Satire: the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.
If you know some things about Mark Twain, you may know that he used the written word to criticize and expose human folly in a humorous and often exaggerated way. Some people call satire, using the pen as a scalpel. It cuts, but for a purpose. In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Twain exposes society’s pitfalls to make a point. People aren’t perfect. Leaders are hypocrites. The education system is flawed. Religion is less about faith and devotion, and more about fear, ritual, and superstitious. Trends come and go, but the bad boy remains the same. Twain tells tales about Tom that weave in and out human’s vice and folly in a subtle way that may not be detected in the first or second read.
Religion is considered a solemn affair. In Tom’s town, everyone dresses in their “Sunday best” and sits in silence as the minister reads his sermon and prayers. However, when the pinch bug and puppy play quietly, children and adults are eager to be distracted by this simple pleasure. No one tells Tom to get rid of the insect he brought to church. No one shoos the pup out the door for being a distraction. They all would rather watch the creatures play.
Education is the key to success. Tom’s teacher, Mr. Dobbins, rules is school with a wooden whipping stick. He may hold strict “order” in his classroom, but his students do not absorb the knowledge. The spout facts and speeches, but have they become a more enabled citizen? Have they improved their own life or the life of another with this information or data? Mr. Dobbins had aspired to be a great doctor in his lifetime, but it seems fate did not bring that for him. At the end of the school year, each student must memorize a speech and perform in front of parents and peers. It’s the school master’s big night to shine! His pupils turn the evening into an act of vengeance by stealing Mr. Dobbins wig and embarrassing him in front of his biggest audience.
Not only in the classroom, but in the Sunday School classroom, the same policy is applied. The main objective is to memorize as many Bible verses as possible, however, not once do the students study or learn about it. Tom does not understand it. Aunt Polly doesn’t seem to translate the text, but still she pushes him to commit it to memory. The more verses you learn, the more tickets, to sooner you earn a new shiny Bible. And the point is? The Bible was written as a guide for life. Instead, these people turn it into contest for who can spout off enough words. What is the point of memorization, if you don’t understand what it is actually saying? Rote knowledge becomes useless if not applied.
Twain weaves this tale for a point. Adults can be just as misguided and mistaken as their children. The best education you can receive is one that you fight for. Knowing what you believe is stronger than believing what your told. “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog” (Twain). Tom and Huck were mischievious boys, but despite their flaws they always seemed to succeed in the end. They lived with passion and were always pursuit of those passions. Misguided as they were, they lived life with enthusiasm, unlike the many family members or figures in their life.