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Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is written from the view point of the boy Huckleberry Finn. He tells about the adventures he is having on the Mississippi River with a runaway slave, whose name is Jim. It becomes apparent early in the book that there are a couple of people who play major roles in Huck's life. One is Jim and the other is Tom Sawyer, the person Huck wishes he could be like.
Tom Sawyer is a leader to Huck from the very beginning of the book, when Huck is living with the Widow Douglas. She is raising Huck because his father is a drunk and is not in the area. Huck is doing fine living with the Widow Douglas for awhile, but he soon tires of her way of life. Huck does not like having to stay clean all the time and having to wear neat clothes. He also doesn't appreciate her attempting to civilize him, so he puts on his old rags and leaves. Tom Sawyer is the one who is able to convince Huck to come back to the widow and "be respectable" (p. 1). Huck wants to be a part of Tom's gang, so he agrees to go back. It takes a certain type of person to make Huck willing to go home because it is a lifestyle he really doesn't like. Tom has that kind of control over Huck's decisions.
Another reason that Huck looks up to Tom as a role model is that Huck feels Tom is more intelligent than himself. Huck is amazed by how brilliant Tom is. "What a head for just a boy to have! If I had Tom Sawyer's head I wouldn't trade it off to be a duke, nor mate of a steamboat, nor clown in a circus, nor nothing I can think of" (p. 236). It isn't simply that Tom is smarter. It is that Tom often makes Huck feel he isn't as smart. One example is when the two boys are trying to free Jim. Huck doesn't understand why they have to do things the hard way. That is when Tom says, "Oh, shucks, Huck Finn, if I was as ignorant as you I'd keep still" (p. 243). Tom also says, "Why, hain't you ever read any books at all?" (p. 242). It is true that Tom has more schooling than Huck, and this also plays a role into Huck's belief that Tom is smarter.
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Huck also looks up to Tom because he has a better family background than himself. Tom's family isn't aristocratic, but compared to Huck's family it is, and it's "worth as much in a man as it is in a horse" (p. 108). Huck's only family is his drunk father who never has any money. Huck's father even agreed that some people were born "better" than others. Huck sometimes wishes that he came from a better family, like Tom's.
Huck desires Tom's companionship on the adventures throughout the book. The first time Huck wishes Tom is there is when Huck fakes his own death. When Huck is finishing up his own "murder", he says, "I did wish Tom Sawyer was there." (p. 35). Another time is when Huck and Jim see the steamboat that has wrecked. Jim does not want to explore the boat, but Huck on the other hand finds it to be an adventure. Huck says that there is no way to go by the wreck because "do you reckon Tom Sawyer would ever go by this thing? Not for pie, he wouldn't. He'd call it an adventure . . ." (p. 69). Huck continues by saying, "I wish Tom Sawyer was here." (p. 70).
Tom is always able to glorify things that aren't so great and make them exciting. Tom knows just how to add color to their "adventures" to make them better. This was a quality that Huck finds very admirable because not everyone is able to do it. While faking his murder, Huck says, "[Tom Sawyer could] throw in the fancy touches. Nobody could spread himself like Tom Sawyer in such a thing . . ." (p. 35). After finishing his "murder", Huck critiques his performance in comparison to what Tom would do.
Later on, Huck was in the company of two con-artists who were claiming to be a king and a duke, and the two cons are pulling one of their scams on some girls. They are claiming to be the girls' long, lost uncles and have come to take care of their dead brother's daughters. What they are actually trying to do is take all the girls' inheritance. Huck starts out helping the king and duke but soon realizes the scam is wrong. Huck knows they aren't royalty and doesn't like taking advantage of these girls, so Huck works up a scheme to catch the two cons. This will leave Huck and Jim free to go without the cons tagging along. Huck proclaims that he has done so well that "Tom Sawyer couldn't 'a' done it none neater himself." (p. 197). This makes Huck feel proud because he meets what he thinks to be Tom's standards, which is something he strives to do.
The greatest example of Tom's style comes at the end of the book, when Tom and Huck are together at Aunt Sally's. The two boys are trying to free Jim, who is a prisoner and is going to be sold back into slavery. Huck just wants to do it the easy way and get it over with, but Tom says they can't. Tom states that it is too easy. "[We need] to get up a difficult plan" (p. 241). Tom feels this will make them famous and help them receive praise for their heroism.
Throughout the story, Tom's role in Huck's life can be seen. Tom is Huck's leader. Tom is also a figure Huck tries to be like. Huck measures himself and what he does by Tom's standards and what he feels Tom would think. In Huck's eyes, Tom is perfect. He is brought up well, yet has a free will with a fun side. Tom is an intelligent, creative and imaginative child, which is everything Huck wishes for in himself.
Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. 1931. International Collectors Library American Headquarters: Garden City.