Mark Twain As Philosopher

.. true murder story, letting an innocent man go free (Twain 147). Twain wrote a better closing for Tom than he ever had in real life, because in real life murder was a part of everyday life. Huck’s life is also similar to Twain’s, but not in such a direct way. Twain, and many of his main characters (Paul 1175), including Tom, are fatherless.

Huck, and assumedly his real-life counterpart’s father is a “filthy,” abusive drunk and is often absent (Twain 17, 27). Huck is a dirt-poor boy who is practical for the sake of survival. Huck sees things in such a straightforward manner–as opposed to the soft-focus way of both Twain as a child and Tom– that the coming of age is very abrupt. Huck also grew up on the river, but, unlike Tom and Twain, he was so poor that he could not live in a house, or have the motivation to go to school or Sunday School. One of Tom’s dreams was to live a carefree, rule-free life on the Mississippi River, and he attempts that when he escapes to the island.

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Twain wanted a life on the river, and eventually became a steam-boat pilot (Sanderlin 25). But Huck, on the other hand, actually lived the river life as a boy. His oppressive father abducted him (31), so he ran away and floated down the lazy Mississippi with Jim (the slave of Miss Watson), who was escaping the most oppressive level of society. For a time, Huck and Jim lived a carefree life. This is the true realisation of Twain’s boyhood dream.

Because Jim was a runaway slave, Huck himself actually considered turning Jim over to the authorities. In a grand moment of “crisis of conscience” (Derwin 6), Huck finally decides to do what is wrong and not turn Jim in. This is evidence of his practical mind leading to a heart-warming conclusion. But Tom is such a romantic that he instigates an elaborate plot to liberate Jim, even though he knows the truth that Miss Watson died and Jim was made free. This demonstrates Tom’s lack of conscience over the conscience that is blatant in Huck.

Twain wrote Huck’s character to be the boy he should have been morally, and wrote Tom to be the boy he was. TAOTS lets the reader into the mind of Twain. When a boy witnesses evil and loses his innocence, he becomes an adult. Tom witnesses the murder in the graveyard and becomes very sad until he tells the truth. This period of melancholy is a transition for Tom.

He can no longer see the world as his playground, he now has to see the shadows, the ‘bad’ people of society, along with what is good. He told the truth about the gold and the haunted house, even though he did not want to. Tom ran away to Jackson Island to escape society that was oppressing him by not letting him have fun. It was on the island that he learned independence was not all it ‘cracked up to be.’ Twain had to act like an adult at that age, so here he was saying that boys have to behave like boys before they can become men. When Tom was lost in the cave in Chapter Thirty he was forced to become the adult because Becky was behaving like a child.

He had already been exposed to reality so he was prepared to take the responsibility of comforting her and not letting her worry. In Chapter Sixteen Tom and Joe were not ready to smoke, but Huck was ready to experience some part of adult life. Huck had always taken care of himself. When he was abducted by his father he was realistic about his situation and practical in his plan of escape. Philosophically, Twain wants to show the reader that the boys’ loss of innocence is how they became mature adults rather than remain impractical or conscienceless boys as they had been before.

Adulthood could be a culmination of events ending in a review that brings one to change their outlook. But Twain’s life was more dramatic. His father died and he was thrust into the ‘real world,’ his school of life without much warning. Tom saw the murder and came to an eventual conclusion: that men can be cruel and so can God, but what one does personally is what is important. Huck came to this same conclusion more smoothly.

He had always seen society as bad for him. The social mores of education and religion never did much for him, and social institutions like class structure and manners were even worse. He accepts having to behave civilised, but thinks his own way, for example that slavery is not fair. Mark Twain began writing AOHF before TAOTS, but had to put it aside. When he started up again he wrote TAOTS for money but kept TAOHF in it’s pure form.

TAOHF is his commentary on: society–that it does no good; on religion–that only fools believe in it; and on men–that they do evil but can do good. But essentially the novels are simple local-colour stories of boyhood and the journey to manhood in a romantic, and alternatively, in a realist. Bibliography Bailey, Thomas A; and Kennedy, David M. The American Pageant: A History of the Republic. Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath and Company, 1991.

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