The United States of Huck and The United States of Tom are two styles of thinking named by Saunders, a fan of the book The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. Huck is interested in others more than himself. Through his loneliness he finds pleasure in meeting people and has a desire to connect that is so powerful that it overrides the beliefs he's been taught since he was born. Tom, on the other hand, thinks only for himself. In the beginning of the prequel to Huck's story, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Tom fantasizes on how people would act if he were dead, and how much they would all care for him then. Tom is obsessed with everything he has the privelege, or as he would call it, the right, to do. He never thinks of others as being more than two-dimensional.
Saunders proposes that all of the United States can be divided into either of these lines of thought, which parallels the political parties; Tom is a demonized characature of republicans who are unaware of their privelge and believe in a system where good lives are only acheived through hard work pertaining to the American system, and Huck is an angelic portrayal of democrats who care for the well-being of others, no matter what their class is. Assuming that people can be so easily divided into black and white is old-fashioned and modernist. People have multiple personalities, moods and beliefs and one can be Huck one day and Tom the next.
At their core, Huck wants to connect and Tom wants to disconnect. Connecting and disconnecting are the constant forces that drive human interaction. No one can be Huck all the time or people will disconnect from them, leaving Huck with nothing to do but become Tom. No one can be Tom all the time because very few people possess the ability to look at suffering and be completely apathetic every single time.
Huck and Tom represent the internal struggle to love others and love oneself more than the decision to choose a side. In this postmodern world, it is much more accurate to say that we are living in the United States of Huck and Tom, or Tom and Huck.