Monday, February 8, 2016

Double Review: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Author: Mark Twain
Publication Date: 1876 and 1884
Pages: 225 and 327
Genre: Classic
My Rating: 4 Starfish and 3 Starfish

*A non-spoiler review, but I do talk about a few well-known scenes from the book.

I thought about just reviewing "Tom Sawyer", but since these two characters are intertwined, I thought it best to review both books.

While the plots are well paced, and a lot of interesting events take place, I think that the focus should be on the characters, because quite frankly, they make the stories what they are.

Tom Sawyer is a regular, country boy, in the 19th century. He disobeys his aunt, he lies, and he doesn’t take anything seriously. When he lies and gets himself into trouble, he takes advantage of any opportunities he sees to get him out of whatever he got into. But it sometimes isn’t the best way to solve his problems. A perfect example of this is (in my humble opinion, the best part of the book) when he had to whitewash the fence. Tom isn’t one of the brightest characters in the book. But, if there’s something he wants or something he needs to get out of, he’ll think ahead and, most likely, take the easy way out.

Becky Thatcher was a great choice of love interest for Tom. She was high maintenance, and quite the spoiled brat, but because of her personality, Tom really shined. I thought that his love for her and the way he cared for her was adorable, and it added another layer of depth onto an already beautifully done character.

Children and adults can relate to this book, because it brings back past and present memories of their childhood and some of the ornery things they did to get what they wanted. Tom Sawyer is not the type of person that wants all the time. He is actually very down to earth even though, at times, he doesn’t want to show it. This is a similarity that Tom and Huck share.

"Huckleberry Finn" is the story of a young hoodlum, who is very misunderstood. He was beat by his drunken father, looked down on by the town’s folk, and forced to survive in the best ways he knew how.

Jim was a slave, and also Huck’s best friend. At a point in the story, Jim ran away and asked Huck to help him get up north to become a free man. Of course Huck agreed to help him, but then, he started wondering if helping Jim was the right thing to do. Huck is a truthful and reliable person and he really tried to do what he thought was best, although sometimes the moral dilemmas he got into forced him to do things he was uncomfortable doing.

One of the main traits that people reading these books will find, is Huck’s unusual intelligence. I say it is unusual because he had never been to school and had never learned to read or write. There are good examples of his intelligence throughout the book. (One chapter that I found appealing was where Huck had killed a wild boar and dragged its body on the ground to make it look like he was murdered.) This is another rare similarity between Tom and Huck. They both got themselves into situations that they had to get out of, even if it meant doing the wrong thing. However, their reasons for this were totally different. Tom would go to every extent to make a situation exciting and adventurous, no matter how serious it was. And usually he got himself into tight spots for the fun of it. But Huck tried hard not to wind up in any serious situation, because he hated lying and cheating people. Unfortunately, with his dad looking for him and the entire state of Missouri looking for Jim, it was almost impossible not to get into a mess somewhere. Thinking about all the pressure that Huck probably had sitting on his shoulders makes people, who read these stories, feel compassion and respect for him.

I can't explain why I love Tom so much more than Huck, but I would guess it probably has to do with the fact that he's a mischevious, little twerp. His adventures were supremely entertaining, and surprisingly, the story of his boyhood was very lighthearted because of that quality. I would still recommend "Tom Sawyer" over "Huckleberry Finn" simply because I feel like that story would be more enjoyable for a young person to read (and let's face it, we need more young people to get into the classics so that they can live on for generations to come). But both books are worth reading for anyone who loves a good, classic adventure.