on the one hand it explores some overt questions about the audience for Twain's book; on the other, it attempts to unpack some of “the biases or local interests” that govern his novel, focusing specifically on the biases which inform his discursive treatment of Native Americans. Indeed, the figure of the Indian becomes a way of mediating between child and adult. Much of the power of Twain's writing derives from the way he would seem to collapse boundaries as he plays with audience, rethinking genre and witching tones.

Keywords: Mark Twain; Tom Sawyer; Native Americans; audience; Injun Joe; adult; child

Article.  9508 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Children's Literature Studies ; Literary Studies (19th Century)

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