Realism Versus Romanticism in Huck Finn

Topics: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain Pages: 10 (4090 words) Published: February 9, 2012
Charlie Hoffmann
Mr. Kearney
Amer. Lit. & Comp./3
17 December 2009
Huck Rejects Romanticism
In every man’s life he faces a time that defines his maturation from boyhood to manhood. This usually comes from a struggle that the boy faces in his life. In Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck’s defining moment of maturity is Huck’s struggle with Tom in helping Jim escape. Tom sends Huck and Jim through a wild adventure to free Jim because of his Romantic thinking. Tom represents society and its Romantic ideals while Huck struggles to break away from these and become his own realist individual. These Romantic ideas lead Huck into many dangerous situations that pit Huck and Jim as Realist individuals versus a society infused with Romantic ideals.

Huck first begins to realize that he and Tom have different viewpoints before he leaves St. Petersburg. Huck joins Tom’s gang of robbers, which Tom creates because of the Romantic types of books he reads. Huck originally is excited about joining the gang and contributing in its activities. He changes his mind though once Tom tricks them into thinking they are robbing “Spaniards and A-Rabs” (Twain 13) which turned out to be just a school picnic. This is Huck’s first moment where he begins to realize that maybe Tom’s Romantic ideas are flawed. Huck tries to confront Tom on his adventures, but Tom defends his stance by saying it was in a book he read (Twain 13). This shows that Tom believes that because something is in a book it must be true (“The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”). Huck does not necessarily see how this could be true. At the end of the chapter he says, “So then I judged that all that stuff was only just one of Tom Sawyer’s lies” (Twain 14). This shows how Huck is beginning to realize that Tom’s Romantic ways are not as good as Tom thinks they are. Huck tries to reason why Tom would believe in this stuff but cannot convince Tom he is wrong because what Tom believes is in books. Tom is able to return any of Huck’s arguments by saying what he believes is true because society accepts it as truth. This part of the novel introduces the reader to the conflict between Huck’s Realist ideals versus Tom’s Romantic beliefs.

Huck ends up getting himself and Jim into a lot of trouble with a group of robbers because of the influence of Tom’s Romantic ideals. When Huck first encounters the robbers he is excited and wishes Tom was with him because this was something he would like (Twain 67). In this part of the novel Huck represents the Romantic ideals because he is the one going out and looking for adventure, while Jim represents the realist because he does not see what good could come out of the situation. Huck convinces Jim to go along with him because he uses the Romanticized adventures of Christopher Columbus (Twain 67). Huck soon realizes though that this adventure gets a lot more real when he encounters the murders. When he realizes that they are real killers, Huck reconsiders the greatness of the adventure. He becomes scared once he realizes the dangers that the adventure presents. Once Huck slips away from the murderers, he says, “Shut up on a wreck with such a gang as that! But it warn’t no time to be sentimenting” (Twain 70). This shows how Huck’s change of mindset from having beliefs influenced by a Romantic society into the realist idea of the dangers of the adventure. This shows how Huck has changed and realizes the dangers this Romantic adventure could bring. Huck gets him and Jim into this dangerous situation because of the Romantic beliefs of Tom and society. Huck begins to change into a Realist after he encounters the murderers.

Huck and Tom are thinking up plans to find out where Jim is and this is when Tom begins to influence Huck with his Romantic ideals again. Huck came up with a good and safe plan to find out where Jim was. Tom, though, cannot go along with it because he thought it was too simple (Twain 232). His Romantic ideals lead...
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