Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer are Mark Twain’s two most memorable characters. Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn experience a life of adventure in and out of role-play, weaving through danger with a childish disregard for personal well being. Even though they are quite alike due to age and hometown, their differences outweigh their similarities. Some of these differences include their upbringing, education, and morality.
Tom’s upbringing is typical for this time period. He belongs to a middle class family made up of himself, his Aunt Polly, and his half brother, Sid. Tom is obsessed with stories of heroes and villains.
He spends his spare time trying to pull together a group of robbers made of the other boys in the neighborhood. Huck’s father is a poor alcoholic who habitually beats his son when he is drunk. All their money goes to support his addiction. In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer find $6000 and the Widow Douglas adopts Huck to “sivilize” him. The Widow’s house is the only place where Huck lives as a human being. He wears nice clothes, eats well, and attends school and church on a regular basis.Growing up in a structured household, Tom has been forced to attend school ever since he reached the proper age to do so.
Huck’s only academic experience is when the Widow Douglas tries to civilize him after Tom and he finds the $6000 in a cave. She forces him to attend school and he learns how to read and write. He has been attending school for over a year when his father shows up and steals him from the Widow. He takes him deep into the woods, and tells him, “You drop that school, you hear? I’ll learn people to bring up a boy to put on airs over his own father and let on to be better’n’ what he is.
You lemme catch you fooling around that school again, you hear I can’t read; and here you’re a-swelling yourself up like this. I ain’t the man to stand it-you hear?” (20) After this, Huck is forbidden to attend school and is forced to stay in a run down shack in the woods, isolated from his friends and the stable life he was finally adapting to.Tom has been raised in a society with morals and values; a society where black people are slaves to the whites and Christianity is the only way to go. However, Tom is bent on being a criminal, and he will do exactly the opposite of what he feels is right to accomplish this goal. Huck was raised away from the society that Tom grew up in. He knows that the world around him, embraces their code of ethics, and tries to abide by them, but he cannot force himself to do what he feels is unjust and evil, like turning Jim in instead of lying to everyone to protect his friend. Tom wants to cause trouble, while Huck indirectly causes trouble by doing what he feels obligated to by conscience.
One example of Huck trying to cause minimal trouble while doing what he feels is right is when Tom and he are trying to free Jim. Huck simply suggests that they steal the key and sneak him away on the raft. This isn’t sufficient to Tom, because there is no danger involved.
Tom comes up with an elaborate plan that will take weeks to complete. He involves everything that he had learned from books, such as Jim has to grow a flower in his cell with his tears before he can escape. Tom Sawyer spends his time trying to get into a more complex situation through use of his self-proclaimed intelligence, while Huck merely uses reason as a means of getting out of situations.Tom and Huck are very different people. As boys, they share a common interest in adventure seeking, but on a deeper level Huck Finn is much more of an upstanding individual.
Huck will develop a sense of self-assurance as he grows older, and may be able to avoid the mistakes of his father and become something worthwhile as an adult. However, Tom’s since of adventure will carry over to his adult life, and he will content himself with being a scam artist not unlike the King and the Duke.