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GLENN HENDLER Tom Sawyer's Masculinity If the pleasures of reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer are the pleasures of identifying with a boy, the novel found its ideal reader in William Dean Howells. Howells identified with Tom Sawyer to such an extent that fourteen years after he read Twain's novel in manuscript and reviewed it enthusiastically in the Atlantic, he wrote an entire book reimagining his own life as a version of Tom's. In A Boy's Town, Howells ascribes many of the same characteristics to his obviously autobiographical protagonist that he praised in his review of Twain's novel, narrates similar adventures, and portrays his friendship with a boy resembling Huck Finn. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and A Boy's Town are both examples of a sub-genre of popular fiction that arose in the late 1860s and remained popular in the United States through the end of the century. Known as the "bad-boy book," the cycle can be said to originate with Thomas Bailey Aldrich's The Story of a Bad Boy and continue through Stephen Crane's Whihmville Stories, although it has antecedents in B. P. Shillaber's Ike Partington tales, the Peck's Bad Boy series, and antebellum sensational-adventure novels by writers such as Ned Buntline, Tom Sawyer's favorite author.1 As an instance of a popular genre, Tom Sawyer's intended readership should be easily identifiable, even ifwe did not have Howells' responses. After all, a glance at the signs organizing any mass-market bookstore is enough to demonstrate that the main purpose of mass-cultural genre divisions is to address and delineate specific audiences and to allow each reader repeatedly to find the products he or she desires. Genre divisions had already begun to serve such a function by the middle of the nineteenth century: witness the sentimental novel's extremely sucArizona Quarterly Volume 49 Number 4, Winter 1993 Copyright © 1993 by Arizona Board of Regents ISSN 0004-1 61 o 34Glenn Hendler cessful construction of a middle-class female audience. And yet the question of Tom Sawyer's readership has been an open one since even before its publication when Twain and Howells exchanged a series of often-quoted letters about whether the book should be addressed to boys, to men, or to an unspecified general public. In his preface to the novel, Twain seems to choose the last of these options, writing, 'Although my book is intended mainly for the entertainment of boys and girls, I hope it will not be shunned by men and women on that account" (xvii). Only a few pages later, however, the narrator seems to narrow this open address, remarking that "the reader probably remembers how to [whistle] if he has ever been a boy" (5), and later, Twain would repeatedly and vociferously deny ever having written a book for boys, claiming to "write for grown-ups who have been boys" (Stone 60). Contemporary reviewers questioned the sincerity ofTwain's claim to address a general audience as well as his desire primarily to address boys and girls. An anonymous writer in the Athenaeum quotes the sentence from the preface cited above, musing that "Questions of intention are always difficult to decide. The book . . . does not seem to us calculated to carry out the intention here expressed" (Anderson 65). And a New York Times reviewer wonders parenthetically whether "the book really is intended for boys and girls" (Anderson 72). The novel's ambiguity of address structures virtually every public response to it.2 Critics have often attempted to resolve this ambiguity, usually by designating Tom Sawyer a boys' book—as opposed to Adventures of Hucldeberry Finn, which they claim is clearly written for adults—or by asserting that the earlier book's ambiguity of address is one mark of its failure, again in contrast with the clear and consistent voice of Huck Finn.3 But Tom Sawyer's ambiguity is no accident; it is typical of the bad-boy genre and was explicitly planned by Twain and Howells. Commenting on the manuscript of Tom Sawyer, Howells argued that Twain "ought to treat it explicitly as a boy's story. . . . Grown-ups...


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