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Twain as a Social Critic
His experiences in Hannibal went into making Twain a social critic. He vehemently opposed slavery, aristocracy, and superstition. Some of his earliest social criticism was against the legislators when he was reporting the legislative sessions for "Territorial Enterprise". Here he ridiculed and exposed the legislators and the Judges. He hated sham and was anti- imperialistic. All of these attitudes clearly show up in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
In San Francisco, Twain also attacked the police force for their inhuman treatment of the illegal Chinese immigrants and the poor, while the crimes of the rich and the influential went unpunished. During this period, he also wrote essays attacking the clergy for giving importance to money and pushing ethical precepts to the background. He became a general censor and earned the titles "Moralist of the Main" and "The Wild Humorist of the Song Brush Hills."
Mark Twainís Humor
Twain portrayed humor realistically, especially as it appeared in frontier America. As Twain himself said, "My sole idea was to make a comic capital of everything that I saw and heard. My object was not to tell the truth, but to make people laugh". He certainly succeeded in making people laugh at and with Tom Sawyer.
Twain says of his humor in The Mysterious Stranger, "The Human race in its poverty, has unquestionably one really effective weapon - laughter. Power, money, persuasion, supplication, persecution - these can lift at a colossal humbug - push it a little, weaken it a little, century by century, but only laughter can blow it to rags and atoms at a blast. Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand."
Humor is one of the major moods in the novel. Almost every chapter makes the reader laugh at Tomís pranks and antics. The novel opens with the clever Tom tricking all the boys into whitewashing the fence for him. In Sunday school, he cleverly switches his treasures for yellow tickets and wins a Bible, intended for a child who is well-versed in scripture. Although he wins the Bible, Tom cannot even name two disciples; in an extremely humorous interchange, he tells Judge Thatcher that they are David and Goliath. In school, to relieve his boredom, he takes a tick out of his pocket and starts playing with it. He and a friend are so involved that they are unmindful of the place or the time. All the children go to lunch, leaving Tom behind to the teacherís punishment. In Church he lets a beetle out of his pocket and breaks into laughter when a poodle is pinched by it. The most humorously constructed scene of all is when Tom leads his "dead" friends down the aisle at their own funeral. Truly, Twain has a wonderful sense of humor, and it is clearly displayed throughout the novel.