On one level, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is just a tale of a few mischievous kids and their charismatic leader, Tom Sawyer, getting into trouble. On another level, it is the story of the real damage that can result from seemingly innocent adventures. Tom Sawyer is at the center of this narrative. He cons Ben Rogers into washing the fence for him. He lets Potter go on trial for a murder that Tom knows Potter did not commit. Tom lies to his aunt many times. Worst of all, Tom allows the entire town to believe that he and his friends have drowned.
He does eventually come clean to save Potter. He also has deep regrets about the pain he ends up causing. It is hard to pin Tom Sawyer down morally because he acts in ways that hurt others, but when he realizes the consequences of his actions, he is often regretful.
It is a fair argument to say Tom Sawyer should be forgiven for all his mistakes. After all, he is just a child. He seems to understand that the things he has done hurt people, and he regrets them. Tom even goes to lengths to make the people he has hurt feel better. However, it would be difficult to argue that Tom would not make many of the same choices all over again. After Tom and Becky nearly died in a cave, Tom still brings Huck back to that same cave to find gold. While he presumably knew where he was going that time, the danger still remained. Tom caused immense grief and sadness for his aunt Polly when he allowed her to believe that he and his friends were dead. He even went so far as to come back to his house to spy on Aunt Polly, who was grieving for him, without ever revealing himself because it would have “ruined the surprise.” There is sincere regret for each of these actions, yet they still occur many times.
The question remains for Tom Sawyer. Perhaps Tom would not be seen as morally complex if he was an adult. He would be cast as manipulative, selfish, and callous. His youth muddies up the discussion. There has to be a point at which the moral immunity of his youth wears off. What Tom Sawyer’s character makes so difficult is where that point is.
Enjoy reading one more literary analytical essay example.
The history of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is famous and well-known in the world. It must be clear that, as any high-quality story, it must have some sense of morality to it. It is important that the story still stays interesting for researchers to study. One can notice that they are interested not only in the main moral of the whole story but more about the morality of the main character. The case of Huckleberry Finn seems to be quite interesting, taking into account the factors that have an impact on him. Reading the story, it is apparent that Huckleberry is surrounded by the common morality of his time and environment. However, when it is time to act in some way, Huckleberry Finn behaves in the way that seems to be right for him and modern readers, not for the sources of common morals that could affect him. In this way, considering the sources of Huckleberry’s morality, the reader can notice not only different external sources but also his feelings about right and wrong.
Considering the moral values and the source of morality for Huckleberry Finn, Schinkel, who cited Copeland, writes that “whereas Miss Watson tries to get Huck to behave by telling him ‘all about the bad place,’ the widow, in a more Stoic frame of mind, teaches Huck to pray for ‘spiritual gifts,’ which means, as Huck says, ‘I must help other people, and do everything I could for other people, and look out for them all the time, and never think about myself’ [. . .]” (516). Considering the following behavior of Huckleberry Finn, it is clear that the widow’s morale had more impact on him. Huckleberry’s representations of morals, even though they were not strictly formulated, were closer to the widow’s morals. At least he agreed with the idea of helping other people, particularly his friends and people who were kind to him. Independence is an important feature of Huckleberry Finn. However, he, like any other person, can not avoid the impact of environmental factors. Thus, he can accept or ignore the morals which Miss Watson and the widow tried to instill in him. However, beyond these two women, there is one more source of morality that had an impact on Huckleberry Finn.
One of the main points related to the morals of Huckleberry Finn is his interaction with his friend, the fugitive black slave Jim. In this relationship, the morality of Huckleberry Finn becomes clear. On the one hand, “in his earliest years, Huck wasn’t taught any principles, and the only ones he has encountered since then are those of rural Missouri, in which slave-owning is just one kind of ownership and is not subject to critical pressure” (Bennett). In this way, whether he accepts it or not, the environment has an impact on Huckleberry. On the other hand, Huck allows Jim to escape and helps him on their following travels. This fact clearly shows that beyond the common rural Missouri morality, Huckleberry has another one that makes him act the way he does in helping Jim.
Considering the moral issue of Huckleberry Finn, Schinkel wrote that “Huck somehow has to deal with two alternately dominant manifestations of the concerned awareness we call conscience” (515). The researcher pays attention to the fact that “one of them is articulate, taking its standard from conventional morality; the other is mute and has no articulable standard to go by – Huck cannot articulate any standard on this side, because the whole of his moral vocabulary is in service of the first” (Schinkel 515). In this way, the researcher emphasizes and shows the issue of two different morals that Huckleberry has. On the one hand, he has the morality that society and certain people tried to instill in him. On the other hand, Huckleberry has his own morals, his own feeling about right and wrong behavior and actions. What is more important, even the second type is not articulable; this type of morality, not the first one, makes Huckleberry act in the way he does and helps Jim. In this way, considering sources of Huckleberry’s morality, one can consider not only the different external sources such as society in general or particular people who have impact on Huckleberry but also his feelings about right and wrong.
In this way, there are different sources of Huckleberry’s morality. There are two women, Miss Watson and the widow, who tried to instill in him their own morals. One more source is the common morality of his time, which can impact Huckleberry from the different people and different sources, but he could not avoid it. However, the actions of Huckleberry are not caused by any of those morals. Thus, the sources of Huckleberry’s morality can be separated into external and internal. The inner feelings and understanding of right and wrong is the most important for Huckleberry and causes his behavior, not the common morality of his time or the people who tried to instill their morality in him.
Bennett, Jonathan. “The Conscience of Huckleberry Finn.” Philosophy, vol. 49, no. 188, 1974, pp. 123–134.
Schinkel, Anders. “Huck Finn, Moral Language and Moral Education.” Journal of Philosophy of Education, vol 45, no. 3, 2011, pp. 511-525.