9/12/2012 American Studies II Comparing and Contrasting: To Kill a Mockingbird and Huckleberry Finn In the books, The Adventures Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird, the authors demonstrate several themes: the coexistence of good and evil, the importance of moral education, the existence of social inequality, racism and slavery, intellectual and moral education, and the hypocrisy of “civilized” society.
The common themes throughout the two books depict; that although the settings are nearly a century apart, society has not changed as drastically as believed. Racism, a main theme throughout both books reveals itself in many ways. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn takes place during the 1830’s – 1840’s, in Missouri, a slave state. During this time period, slavery was a controversial issue; and amongst the main causes for the civil war. In Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck learns to bond with a slave, Jim. Throughout the course of the novel, Jim and Huck become close friends and he realizes that he cares for him.
Huck disregards most common opinions throughout society, he is associated with this slave who is supposedly ‘less than human. ’ Jim, the slave, is an intellectual human being despite the fact that he is treated as a lesser life form. Whereas, in to Kill a Mockingbird, racism is illustrated in depth through a trial in which a negro man is accused of a rape, to which he is thoroughly proved his innocence. Despite the evidence agreeing with the defendant, the racist jury simply convicts the defendant “guilty”. To Kill a Mockingbird is set in the 1930’s, during the Great Depression in Alabama.
A former slave state, and a southern state, the town of Maycomb was swarmed with racist and prejudice people. “The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom, be he any color of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box. As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it – whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash. (Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird p295) We are all born innocent, and then we are exposed to the evils of the world. Progressively, we begin to conform to fit society’s measures. We do good things, and we do bad things. We are only human. Throughout these books, exists a coexistence of good and evil. People may have good intentions for some things, and feel quite differently in others. In To Kill a Mockingbird, the book displays the change Jem and Scout Finch make from their childhood innocence. From the beginning of the novel, the characters develop in many ways; mentally and physically.
They have been raised by the ideal moral backbone, their father, Atticus. Despite the fact, they are not always prepared to see the world’s evils right before their eyes. During the course of the trial, Jem and Scout watch closely anticipating the result and hoping for the best. Yet, when they see the truth and the racism of the town before their eyes, they don’t know how to handle it. Jem has lost faith in humanity, and feels hopeless. Yet, Scout manages to see that people can be both good and bad. In humanity, good and evil coexists. “When they finally saw him, why he hadn’t done any of those things . . Atticus, he was real nice. . . .” His hands were under my chin, pulling up the cover, tucking it around me. “Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them. ” He turned out the light and went into Jem’s room. He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning. ” (Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird, p284) As the story progresses, Scout starts to see things in a new way. Her perspective starts to change and she is able to see people for who they are and who they aren’t. Scout sees human evil, but she also realizes that people aren’t perfect and make mistakes.
Scout sees that there is good in people, and that there is also bad in people. Despite the fact that she is a lot younger, she grasps the situation better than her older brother who seems to fall apart at the concept of human evil. The Mockingbird had become something symbolic in the story. The mockingbird represents innocence and portrays itself through several different characters in the story; such as Scout Finch or Boo Radley. Despite their innocence however, they can be injured with their contact with evil. In the story, it’s explained how Boo Radley’s innocence is tainted because of his abusive father.
Thus the extended metaphor or symbolism would explain that killing a mockingbird is tainting innocence. When Scout inquires her, Miss Maudie explains, “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but . . . sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird. ” This also links the connection of Scout and Jem both having the last name finch, which is another name for a particularly small (and also harmless) bird. In Huckleberry Finn, Huck comes from the lower levels of white society, having a father who is a drunk who disappears constantly.
Widow Douglas adopts him and attempts to reform him, although she has difficulties. Huck does not accept the ways of society, and often tells Widow that he would rather go live in hell for a change of scenery. The Widow tries to teach him how to read and tries to make him religious. Although the Widow’s efforts do finally teach Huck how to read, he is still skeptical of the world around him. He does not agree with rules, and feels like he should create his own. Life is an adventure filled with new things and new ways to do them. To the world, Huck is but an infant crawling and learning how to take his first own steps.
Huck realizes his friendship with Jim has made him content, and that the outside world is harsh. Every time Huck and Jim find themselves on land, they see the world for what it is and it’s cons and tricks. They see the lies that people weave, the hatred, the conflicts. When Huck and Jim are together on the raft, they feel like they escape from the world and its problems. Everything seems to float away and they can enjoy the simple pleasures. They choose to isolate themselves and feel as if they are living an idealistic dream or are a part of a Utopian society.
They do not need much to be satisfied, just a few basic needs and to be away from the hypocritical society. “I hadn’t had a bite to eat since yesterday, so Jim he got out some corn-dodgers and buttermilk, and pork and cabbage and greens—there ain’t nothing in the world so good when it’s cooked right—and whilst I eat my supper we talked and had a good time. . . .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. ”(Huckleberry Finn, page 119)
Everything is a learning experience for Huck, who is still youthful and very open minded. He comes to see how people in society interact and what their certain views on things are. He learns of how things can contradict each other or become hypocritical. Huck witnesses lots of lying and schemes, many of them by the duke and the dauphin. However, he also pulls a few white lies of his own. Trying to save Jim and himself, he cons a few people. It’s then that he realizes that telling a lie, dependent upon the situation can actually be a good thing.
This demonstrates the thin line between the right and wrong of things and how society uses them. “But I reckon I got to light out for the territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can’t stand it. I been there before. ” (Huckleberry Finn, page 190) Huck realizes that although he has come to like Aunt Sally, she is a part of society that he chooses to be left out of. He feels comfort in being a recluse, and does not want to integrate himself in the society he disagrees with. Religion, and the supposedly “correct morals” that he would be forced upon don’t interest him.
He also feels that he could get a better education from his own experience than from what he is being taught and forced. Huck feels ready to accept the challenge of his own life and take his own responsibility. So when Aunt Sally wishes to adopt him, he chooses to hit the road and set off on his own adventures. Throughout the novels, both Huck and Scout have this sense of independence and free thinking to them. Despite their obvious differences in upbringing, they share at the root the same thinking. They believe in independence and seeing for themselves what life is like.
They do not want to believe in what “all adults” think is correct and force them to believe. They are both young and innocent and want to determine what is right and wrong in the world by themselves. Scout, is a little more guided with the help of Atticus; however she still makes many decisions by herself on her views of people. She is able to truly open her eyes and see what the world is made of. In conclusion, though Huck takes different approaches on his life and sets off on his own completely new adventures, he isn’t that different from Scout. They both have their own opinions which differ drastically from the rest of the society.
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