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Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer

giamic By giamic Published on January 3, 2017

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This article was updated on April 27, 2017

The adventures of Huckleberry Finn was quite a surprise to me. I imagine that most people will read Huck Finn after Tom Sawyer, therefore I will try for a comparative analysis.

The adventures of Huckleberry Finn could hardly be more different from The adventures of Tom Sawyer, considering that the two books share the characters and the setting. Chiefly, it is the change in perspective that is responsible. Whilst Tom Sawyer was narrated by Mark Twain, a well-educated, satirical writer intending to entertain his young readers, Huck Finn is supposedly written by Huck himself in a first person perspective; Huck is just a boy fighting to get free from his father's abuse and to state his independence, and this reflects on the general tone, which is gloomier and more serious than before: We don't chuckle looking at children play, in this book. Rather we sympathize for them and suffer with them. This doesn't mean that the book is never fun. It is, definitely! The duke and the king start out as a perfect comic duo, and the final chapters are so absurd that it is impossible not to laugh. However, behind the laughter, I always felt a bit insecure and uneasy.

The second main difference is the language. In the preface, Twain states that an extensive and painful research was undertaken to study and faithfully report the dialects. None of the characters speak proper English, including the narrator himself. Each of them is recognizable by their accent, which is a considerable feat thinking that this is written text. This book is really the work of a virtuoso writer after a painstaking effort.

Third and last main difference is the themes. Where Tom Sawyer deals only with pirates and children's love, Huck Finn has an underlying theme of slavery and child abuse. Reading in 2017 the pain of a child that is convinced to go to Hell because he doesn't want to bring back to its owner a runaway nigger is moving and shocking and weirdly funny at the same time. Reading that the boy feels better when he realizes that the nigger has the heart of a white, after all... I read that the book has been criticized by some because of the way black people are treated, which is racist. I couldn't disagree more. I think that this book is a strong manifesto for the equality of people, and I couldn't admire Mark Twain more for so.

For all these, I like to think that Huck Finn is very close to the Tom Joad of the Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck, and that the latter is the grown-up version of the former.

Is everything perfect, then? Not really. Huck Finn is not an easy read. It got older with time, and some events in the plot are a bit... clumsy. But that's just my personal opinion of incidental matters. I really believe this book to be great Literature.

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