Free «Boys and Their Fathers» Essay Sample

In literature, relations between fathers and sons are one of the most popular themes as it reflects personal growth, development and social values of generations. This is particularly the case in his relationship between fathers and sons. In both works, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain and Barn Burning by William Faulkner reticence and desire to escape is wholly characteristic of sons’ behavior. They rarely begin any action. Their normal tendency is to remain on the outside as an observer. All of his powers of invention are directed towards escaping. Thesis In both works, the journey for better life can be interpreted as voyage of moral discovery and a desire to escape unpleasant and oppressive relations with fathers.

Fathers’ characters in the novel are one-dimensional figures who have very little real life beyond their association with Huck. Old Finn, the boy's father, is a cruel drunk. The Widow Douglas and Miss Watson are pious old ladies who adopt Huck and try to 'sivilise' him. Tom's aunts, Sally and Polly, are little more than butts for the escapades of the boys. The nieces of Peter Wilks are mere stereotypes. Readers are only interested in whether or not the King and the Duke will manage to rob them of their money. This, of course, is not to imply any shortcoming on the part of the author. It was not Twain's intention to create such characters in any depth. His chief concern was to develop the character of Huck and to give a generalized view of Southern society, its morals and traditions. Yet, many of these 'cardboard' characters are memorable creations. Mrs Judith Loftus, Colonel Sherburn and the undertaker all make an impression which is out of proportion to the roles they play in the story.

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Similar to twain, Faulkner depicts fathers as crucial and aggressive persons who pay attention to personal problems and life grievances only. Abner Snopes, a father of Sartoris Snopes, is a war veterans who experiences psychological problems and emotional disturbance caused by war memories. Sartoris witnesses many instances of cruelty, brutality and hypocrisy in the townships. His response to all of these examples of man's inhu­manity to man is one of sorrow and disgust. Faulkner describes family relations as; ”and struck the gaunt mules two savage blows with the peeled willow, but without heat. It was not even sadistic; it was exactly that same quality which in later years would cause his descendants to over-run the engine before putting a motor car into motion, striking and reining back in the same movement” (Faulkner).

In both works, the relations between fathers and sons are far from ideal. Huck’s behavior at this point is typical of his usual reaction. He says, 'There was considerable jawing back, so I slid out, thinking maybe there was going to be trouble” (Faulkner). The only occasion in which Huck actually takes the initiative is when he foils the plan of the King and the Duke to cheat the Wilks girls out of their legacy. But such behaviour is atypical of the boy. As a rule he takes a pessimistic view of human nature and his desire to escape from the community of man sometimes becomes a death-wish. Mark Twain underlines that Huck and Tom study human relations and morality from outside world and possess unique inherent personal traits. For example, when Huck sees the depths of brutality to which the members of the Grangerford and Shepherdson families sink during the feud. For instance, he feels uncomfortable among the crowd who gather to watch the Boggs-Sherburn duel.

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To some extend, Sartoris Snopes is, by nature, an outsider and a refugee from civilization, It was because he is involved in the action, yet, at the same time, an almost detached and passive observer of events, that he proved such a fine narrative voice for criticism of the society. They imply that the only way for Sartoris Snopes to preserve his freedom and integrity is to flee society into the safety of the wilderness. Similar to Sartoris Snopes, at the end of the story Huck says: “But I reckon I got to light out for the territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she's going to adopt me and sivilise me, and I can't stand it. I been there before” (Mark Twain). There is more than just a hint of pessimism in those final sentences. Huck's friend, Tom Sawyer, is a boy of about the same age as Huck himself. However, the two boys are very different. Tom comes from a good home and is cared for by his loving Aunt Polly. Huck, on the other hand, is a waif who never knew his mother nor the respectable kind of home background enjoyed by Tom. But the differences between the two friends is a more fundamental one than even these details might suggest. Huck's development throughout the novel shows a growth in maturity as he encounters the evils of the adult world. Tom always lives in a childish world of fantasy. The escapades as well as his prolonged escape plan for Jim are typical of his behaviour. In the overall context of the novel we see that Twain's portrayal of Tom is part of the book's larger criticism of Southern society. Like young Buck Grangerford, Tom embodies much of the worst in the community's system of values. Both boys live by the false romantic notions of bravery and honor that characterize the destructive view of life held by many of the characters in the book. Tom, of course, survives but Buck's mistaken code of chivalry leads to his death.

The picaresque narrative allowed Faulkner to introduce characters at will without upsetting the reader's belief in the possibility of such encounters. The crowd at the revivalist meeting and the mourners at the funeral are all part of the essential backdrop to the story. They create a vivid impression of the very texture of life at the time and personal relations. In his portrayal of the family Faulkner gave his readers a pene­trating, satirical view of an old Southern clan whose outmoded aristo­cratic way of life led to the senseless loss of several lives. Faulkner writes:          

... Again he had to stop himself. He (the father) always did. There was something about his wolflike independence and even courage when the advantage was at least neutral which impressed strangers, as if they got from his latent ravening ferocity not so much a sense of dependability as a feeling that his ferocious conviction in the rightness of his own actions would be of advantage to all whose interest lay with his (Faulkner).

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Faulkner describes a son-character who is constantly challenged with moral dilemmas and hard choices on his adventure which ultimately teach him the lessons to become a hero, whether he becomes well known figure, such as a guardian of society, or simply a savior to his individual needs.

Throughout The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,the father-son relations deal with issues such as exclusion, discrimination, racism, and most importantly making his own difficult yet rational decisions, even if those decisions go against everything he has learned. Huck is a product of a very abusive and remiss southern society, which involved a drunkard father who taught him nothing more than unkindness and egotism, as he would physically abuse him on a regular basis. Aside from the way he treated unfairly at home, the surrounding culture’s “rules” made Huck dubious, as it preached racism and prejudice. This insight to the wrongness in his society developed a natural desire for freedom. Once Huck rebels and escapes captivity by faking his death, he begins his adventure, and it is clear that his newly found freedom can be easily compared to Snopes and his relations with the father. It is ironic that the father figure Huck begins to look up to, Jim, is someone that his negligent society had cast out. As a result, Huck begins to understand that time has come to perceive right and wrong through his own coherent point of view. As a result of his negative experiences, Huck secures this distrust in the society in which he was raised, creating natural desire to discover his own perception of morality.

Just like any submissive character, Snopes is not expected to always make the right choices, especially considering his background. However, it is the wrong choices that allow him to learn from his mistakes and succeed. Many of the moral dilemmas that surround Snopes involve trust, justice, a rather common “grey” area in terms of right or wrong. Snopes has been raised to see people as nothing more than slaves, but Snopes grows to see Jim as a regular person just like himself. After traveling with Jim for some time, he discovers that he isn’t so different from himself. This is an example of a discovery that heroes have made for centuries—the recognition that the morally right thing to do may not always be according to what popular culture and civilization have forbidden or required, but rather doing something that goes against humanity’s accepted values.

Following ideals and ideology of the fathers, Huck and Tom never fully succeed in breaking free from the prevailing attitude towards Negroes. For instance, when Aunt Sally asks him if anyone was hurt when the river-boat blew a cylinder, Huck replies, 'No 'm. Killed a nigger' (Mark Twain). In the early chapters he looks upon the Negro slave with eyes conditioned by the attitudes of St Petersburg. However,they progress down the river he increasingly comes to see Jim as a human being with normal human instincts and desires

Many of the most humorous moments in the story involve the King and the Duke. Among the most memorable of all are the Shakespeare rehearsals and The Royal Nonesuch. However, in spite of the humor, readers are essentially made aware of the ruthlessness of these two men. This is particularly apparent in their attempt to cheat the Wilks girls of their legacy and in their selling Jim back into slavery. Nevertheless, these rogues play a central part in Twain's larger intentions in the novel. They function as vehicles for the satire on the society and culture of the South. In episodes such as the camp meeting they show up some of the most glaring shortcomings in the people. In this and in similar incidents they reveal how susceptible people are to all that is false and showy in so-called Christian observance. It is characteristic of Huck that he should detect the reality behind the two frauds almost straight away. Tom Sawyer's escape plan reduces Jim to the level of a half-witted fool.

In sum, both works shows that complicated relations between fathers and sons lead to resistance and independent of the latter generation. The sons’ bid for freedom is the dramatic event on which the whole stories centre. Similarly, it is sons’ relationship with fathers that constitutes the central theme of the works. Huck and Tom are superstitious and believe that the hidden forces governing the world manifest themselves in signs and omens. Huck and Tom and Abner Snopes are naive people. When they are completely alone on the raft they simply marvel at the mystery of creation. In spite of his almost childish simplicity, Abner Snopes is a character of great dignity as readers see in the story. Abner Snopes is also a man of fine sensitivity. In order to resist his father’s influence, Huck cares for his young friend with an almost fatherly concern as is apparent, where he is careful to conceal the fact that the dead man is Huck's father.

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