The novel takes place in the first half of the 19th century in a small town on the banks of the Mississippi River. The hero Tom Sawyer is innocent and lively, dares to explore, pursues freedom avidly,but cannot bear to restrain his individuality and endure boring life. In the antebellum period of the novel, the small town of St. Petersburg is in some ways a microcosm of American society. Through the adventures of the protagonist, the novel satirizes and criticizes vulgar social customs, hypocritical religious rituals and stereotyped school education in The United States, and describes the free and lively hearts of children with cheerful writing.
Tom lost his mother in infancy and was adopted by his aunt. Clever and naughty Tom could not stand the control of his aunt and school teacher. Late one night, while playing in a cemetery with his good friend Huckleberry Finn, he happened to witness a murder. For fear of being discovered by the murderer they know this matter, Tom, Huckleberry and another small friend together fled to a desert island to become “pirate”. Their family thought they were drowned, but they turned up at their own “funeral”. After a fierce ideological struggle, Tom finally stood up and testified against the murderer. Soon after during a picnic, he and his sweetheart Betsy got lost in a cave and faced death for three days and nights. After he manages to escape danger later, Tom Sawyer found the treasure that the murderer buried together with his good friend Huckleberry Finn.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer marks further development of Mark Twain’s realistic creation. This book describes the free and lively psychology of children, and in contrast exposes the vulgar conservative life of small town citizens, highlighting their dull and dreary lifestyle. Mischievous and lively, full of fantasy and justice, Tom planned to go out for adventures in order to get rid of the shackles of reality and enjoy the full pleasure of freedom. All of this contradicts the capitalist living environment and is not allowed by secular morality and church precepts. Generally speaking, criticizing stagnation, vulgarity and religious hypocrisy of American local life can be seen as the main content of the novel.