The Novel Cure: Literary prescriptions for the lack of adventure in your life


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Ailment: Lack of adventure in your life

Cure: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Do you spend your evenings folding laundry in front of the TV, your weekends preparing handy meals for the freezer, and your holidays lying prostrate on a sun lounger, recovering from it all? Was the last time you had a real adventure during your gap year? If so, you are in urgent need of a vigorous spritzing by spending time with a hero intent on living life as a series of mad escapades. Who else, of course, but young Tom Sawyer?

Mark Twain's irresistible creation is a boy of "adventurous, troublesome ways". Growing up in a small village on the banks of the Mississippi, Tom does his level-best to avoid school and chores, living instead by the morals of romantic novels. He slips through the fingers of Aunt Polly and her "sivilizing" influence whenever he can in order to find treasure, capture criminals, and win his girl. And when he is given a tedious task to do – such as whitewashing the famous fence – he persuades his friends to do it for him while he looks on. Such is his charm, they even pay him for the pleasure, too.

Sometimes, inevitably, his adventures get him into tight corners. When he and the outlaw Huckleberry Finn run away to be pirates sleeping under the stars on an island, they return to interrupt their own funeral, their folks having assumed the worst. And when Tom and his true love Becky are lost for three days in McDougal's caves, they resign themselves to an early death. But rather than sober him up, these close shaves merely leave Tom gagging for more.

Be reminded by Tom that life can be much more of a lark if we're willing to take some risks – and that things often turn out "real bully" in the end. All you need to feel rich as a king – and be the "glittering hero" of your own life – is, according to Tom, a couple of tadpoles, a piece of blue bottle-glass to look through, a key that won't unlock anything and a kitten with only one eye. Simple!