A look at American classics: "Huckleberry Finn" and "To Kill a Mockingbird".

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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.

miranda holtan