Our Tuesday Fox asked, “If you were asked to rewrite/modernize a classic novel, which one would you want to adapt?”
As I’ve mentioned before, I really haven’t read many classic novels. I read a few in high school (mainly the ones that were required), but since then I’ve avoided novels that feature a lot of pain and suffering, and gravitated toward those that have a feel-good ending. In preparing for this post, I consulted a list of Classic novels and finally settled on one that I had read and actually enjoyed – Tom Sawyer. Yes, there were some dark moments, but overall, it’s a book about an enterprising and clever young man.
So, how would I rewrite or modernize this classic tale? The setting would be different. I’d make it a contemporary young adult or middle grade story. Since I’ve never lived near the Mississippi River, I’d have to relocate Tom to West Michigan, so he and his friend Huck would have to have their adventures along the Grand River, which runs east-west through most of Michigan’s lower peninsula. There are several small towns along the river, and during the summertime I could envision a couple of boys taking a paddle boat from Grand Rapids toward the state’s western shore. There’s even a gypsum mine near the river, just southwest of Grand Rapids, where the climactic ending of the story could take place.
I’d have to make a few changes with the characters. The character known as Injun Joe would definitely have to be renamed. Perhaps I could name him Joe Shark and make him a real estate mogul who kills Dr. Robinson because he wanted to buy the clinic in order to build a big apartment complex. Aunt Polly wouldn’t have any slaves, of course, but she’d probably pay local kids to do things like mow the grass in the summertime and shovel the driveway in the wintertime. So young Jim, the slave in Twain’s story, would be the son of a neighbor. The rest of the characters would be pretty much the same as in the original.
As for the plot itself, I couldn’t think of much that I would change, except for the part when Tom, Huck, and Joe Harper skip school and run away. In today’s world, the police would become involved quite soon. There would be television coverage and search parties. I could envision the boys seeing the coverage somehow – perhaps they happen to hear their names on the news while stealing food from a restaurant dumpster. I also think I’d change Tom’s argument for convincing Huck to go back to the Widow Douglas at the end, but I’m not sure what that would be. Perhaps he could persuade Huck that if he stuck it out with the widow, eventually some of her wealth would be left to him.
With apologies to Samuel Clemens, here’s my contemporary version of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.