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Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer

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“Tom told me what his plan was, and I see in a minute it was worth fifteen of mine for style, and would make Jim just as free a man as mine would, and maybe get us all killed besides. So I was satisfied, and said we would waltz in on it” (232).

Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn details the journey of Huckleberry Finn and a run away slave Jim. Huckleberry Finn’s blind trust in his friend Tom Sawyer’s plans have led Huck to some strange situations. As seen in the Sunday school “Arab” fiasco, where Tom, Huck and their gang attacked a Sunday school picnic, Huck accepts Tom’s imagination as fact and disregards his own logic. Tom’s reliance on the rules is more for style than to do what is moral. In sharp contrast to Tom’s rule-following attitude, Huck relies on his own intuition to make decisions. This clash between romanticism and realism is prevalent throughout the book. Tom Sawyer and his grandiose plans represent Romanticism, characterized by a belief in the ideal, whereas Huck represents realism or the viewing of everything as it actually is, without idealization. Twain also uses the characters of Huck and Tom to represent a conflict between Romanticism and Realism, as well as a conflict between Society and Freedom. In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain contrasts the characters of Tom and Huck to contrast Romanticism and Realism, as well as Society vs. Freedom in both the beginning and end of the novel to highlight the maturation of Huck.

Tom Sawyer was born and raised middle class. As such, Tom has access to a stable family life as well as education and books. The books provide Tom’s sense of adventure. Always searching for an adventure, Tom uses elements of his books to influence his adventures. Tom’s reliance upon the rules laid down in books is evident in his discussion of ransom:

“Why blame it all, we’ve got to do it. Don’t I tell you it’s in the books? Do you want to go to doing things different than what’s in the books, and get things all muddled up?” (12)

The preceding passage portrays Tom’s strict adherence to the rules of Romanticism depicted in his adventure books. His devotion to the rules is characteristic of his representation of society, where the rules and laws are of the utmost importance. Tom’s characteristic sense of adventure remains unchanged throughout the course of the book where he is used as a counter-point to Huckleberry Finn. In the final three chapters, Tom re-enters the storyline. After following Huck for over thirty chapters, Tom’s youthful exuberance changes the pace of the story. However, in Tom’s search for adventure, Tom allows Jim to stay in captivity despite knowledge that Jim was freed by Ms. Watson. Tom’s careless treatment of Jim is in sharp dissimilarity to Huck’s tireless efforts to free Jim.

While Tom was raised in relative comfort, Huckleberry Finn led a tough childhood. His father is an abusive alcoholic with very little money. When his father skips town, Huck lives with a modest, god fearing foster family. After a modest up bringing, Huck learns to rely on himself. His reliance on his own intellect is what sets Huck apart from Tom. While both boys “think quick on their feet,” when in trouble Tom leans on the rules he has learned in his adventure books. Huck, on the other hand, realistically assesses what is actually taking place and reacts accordingly. Huck only trusts what he can see and feel. Huck is also not afraid to bend, or even break the rules if it is to his best interest. Huck appears happiest when on the river, free of society’s rules, laws, and regulations.

“We said there warn’t no home like a raft, after all. Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don’t. You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft” (116).

Throughout the novel, Twain seems to imply that the natural life, the uncivilized is better than society.

The implications of Twain’s preference are far-reaching within the novel. Near the conclusion of the book, Tom Sawyer and Huck are rejoined on Aunt Sally’s farm. Tom and Huck begin to devise plans to free Jim. At the beginning of the book, Tom’s clever plans were exciting, amusing, and entertaining; however, after thirty chapters of Huck’s clear, logical thinking, Tom’s plans seem frivolous and overly complicated. Further, Tom’s plans endanger Jim’s life, Huck’s life, as well as his own. Tom, knowing that Jim has already been freed by Miss Watson, proceeds with a dangerous plan to “free” Jim that has absolutely no purpose. The contrast between the two friends highlights the maturation of Huck. While Huck appears to relapse at the end, Huck becomes more independent over the course of his journey, while Tom has remained the same. Twain’s dislike of the Romantic movement, represented by Tom, becomes increasingly apparent, to the point that in the final pages of the book, all characters besides Huck and Jim, both symbols of realism, are besmirched either through their own ignorance or intolerance.

The glorification of Realism in Huck Finn, when contrasted with Tom’s Romantic ideas, provides a glimpse into the heart and mind of Mark Twain. Twain’s characters capture the imagination of the reader, just like Tom’s plans. Huck and Tom, the immortal American symbols of adventure and mayhem, are contrasted to from a contrast between Realism and Romanticism, as well as, Society and Freedom. As Huck says, “Tom told me what his plan was, and I see in a minute it was worth fifteen of mine for style” (232). Tom provided the style, Huck the logic.

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