Both Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby have been deemed chefs d'oeuvre of American literature ever since they were written in 1885 and 1925 respectively. Due to the fact that the two novels captured the zeitgeist of their time in an attractive and plausible fashion, they vaulted the authors onto the world’s literary stage. However, generations of children and adults alike around the world have thrilled to these marvelous novels. At first blush, it seems that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Great Gatsby are too different to be compared or analyzed in the same essay. However, having perused the two stories, one quickly fathoms out that they are permeated with similar themes. The present paper attempts to draw parallels between Huckleberry Finn’s admiration for Tom Sawyer and Nick Carraway’s admiration for Jay Gatsby and, otherwise, compare the two lines. It appears that both Huck and Nick had reasons to admire their friends, but the outcomes of these admirations were fundamentally different.
The Critical Analysis
Huckleberry Finn’s Admiration for Tom Sawyer
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was successful enough to inspire a sequel. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn occupies a special niche in the oeuvre of Samuel Clemens, who wrote under the nom de plume of Mark Twain. Despite the fact that the novel seems to be only about a picaresque adventure, it is, in fact, a serious book with a strong moral cornerstone. The fact that the author did not eschew the use of inflammatory racial epithets makes this book splendidly readable and robust as well as provokes deep cogitation. The plot of the novel revolves around the life of two persons from the lower echelons of society, namely an uneducated and uncouth boy escaping the terrors of his brutish father and a strapping, yet gentle, thrall escaping the yoke of the slave-holding interests. Yearning for greater freedom from the strictures of society unites the two of them. Although it is the relations between Huck and Jim that dominate the novel, the relationship between Huck and Tom is also interesting to analyze.
Tom and Huck are intimate friends, who have known each other for many years. They both have an uncanny knack for playing mischievous pranks and getting into trouble. Likewise, there is a streak of madness in them both and the realization that new worlds and new adventures lie ahead thrills them. At the outset of the story, the boys are portrayed as kindred spirits. It may be not accidental that Mark Twain decided to name one of the protagonists Huckleberry. Indeed, a colloquial non-pejorative term huckleberry friend evokes someone with whom one has a kind and carefree relationship. It is not clear whether the phrase originated before The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was written, but still, the mere possibility warrants serious consideration.
However, from the first pages of the book, it appears that the relationship between the two protagonists is built on Huck’s admiration for Tom. The latter is an educated romantic endowed with a vivid intellect and exuberant imagination. Although Huck is also an irredeemable optimist, he does not, or rather is not capable of, giving complete freedom of his imagination. As Huck had only a brief dalliance with education, he is mesmerized by Tom’s ability to read and write. What is more important, he admires Tom’s resourcefulness when it comes to inventing new games. Huck stands in awe of Tom and acquiesces to every demand and decision of his companion. Similarly, Huck is impressed with Tom’s endless erudition on a variety of topics, ranging from piracy and treasure hunting to banditry and jurisprudence. Judging by the highest standards, what Huck sees as Tom’s superior knowledge acts as a foil for his own ignorance and simple-mindedness. Such a contrast is strongly reminiscent of the distance between the two boys in social class. Nevertheless, despite a yawning cultural gulf that separates them, Huck does not cease to admire his friend. Huck looks up to his friend and is willing to do everything necessary to please Tom. When the latter admonishes his unmannerly friend to become more urbane and debonair to be eligible to join his gang, Huck falls for the ploy with the same alacrity as ever.
However, once Huck embarks on a voyage down the Mississippi River, he begins to reanalyze his relations with Tom. Huck still misses him and wishes Tom were there to give Huck a piece of advice. Huck feels like a stranded whale without Tom nearby. At the same time, doubts are already gnawing at the back of his mind. In the course of his rafting endeavor, Huck constantly ruminates on what Tom would do if he happened to be in the same situation. Nevertheless, Huck’s phlegm and determination carry him through many difficult situations, so that he copes with all the challenges single-handedly without Tom’s wise counsel. Huck becomes chary of making too many inadvertently offensive antics and grows up emotionally. He comes to realize that all people are different and discovers the real meaning of friendship. It is evident soon that Huck’s relationship with Jim is much deeper and meaningful than what is between Tom and Huck. Jim is an honest, sincere person with no need to dissimulate, not to mention that he is Huck’s compeer. Their friendship is built on genuine feelings and the principle of equality. Even though Jim is older than Huck, he never makes the mistake of condescending to his traveling companion. Conversely, Tom is being sanctimonious and deliberately leaves a gap between Huck and himself. Although Huck questions the moral values that Tom has instilled in him, he has not yet realized that his admiration for Tom is just an affectation.
Towards the end of the novel, Huck becomes more assured that his friendship with Tom lacks vital qualities. As the two boys meet again at the end of the novel, the contrast between them is glaring. Now it is Tom who behaves with reckless abandon, whilst Huck guides himself with reason. Huck’s profound rumination about his relationship with Tom has ameliorated his own conception of himself. Many ideas swirling in the mind of Tom seem repugnant to Huck, but he still does not realize that he has become wiser and more mature. Although he does not bestir himself to throw the worship for Tom overboard, Huck’s admiration for Tom has visibly dwindled.
Nick Carraway’s Admiration for Jay Gatsby
The Great Gatsby puts Scott Fitzgerald among a select roster of canonical writers. The fact that the author depicted the events of his own time gives his writings a limpid intensity. The novel is an attempt to describe the powerful, and often destructive, the impact of wealth, influence, and passion on an opulent, yet conscious, American citizen during the so-called uproarious 1920s. Nick Carraway and Jay Gatsby, the main protagonists of the novel, strike up a personal rapport and get to know each other very close through a concatenation of tragic events. Fitzgerald puts an emphasis on wealth, power, and love in his depiction of the American dream during the period of modernist transformation. Gatsby has all the qualities attributed to a new-generation man in abundance and projects them onto those surrounding him. Nick happens to be the most fervent admirer of Gatsby and submits to his influence eventually. For Nick, Gatsby’s mode of life is a quintessential example of the American dream.
At first glance, it seems that Nick admires Gatsby with the same unswerving devotion that Huck admires Tom. However, a careful perusal of The Great Gatsby reveals that Nick actually maintains an ambivalent attitude towards Gatsby. When Nick intimates to Gatsby that he is worth the whole bunch of his companions puts together, he immediately adds to himself that it was “the only compliment I ever gave him, because I disapproved of him from beginning to end”. It is here that doubts begin to creep in as to whether parallels can be drawn between Nick’s admiration for Gatsby and Huck’s admiration for Tom. After all, Huck has felt affection for Tom during most of his childhood and never questioned it. On the contrary, Nick’s ambivalent feelings about Gatsby have been there “from beginning to end”. One way or the other, Nick admits that Gatsby “turned out all right at the end”.
As the activity tapers off and the night wears on, Gatsby’s mansion turns into a carnival of fun for the lisping sons of privilege. Although Nick accuses people visiting Gatsby’s parties of being rotten and obsequious, he stands against the background of them all in terms of his admiration for Gatsby. Nick is fascinated by Gatsby’s perseverance and refusal to give up on his dream. Gatsby may not do the right things all the time, but he does them for what he believes are the right reasons, or, in other words, a noble reason. Gatsby’s unwillingness to relinquish the hope of conquering the heart of the beloved lady amazes Nick. Gatsby’s steadfast determination not to veer from his overarching goal is endearing to Nick. However, it is not until midway through the novel that Nick finds out about Gatsby’s infatuation for Daisy. Thus, there are reasons to believe that Nick found something alluring about his neighbor at the very beginning of their acquaintance. In juxtaposition to Fitzgerald, Mark Twain does not make a secret of the reasons why Huck admires Tom. Indeed, his novel bristles with the explanations of Huckleberry’s love for Tom. For instance, Twain (2012) states that Huck “was filled with admiration of Tom’s facility in writing, and the sublimity of his language.” Fitzgerald, on the other hand, only alludes to the feelings of respect and admiration that surge in Nick, but obfuscates the reader by not revealing the reasons for them.
When Nick discovers that Gatsby’s heart is a seething cauldron of emotions, he begins to disregard his mawkish sentimentality and even begins to like what he previously saw as the meretricious beauty of Gatsby’s feelings. The example set by the subject of his admiration emboldens Nick to the extent that he no longer contents himself with the passionless life he used to lead before. Nick even decides to find a girl whose disembodied face would float “along the dark cornices and blinding signs” not so much because he longs for a change in his life, but because he wants to imitate Gatsby and his relentless pursuit of Daisy. Gatsby’s whirlwind romance with Daisy transcends Nick’s capacity of apprehension so that Nick is fain to acknowledge that his romance is ineffectual in its basic function. To use the vernacular of that time, Nick was smitten with the beauty of Gatsby and Daisy’s love.
Although Nick is not loath to criticize Gatsby’s associates of being nonchalant people with no elevated ideas and no purposes beyond self-gratification, he avoids pigeonholing Gatsby into the same category. Something nudges Nick to believe that his friend is “worth the whole damn bunch put together”. It is only after Gatsby has passed away that Nick has finally grasped the meaning of “a transitory enchanted moment” that Gatsby was seeking. He calls Gatsby’s “the last and greatest of all human dreams,” thereby reassuring himself of the deferential respect he has felt to Gatsby. Here comes the fundamental difference between Nick’s admiration for Gatsby and Huck’s admiration for Tom. Nick is not adamant about his love for Gatsby throughout the first chapters of the book and repeatedly entertains doubts about the man. It is only after Nick discovers the longing that perks Gatsby up that he begins to admire his friend in earnest. What is more important, towards the end of the novel, Nick’s affection towards Gatsby only grows and he tries to fully accept him. By contrast, Huck decides to go rafting on the Mississippi River to reconsider his friendship with Tom. As the novel unfolds, Huckleberry realizes that his admiration for Tom may, in fact, be based on a phantasmagoria. In other words, Huck becomes more independent and self-assured towards the end of the novel. For the sake of justice, it should be noted that Nick remains an incorrigible realist to the very last scene and cannot fully accept Gatsby’s nature of a dreamer.
The present paper has compared and contrasted Huckleberry Finn’s admiration for Tom Sawyer and Nick Carraway’s admiration for Jay Gatsby. Although both Huck and Nick admire their friends for completely different reasons, the two lines are similar in that they both are based on genuine feelings emanating from the protagonists. Other than that, they are fundamentally different. For instance, Huck is filled with adoration for Tom at the beginning, but his enthusiasm wanes towards the end of the book. On the contrary, Nick is not sure about his attitude towards Gatsby upon first acquaintance, but his admiration grows as the novel unfolds.