A Contradiction Between Heroism and Human Society: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and the Flaws of Human Nature

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, a nineteenth century novel by Mark Twain, is at its core a Bildungsroman; a story that focuses on the mental and spiritual growth—the coming of age, of the protagonist from his or her youth into his or her maturation. In the case of Twain’s novel, the titular Tom Sawyer is taken on a journey that sees him go from an immature child to a young man capable of making rational decisions. Tom’s unruly nature sends him (and those he drags along with him) through a series of increasingly dire situations that provide him with opportunities to define himself as a person throughout. As Tom travels deeper and deeper into darkness (both literally and metaphorically), he comes to gain understanding in a world where others constantly seek to fill his head with their flawed conceptions. Eventually, Tom comes to embody the traits of what Twain defines as a hero. Through Tom’s adventures, readers come to understand that heroism manifests when people diverge from group human behaviour and focus on what they as individuals have to offer. Through overcoming society’s conception of what it means to be human, Tom is able to achieve a greatness and heroism that is independent of what others expect of him.

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