A Look on American Classics
As Huck Finn travels down the Mississippi River, he stumbles upon some
people that are new to him. Scout rediscovers many of her fellow students,
and close neighbors and she must endure the horrors of mans feelings and
stereotypes. There are many things she does not understand, or is not meant
to. Despite this, she seems to see through the cloud of deception wrought by
her antediluvian elders, with the lantern of a pure, compassionate child.
Three major themes that Mark Twain and Harper Lee explore in Huckleberry
Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird are appearance versus reality, the corruption
and materialism of humans, and the importance of compassion.
Many people have secrets. Huck Finn has many encounters with the dangerous
fruit of secrets. Huck fools Jim many times, and tricks him into thinking,
"You couldn't 'a' got drunk in that time, so of course you've been dreaming"
(84)! When, in reality, he wasn't dreaming and there really was fog.
he started to "'terperet" (84) it felt like he was trying to make his life
easier by making up an explanation for things he doesn't understand. As Huck
is trying to free Jim under the guise of Tom Sawyer, the real Tom Sawyer
says, "I'll help you steal him"(226)! despite his image of Negro
indifference. It comes to show you that people aren't always what they seem.
People also try to get things they want through deception. Huck and company
trick the little slave boy into thinking "It's de dad-blame' witches" (237)!
They also find out later that the "Old man with a baldhead and whiskers"
(120), the King, looked quite humble, but was in fact very corrupt.
In To Kill a Mockingbird many people are not what they appear. They live two
lives, one that everyone sees, and one that they keep deep, down, and
concealed. Mr. Cunningham first appeared to be a lowly, unkempt man, but in
actuality, "The Cunningham's never took what they could not pay back" (20)
showing that many people are different than their appearance. Also Mrs.
Dubose "Wanted to die beholden to nothing and nobody" (111) regardless of
her old age and dependence on Morphine. Mayella Ewell is at an impasse when
it comes to making her mind up on who raped her, "Why don't you tell the
truth, child, didn't Bob Ewell beat you up" (187)? When Mr. Ewell was
stabbed, Atticus thought Jem was very brave to try and save Scout from Bob
Ewell, although, "Jem never stabbed Bob Ewell" (268). Arthur Radley saved
the children but "I walked him home like a gentleman" (270) and the outer
shell of a human's appearance is almost always deceiving, you must sincerely
know the person's true intentions.
Great philosophers have said that greed is a part of human nature, a
defining characteristic of humanity. There are many examples in Huckleberry
Finn, in which people steal, betray, and beguile one and other. Old Pap Finn
was an especially greedy man, mostly fueled by his intense alcoholism. "His
lawyer said he would win and get the money if they ever got started on the
trial"(25), he desperately needed he money to quench his alcoholic
obsession. The Grangerfords were also had an extremely corrupt family
system. Whatever the fathers said must happen, will happen even if deadly,
"Oh, yes, Pa knows [about the feuds beginning] but they don't know what the
row was about in the first place" (108). The Duke and King were masters of
their trade getting, "Four hundred and sixty-five dollars in one night. I
never see money hauled in by the wagonload like that." (152) They got away
with their crimes, dared to do it again, and showed us that the criminal
mind repeats itself. The Duke and King are good at other things too, they
are exceptional at keeping their act of royalty up to the last, but in the
end, "You're the worst imitation I ever heard. You're a fraud, that's what
you are!" (169) Tom and Huck need to steal some things so they can rescue
Jim, and Mrs. Phelps doesn't take lightly to this almost going crazy and
yelling, "Cler out from here, you hussy, er I'll take a skillet to ye"
To Kill a Mockingbird is saturated with the greed and corruption of the
Human race. It shows the attitude and disposition toward life. Mr. Ewell
can, "spend his relief check on green whiskey, [while] his children have a
way of crying of hunger pains." (31) How a man can spend money starving his
children is beyond me. Mr. Ewell is a recurring character in this theme, it
seems he was even, "allowed to hunt and trap out of season." (31). These
greedy and corrupted people have gotten the idea that rules and laws do not
apply to them, so they can break the law to suit them, and in this case make
Tom Robinson, "Guilty . . . Guilty . . . Guilty . . . Guilty . . . " (211).
They also don't care much for education either, believing instead that, "No
schoolteacher ever born c'n make me do nothing!" (30) The group of men that
visit Atticus at the jail find Jem and Scout there, wanting them out one
man, "grabs Jem roughly by the collar" (152), showing people will go to
great lengths to get what they want.
The world in which we live has many people with the virtue of compassion,
the ability to aid others while they are feeling down. Friend's share one of
the strongest bonds formed, they stick together and help each other out.
Consequently, " I [Huck] was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world,
and the only one he's got right now," (214) and sets off to go and steal Jim
back. Huck also had another friend, Tom and he was "a nigger stealer." (226)
We really think that the widow
was a wicked old lady until the end of the story when she finds it in her
heart to, "set him free in her will." (290) Another important event in the
story is when the doctor refuses to let the townspeople hang Jim because,
"he ain't a bad nigger," (285) the doctor's compassionate heart can't let
Jim get hanged. The Grangerfords were also compassionate and let the
starving Huck, "get somthin' to eat."
Compassion is very evident in the To Kill a Mockingbird story. Atticus has
much tenderness for others and even lets Mr. Cunningham, "pay with
potatoes." (18) The whole community has a sense of compassion when they
give the Ewell's relief checks, even though; "he spends it on green
whiskey." (31) Children have an innate sense of compassion, they have not
been exposed to the horrors of racism, and Dill says, "Hasn't anybody got
business talkin' like that - it just makes me sick." (199) Atticus always is
courteous to Mayella even though she thinks he is, "givin' me his sass."
(182) Also, the mysterious Boo is kind to the children when he, "covered up
Scout with the blanket." (72)
All in all the world has its redeeming qualities and its downfalls, and
people always find a way to exploit each other. In the end most people find
the good in their hearts and let that show, because they know it's right.
The others, however, find a way to do bad for their own gain, however small.
People are puzzling, and they don't know who they really are.