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Carl Van Doren (1885–1950).  The American Novel.  1921.


Page 168

grown upon him, not faded, and he who had once entered into their events with the flushed passions of an epic hero now wrought at them with the accomplished strength of an epic poet. In his youth observing the river without one thought that he might some day translate it into art, he had had no bias and no self-consciousness. Now he could go back in his imagination to a world seen round and whole, as men of action see their worlds. He remembered a thousand hard actualities of those elder circumstances. He remembered the dialect, the costume, the amphibious river men, “half horse half alligator” as the ancient phrase had it, the savagery, the danger, the ardors of the pilot’s calling, the thick, stirring panorama of that epoch. He remembered, too, the glamor of those days, the dreams of adventure, the mystery of black nights, the glory of dawn over the yellow water when the atmosphere was full of the songs of invisible birds. And winding through all his memories, like the Mississippi winding through its continent, went the great, muddy, mysterious river which had stirred his imagination for nearly half a century.
  The Adventures of Tom Sawyer took Mark Twain from epic to comedy. He first planned it as a play and when he decided upon another form for it he had in mind to write a story of boyhood which, like Aldrich’s Story of a Bad Boy, should emphatically depart from the customary type of Sunday school fiction. But its departure from a type is one of the least memorable aspects of Tom Sawyer. Tom and Huck are, indeed, “bad” boys; they have done more than overhear profanity and smell the smoke of pipes; they play outrageous pranks in the fashion of the



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