Difference Between Tom and Huck in The Huckleberry Finn

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      It is true that Tom and Huck, though approximately the same age, are very different from each other. They are poles apart not only in their respective backgrounds but also in all other aspects.


      A fourteen-year-old adolescent, Huck is an uneducated lad who doesn't have any cares and concerns in the world. Though he has a father, he is practically an orphan. Pap, his father is hardly a person whom the son can emulate or rely upon for emotional or financial support. Huck has a guardian in Widow Douglas but he does not find himself ready enough to adhere to the conventions expected of him. The novel begins with Huck being 'reformed' by the widow. Despite her endeavors, Huck does not have the polish and refinement of an average middle-class existence. While Huck belongs to the lowest rung of the "white society", Tom has a more respectable upbringing. He has all the privileges that a decent life needs - a good house, clean clothes; he goes to school and has the benefits of education. He is brought up by his guardian, Aunt Polly.

      Ostensibly, Huck's life might seem extremely attractive and carefree to a young teenager. The former does not have to go to school. As a result of his circumstances, he has the concession to living the way he wants to; he can smoke a pipe and relax without the burden of studies and all the tensions accompanying education. In his way of life, there are absolutely no restrictions. Apparently, he is happy to be in his "rags" ana sugar hogshead", but from an unprejudiced perspective, his existence is nothing less than a nightmare. His father is a ruffian who is absconding for days on end. Moreover, he doesn't receive the security that is mandatory for a young boy to lead an emotionally and psychologically healthy and secure life.


      The way Huck has been brought up affects his character, disposition, values, and relationships throughout the novel. Though, all his life, Huck has lived in a milieu that supports slavery and he has been brought up in an environment that condones the ill-treatment that is meted out to slaves, he has certain life experiences that help him form his own paradigm for "right" and "wrong". A rendezvous with incidents in his life steer him towards developing his moral codes. These are different from what has been ingrained in his mind by the society that he lives in.

      His decision to help Jim, the runaway slave, might be termed wrong by society. But, after an arduous mental conflict, Huck expounds on his standards. It is not an easy task for him. He has to submit to the everlasting fire". On one hand, his conscience chides him for being mean to Miss Watson who has done him a good turn. There is a tussle between the "wisdom of society" and Huck's inner voice. But finally, he has the intellect and astuteness to end this dilemma by deciding to go to Hell. His final decision - "All right, then, I'll go to hell" - is the culmination of his journey towards emotional maturity and leads to an evolution of his conscience. He has developed the ability to take his decision himself rather than being a puppet in the hands of "society". The scene, in which he writes a letter to Miss Watson, is one of the most powerful scenes in Literature.

      Huck also shows his morality when he decides to return the stolen money to the Wilks' girls and escape from the Duke and King after the burial. He has, all through, been cognizant of the fraudulent ways of the "King" and the "Duke". In this sense, he has been party to it, especially when the two swindlers dupe the townspeople with their "Royal Nonesuch" performance. But, when he realizes that he can, no longer, turn a blind eye to their claptrap, he takes his decision to expose them. No longer can he be a mute spectator to the entire game of pretense. This is another incident for us to witness the evolution of his morality. Beyond his unsophisticated exterior, Huck reveals the fact that he is, in fact, more "Christian" than the older lot.


      Huck and Tom have the traditional 'best-friend' bond in many ways. Together, they look for adventure; become part of the 'gang of robbers', and like to spend time with each other. But their attitude towards important situations remains essentially different. Tom, as a result of education and bookish knowledge, has had access to stories of adventure and romantic feats. His mind is full of exalted notions of heroism and chivalry. He likes to carry things out, with all the frills and fancies, in the archetypal quixotic style. But Huck's ideas, sans the romantic paraphernalia, are more unadorned and simple. He judges things as he sees them, without giving a thought to the intangible. When Tom's robber gang succeeds in terrorizing a group of school kids, on a Sunday-school picnic, Huck refuses to be carried away by any illusions. He realizes that their plunder is not "di'monds", but "some doughnuts and jam". What Tom perceives as "julery" is nothing but "turnips and stuff".

      When we get to the end of the novel, in Chapter 33, Tom makes a comeback. He agrees to help Huck in his attempts to save Jim from the shackles of slavery. Huck points out that lim can easily be set free by raising the leg of the bed to which his chain has been tied. But Tom is appalled at Huck's suggestion. He wants to go through convoluted means of achieving their goals. Anything straight and simple is, after all, a slur on the supremacy of all the romantic and adventurous literature. Huck acquiesces to Tom's ostentatious plans is not because he feels the latter is right but simply because he has the astuteness to realize that he needs Tom's help to get to his goal. He cannot get on to his wrong side. So he pretends to go along with Tom.


      Another feature of Huck's personality is his intelligence. Despite being uneducated and coarse, he exhibits a more intellectual approach as compared to Tom. Tom has read many books, can do Math, and recite spellings. He can read and write. But he is not as worldly-wise as Huck is. Huck's lack of formal education does, in no way, impede his powers of rational thinking. On the contrary, considering that he is a boy of fourteen years, he displays more intelligence than an average boy of the same age. His circumstances and upbringing has, to a great extent, contributed towards this maturity and wisdom. He has an abusive father who beats him up mercilessly. Miss Watson is also quite intolerant towards his pranks and slips. Whenever he is in trouble, he manages to extricate himself from it beautifully. He cooks up a plethora of stories to save his skin and also to save Jim from trouble. He demonstrates his agility of mind in various situations throughout the novel. From his ingenuity in faking his murder to the different names he thinks of in order to conceal his identity to his fib in front of the two slave hunters in chapter 16, are indicative of the fact that he is a quick thinker.

      Despite all the, from Huck's point of view, Tom is better and more intelligent than him. He feels intimidated by the latter's creativity. In the scene, where he fakes his own murder (Chapter 7), he misses Tom's presence because he feels that the latter could add more "fancy touches" to the entire game. He says, "I did wish Tom Sawyer was there; I knew he would take an interest in this kind of business, and throw in the fancy touches. Nobody could spread himself like Tom Sawyer in such a thing as that". Another instance is when, in order to hide his tracks, he decides to make his escape on the canoe. He thinks, "And they'll follow that meal track to the lake and go browsing down the creek that leads out of it to find the robbers that killed me and took the things. They won't ever hunt the river for anything but my dead carcass. They'll soon get tired of that, and won't bother no more about me".

      Again, in Chapter 12, when he and Jim bump into the wrecked steamboat, Huck feels tempted to go and look inside the steamboat. Considering Tom as his icon, he reasons with Jim saying.

"Do you reckon Tom Sawyer would ever go by this thing? Not for pie, he wouldn't. He'd call it an adventure - that's what he'd call it, and he'd land on that wreck if it was his last act. And wouldn't he throw style into it? - wouldn't he spread himself, nor nothing? Why, you'd think it was Christopher Columbus discovering Kingdom - Come. I wish Tom Sawyer was here".

      Huck displays more wisdom of the world as compared to Tom. He has learned to realize that certain people, like Pap, can just not be reformed. Therefore, the best way to avoid trouble with them is to let them be. He admits, "If I never learnt nothing else out of pap, I learned that the best way to get along with his kind of people is to let them have their own way". Quite early in his acquaintance with the "King" and the "Duke, he realizes that they are frauds and "low humbugs". But he decides to simply let them be. He wants peace on the raft and his ultimate goal is not to reform these mean people but to help attain his freedom. He acknowledges the fact that flexibility is one's viewpoint is essential. You see it your way; I'll see it mine point of view". How many thirteen - year old, after all, could boast of such maturity? We cannot credit Tom, with all his school-going and book-learning, with a scrap of this intelligence.

University Questions also can be Answered:

Tom and Huck are completely different from each other in nearly every way. Substantiate your answer in the context of the novel, Huckleberry Finn.
Contrast Huck's morality with that of Tom. How are they different?
Huck's views are very different from every other character in this novel. Substantiate.

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