Elements of Fiction The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, is consider to be a fine example of American Literature. The book raised a lot of controversy, it was publish after the Civil War, and it talked about the reality of America and its society. Some of the Themes of the story are, Moral and Social Maturation, Society’s Hypocrisy, and freedom through social exclusion. At the opening of the novel, Tom is engaged in and is generally the organizer of childhood pranks and make-believe games. As the novel progresses, these initially consequence-free childish games begin to take on more and more gravity. Tom begins to lead himself, Joe Harper, Huck, and, Becky Thatcher into increasingly dangerous situations.
He also finds himself in predicaments where he must put his concern for others above his concern for himself, such as when he takes Becky’s punishment and when he testifies at ‘s trial. As Tom begins to take initiative to help others instead of himself, he shows his increasing maturity, competence, and moral integrity. Tom’s adventures to Jackson’s Island and McDougal’s Cave take him away from society. These symbolic removals help to prepare him to return to the village in a new, more adult relationship to the community. Though early on Tom looks up to Huck as much older and wiser, by the end of the novel Tom’s maturity has surpassed Huck’s.
Tom’s personal growth is evident in his insistence, in the face of Huck’s desire to flee all social constraints, that Huck stay with the Widow Douglas and become civilized. Twain complicates Tom’s position on the border between childhood and adulthood by ridiculing and criticizing the values and practices of the adult world toward which Tom is heading. Twain’s harshest satire exposes the hypocrisy and often the essential childishness of social institutions such as school, church, and the law, as well as public opinion. He also mocks individuals, although when doing so he tends to be less biting and focuses on flaws of character that we understand to be universal. Twain shows that social authority does not always operate on wise, sound, or consistent principles and that institutions fall prey to the same kinds of mistakes that individuals do.
In his depiction of families, Twain shows parental authority and constraint balanced by parental love and indulgence. Though the Widow attempts to restrain and punish Tom, Aunt Polly always goes soft because of her love for her nephew. As the novel proceeds, a similar tendency toward indulgence becomes apparent within the broader community as well. The community shows its indulgence when Tom’s dangerous adventures provoke an outpouring of concern: the community is perfectly ready to forgive Tom’s wrongs if it can be sure of his safety. The games the children play often seem attempts to subvert authority and escape from conventional society. Skipping school, sneaking out at night, playing tricks on the teacher, and running away for days at a time are all ways of breaking the rules and defying authority.
Yet, Twain shows us that these games can be more conventional than they seem. Tom is highly concerned with conforming to the codes of behavior that he has learned from reading, and he outlines the various criteria that define a pirate, a Robin Hood, or a circus clown. The boys’ obsession with superstition is likewise an addiction to convention, which also mirrors the adult society’s focus on religion. Thus, the novel shows that adult existence is more similar to childhood existence than it might seem. Though the novel is critical of society’s hypocrisy that is, of the frequent discord between its values and its behavior Twain doesn’t really advocate subversion.
The novel demonstrates the potential dangers of subverting authority just as it demonstrates the dangers of adhering to authority too strictly. St. Petersburg is an insular community in which outsiders are easily identified. The most notable local outsiders include Huck Finn, who fends for him self outside of any family structure because his father is a drunkard. Despite the community’s clear separation of outsiders from insiders, however, it seems to have a strong impulse toward inclusiveness. The community tolerates the drunkenness of a harmless rascal like Muff Potter, and Huck is more or less protected even though he exists on the fringes of society.
Tom too is an orphan who has been taken in by Aunt Polly out of love and filial responsibility. Injun Joe is the only resident of St. Petersburg who is completely excluded from the community. Only after Injun Joe’s death are the townspeople able to transform him, through their manipulation of his memory, into a tolerable part of St.
Petersburg society. Huck’s exclusion means that many of the other children are not allowed to play with him. He receives no structured education, and often he does not even have enough to eat or a place to sleep. Twain minimizes these concerns, however, in favor of presenting the freedom that Huck’s low social status affords him. Huck can smoke and sleep outside and do all the things that the other boys dream of, with very little constraint.
Huck’s windfall at the end of the novel, when the boys find the treasure, threatens to stifle his freedom. The Widow Douglas attentions force Huck to change his lifestyle, something Huck would probably never choose to do on his own. By linking Huck’s acquisition of the treasure with his assimilation into St. Petersburg society, Twain emphasizes the association between financial standing and social standing. Besides the obvious fact that money is an important ingredient in social acceptance, it also becomes clear that social existence is itself a kind of economy, in which certain costs accompany certain benefits.
The price of social inclusion is a loss of complete freedom. This book represents America and its struggle within her self and its society. Even though the book is excluded from some school’s and not many understand its meaning it gives out a good message and makes the reader think a bit more about society and the many roles we are forced to play in it.