Oh Tom and Huck, the scourges of childhood befall you with astonishing regularity. Whether it’s Injun Joe, dark caves, or an endless parade of preachers, teachers, and other interfering adults, the children of St. Petersburg can handle it all. But there’s something even more sinister lurking in these pages.
Zombie cats to be specific.
“What?” You may say, “There are no zombie cats in Tom Sawyer!” But this is where I will say, “You are mistaken, my friend.” And let me tell you why.
Mark Twain was a writer who knew his craft. He was incredibly forward thinking. He knew that while the zombie phenomenon was to be an important development in the literature of the future, his audience in the 1880s had no interest in reading about zombies.
So, in order to work the undead into his novel of 19th century rural life in Missouri, he initiates a cover up. He disguises the plague. He puts a veneer of civility over the whole ugly mess. He uses euphemisms.
Alert readers will notice that there’s a plethora of dead cats in Tom Sawyer. Expired felines appear on virtually every other page. This could be explained away as just the characters’ boyhood fascination with dead animals. But the real explanation is zombies.