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This paper presents a descriptive analysis of four characters of the novel “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” written by Mark Twain. Besides, the paper compares and contrasts such duos as Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, and Pap Finn and Jim the slave. In fact, these very characters were chosen for the analysis and arranged in such pairs not accidentally; such choice is caused by the differences in characters’ ways of living and nature.


Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer are two perfectly known characters among the American readers. Indeed, they are the most prominent duo in the whole American literature. In fact, these two boys absolutely differ from each other in almost everything. One can even say that Huck and Tom are polar opposites in terms of essential living conditions and the ways they view and perceive the world. While the differences in their way of living are obvious for the readers, the differences in their perception of the world and each other require a deeper analysis. Besides the main characters, there are two other characters that can be compared since they are also extremely different. They are Pap Finn, the father of Huckleberry Finn, and Jim, the slave. They are not as important as Huck and Tom, but also play a significant role in the novel.

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Huckleberry Finn versus Tom Sawyer

Way of Living

The boys are different even though they both are orphans. Huckleberry is alone and lonely; he has no home. Besides, his father is a town drunkard and absolutely pays no attention to his son. Moreover, when the father is drunken and angery, he even beats Huck viciously. Hence, there is no one who takes care of the boy. In contrast, Tom Sawyer lives with an aunt in a civilized household. She loves the boy and is tolerant to Tom’s boyish tricks, understands his childish whims and escapades, and is sincerely worried about his wellbeing.

While Huck sleeps in a cardboard box in someone’s shed, or in an empty hogsheads container, which is his favorite place for sleeping, Tom sleeps in a comfy bed at night. Besides, while Huck has to beg for food, Tom has three meals every day. In addition, the boys’ clothes are very different; Huck wears redundant overalls that are held up by one clasp and most frequently walks barefoot, and Tom is wearing clothes as a usual schoolboy.

Huckleberry Finn does not go to any school; in addition, no one invites him to parties. As an alternative, Huck is free from duties and can move in and out of the town. From time to time, he even disappears for some days; however, he is never missed. Talking about Tom, he goes to the conventional and highly regarded school. Moreover, he visits Sunday school, and people invite him to parties in their homes.

In contrast to Tom, Huckleberry is an outcast of civilization. Rather than obeying the rules, the boy enjoys his freedom beyond all the limits of the society. In fact, Huck cannot bear the parameters of living in a normal household, which require no use of bad language, no smoking, wearing appropriate garments, keeping straight hours, and obeying the rules of proper behavior, especially table manners. Talking about Tom Sawyer’s life, one could not but mention that it is bound by the social order, set of rules and laws, and adequate behavior (Aspiz, 1995), whereas Huck Finn’s life is full of freedom and is free to come and go whenever and wherever he wants.

One can perfectly see one more difference between Huck and Tom when they are on Jackson’s Island. Tom feels guilty because of stealing food for the tri; although he says his bedtime prayers, this feeling does not let him fall asleep. In contrast, Huck does not have any feeling of being guilty and does not bother about any prayers. He feels no pangs about stealing or borrowing some items.

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The Way They Perceive the World and Life

Huckleberry does not read books; nevertheless, his mind is able to perform acts that would break out Sawyer’s erudite imagination. Tom is a romantic dreamer, while Huck is a pragmatic and practical realist. Tom Sawyer’s mind is filled with creative schemes that he borrowed from adventure stories that he has read.

Unlike Sawyer, Finn’s life is unsophisticated. Huck has no desire and ambition to be civilized. The boy hates the idea of propriety and deprecates the necessity of going to school, being dressed in proper suitable clothing and shoes. This all is against Huck’s nature; therefore, he cannot even imagine himself doing these things. Unfortunately, this includes quitting using bad language and smoking.

Being an outcast, Huck is not controlled by rules of the society in contrast to Tom. Instead, the boy’s courtesy is innate but not learned. In turn, Tom, being a member of the society, knows the limits and bounds of that civilized culture and sticks to these limitations and rules. As any child, Tom longs for pranks and some tricks; however, he always keeps in mind the rules of the social order, which he follows. Nonetheless, there is much hypocracy. For instance, when he needs to go to the town, he finds a reason to go alone since he has no desire to be seen with not respectable Huckleberry.

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Their Attitude to Each Other

Obviously, Tom Sawyer envies Huck Finn’s freedom. As it is known from the Mark Twain’s book, Sawyer cannot stand going to church, visiting Sunday school, and washing. The boy skips classes at regular school and stays away from doing tasks such as whitewashing the fence. Besides, Tom envies Huckleberry’s simple and free way of living (Wolff, 2010). Paradoxically, all the boys, including Tom Sawyer, who have a strong desire to be as free as Huck is and are jealous of his way of life, could not survive under the conditions that Huck faces.

However, while Tom is jealous of Finn’s lifestyle, the latter admires Sawyer’s book-learning and perceives him as a perfect model of civilized behavior. Huckleberry does not question the boy’s knowledge when Sawyer tells what pirates wear; he simply admires Sawyer and eagerly follows him. Finally, Tom Sawyer is a conventional person to the society and its limits, while Huckleberry Finn is an outcast, nonconformist, and a free soul who treasures his own freedom.

Pap Finn versus Jim

Jim and Pap Finn are characters that are also worth to be analyzed. Jim embodies all the good qualities of the active hero including love, faith, loyalty, compassion, wisdom, and strength. His readiness to forfeit his freedom and life for two young boys represents him as a classic compassionate character. In contrast to Jim, there is repugnant Pap Finn in the novel who is viewed as the most deplorable and loathsome character in terms of illustrating the characteristics of a wicked, fetid world.

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Together with Pap’s clear lack of confidence toward Huck, readers also get a startling picture of what the boy could become if he was trusted to the parental control of Pap. The boy’s past life at home is worsened by his father’s continuous verbal warnings. When Huck and his father meet each other for the first time, Pap Finn’s threats of violence are so slapdash that he becomes a hilarious figure. For Huckleberry, the drunken anger of Pap is neither surprising nor spiteful; this is a part of his life, and the boy reports his threats with a tone of apathy and indifference.

The following passages depict slapstick, comical version of Huck’s father cursing the government that would take away his only son and denouncing a nation that would permit Afro-Americans to vote.

Pap Finn’s role as an offensive parental figure is troubling but essentially significant to the novel since it makes a sharp contrast to the caring and heroic Jim. When Jim and Huck come across the hovering frame-house in chapter nine, they find out a dead man surrounded by a variety of items. Jim looks over the corpse and tells Huckleberry to come into the house and not to look at the face of the dead man. Jim’s deed resembles that of a caring parent, but the symbolism of that deed is not completely recognized till the last chapter of the novel. In the last chapter, Huck tells that the dead man near the house was Pap Finn understanding that Pap will not abuse or worry him ever again. With this understanding, readers now perceive Jim’s earlier act as a deed of an sympathetic and compassionate character, and, in this sense, Jim can be considered as a father figure. Hopefully, considering Jim as a role model, Huckleberry is able to become heir to the marvelous and praiseworthy qualities, which Jim possesses.


According to the presented analysis, it is easy to conclude that Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer are two completely different individualities. The only thing that they have in common is their orphanage. As for the rest, they differ in everything. One can see that Huckleberry is a mischievous child that uses bad language, cheats, lies and so on, but it is obvious that he has innate politeness and kindness. Huck is kind, sincere, and open-hearted. This boy does not need to pretend, and he does not want to, because he is free to do everything he wants within the limits of the conditions he lives in. However, in spite of his freedom, the boy is not totally happy since he is very lonely. Besides, he looks up to Tom Sawyer and wants to be like him. In contrast to Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer is a rather reserved child that watches his manners and follows the rules established by the society. However, despite his good manners and behavior, Tom is not as open-hearted and sincere as Huck; he is a child, and, from time to time, he wants and needs to play some childish tricks, but he restricts himself. To sum up, both boys have positive and negative features, but they perfectly complement each other.

Talking about such characters as Pap and Jim, one can also see that they are absolutely different in every aspect. Pap is an alcoholic who is, in fact, weak and miserable. Besides, he abuses his only son. This man can evoke only two feelings in readers – sympathy and disgust. In contrast to him, Jim is a real hero who would be a much better father for Huck. Jim is brave, kind, generous and, importantly, caring.