Style | The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Word Choice

Twain used words that are understandable to average readers suitable for high school students and above to read. He was able to state in his preface that his novel is intended mainly for the entertainment of boys and girls and secondarily for adults. His words were inspired by his lived experiences in which some of the events in the story happened in his life way back, as stated in his preface.


The most unique feature of the novel’s writing style is its ability to show the contrast of humor and suspense. Mark Twain, unlike any other authors, used his talent of being a humorist to put some flavor on an intense scene. He placed entertainment as a factor for his story to make sense, which is, depicting an actual boyhood adventure. He wrote it in a way that it would bring the readers into different moods while reading the story.


The author brought out various dissimilar events in the story and was able to connect them holistically. Variation in the characters’ personalities is also observable and he was able to focus on a not so common aspect of childhood—the adventure towards maturity.


Twain certainly has a flexible style. He can suit his words quite easily to the situation, whether he is describing the thoughts of Tom or expounding upon some lofty subject. That said, one of the most impressive aspects of his writing is dialogue.

Twain renders the rhythm of the speech beautifully, using contractions and slang to give life to Tom and Huck’s speech. Small touches, like the “we’d ‘a’” and “dog’d” go along toward making them sound like real boys. Even that bracketed pause speaks volumes.  Without suitable dialogue, all of Twain’s observations and remarks would be like a cake without icing: still delicious, but not quite right.


It was used when describing Tom Sawyers’s imagination, like becoming a pirate or robber. These aspirations were accompanied by spirited descriptions that exaggerated their merits and technical achievability by no small degree: “But no, there was something even gaudier than this. He would be a pirate! That was it! Now his future lay before him and glowing with unimaginable splendor.

How his name would fill the world, and make people shudder! How gloriously he would go plowing the dancing seas, in his long, low, black-hulled racer, the Spirit of the Storm, with his grisly flag flying at the fore!”

Hyperbole relates to the theme because it is a technique that allowed the author to develop the plot, deepen the character, and brings the reader closer to the way Tom Sawyer thought, therefore understanding him better.


Similes were also used in making scenes easier to imagine for the readers and make sense of the events that happen by relating it to the behavior of an unrelated object. An excerpt from the novel showing the use of simile is shown below:

“In an instant both boys were rolling and tumbling in the dirt, gripped together like cats.”

– PG. 13

At this point in the book, Tom met a new boy and they were immediate rivals. This simile helps represent the tension between the 2 boys, especially during their fighting.


Metaphors also exist in the novel making the expressions of the characters well deliberated and giving more meaning to what the character is trying to say.  

“Oh, Joe, you’re an angel.”

– PG. 65

This metaphor occurred after the murder. Injun Joe promised Porter that he would keep the murder a secret. This helped the reader understand Porter’s gratitude towards Joe.


Twain     indicated    some    alliteration   in   this   novel   which contributes to the creative outlook of the novel

“…for he knew who would wait for him   outside till his captivity was done…”

– PG. 123

This example of alliteration was used after Tom took the blame for Becky. There is an emphasis on “who would wait” to show the reader that Becky would be waiting with gratitude.


Twain used this to show the contrast of the character’s actions to what they actually feel. It also helped represent the hidden meaning of a character’s opposing actions towards the main character.

“I could forgive the boy, now, if he’d committed a million sins.”

– PG. 118


When Tom returned home after running away to an island, Aunt Polly expressed her love for him by using this irony.

“For some time there was no noise but the grating sound  of the shovels discharging their freight of mould and gravel.”

– PG. 63

This imagery of sound emphasized how nervous Tom was during the murder. This helped the scene easy to visualize as the readers would think about it and it made specifications on the characters’ feelings and the situation he/she is in.


“Sh! Here ’tis again! Didn’t you hear it?”

– PG. 62

This shows Onomatopoeia. During the murder, Injun Joe repeatedly used the noise “Sh!”. This told the reader that he was trying to be very secretive. This contributed mostly to the effectivity of the dialogues and the realism of it. This made it easy to read for the readers.

Overall, the figurative language examples contributed to the meaning of the story, youthfulness. These examples made the readers use their imagination. This made the story easier to understand and read. By using simple comparisons, emphasizing words, and symbolism, Mark Twain was able to enhance the meaning and readability of the story.