It is hard to not bring a great deal of baggage when reading Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer. There are all the iconic images to deal with: the fence painting, the cave, the runaways to Jackson Island. Like T.S. Eliot said about the Hamlet, there is the play Hamlet, and Hamlet, the character, the idea, the substance. This Hamlet, just like this Tom Sawyer, lives quite beyond the pages of this book.
So, the reader coming back to this novel as an adult must do some work. We must keep the two Tom Sawyers separate in our minds. Otherwise, the Eliot Tom Sawyer can swamp one of the pillars of nineteenth century American fiction. Then we are no longer reading a book, but an ideal.