Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The United States of Tom

George Saunders analysis of Mark Twain's,  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, claim two distinct models of American character: The United States of Tom or The United States of Huck. He argues that each American resembles one, but as a whole, America has struggled to decide which it"ll be since the beginning of time in the world.

The two different distinctions classify the United States of Tom as knowing and presuming. Tom is too caught up in the thrill of adventure and from what he has read in books or seen in movies. We see Twain depict this in his novel when Tom wants to stall his efforts to help Jim escape by making sure nothing in the escape plan is simple. Saunders further explains that the United States of Tom includes denial and not treating the real things in life, real. For example, he treats Jim as a prop to his adventures rather than the person he is. On the other hand, the United States of Huck includes believing in reality, what he sees and feels. Also, it includes: hope, wonder, people, care,and fair play. Twain does a good job of showing this American character in his novel through Huck when we see the emotions Huck experiences. His feeling guilty for going against Miss. Watson in helping Jim escape and his feeling bad for Jim because he is a human being seeking freedom, all are good examples of the United States of Huck.

In current 2015-2016, I think it is generally accepted as a taboo to stereotype people based of race, social class, gender, etc. Of course, it still happens everyday. I think for this reason that America could be considered the United States of Tom. A prominent place we see it in today's society is in "politics." I say it like that because in the 2016 political campaign, candidates (cough cough Trump) have tendencies to bash each other's profiles rather than actually policies and/or issues raised. In a recent debate, Trump said to an opponent, "I've built an unbelievable company worth billions and billions of dollars. I don't have to hear from this man, believe me. I don't have to hear from him." He also tried to appeal like the common man when saying, "I started with a small loan of 1 million dollars."  Donald's complete ignorance here in both of his quotes, reminded me of Saunders analysis of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. He stated, " The United States looks at misery and says: Hey I didn't do it. It looks at inequity and says: All my life I have busted my butt to get to where I am so, don't come crying to me...Tom likes unquestioned privilege." Donald Trump is a public figure that embraces the Tom-ness of the American character. A million dollar loan isn't something small like Donald is making it seem. He wants to appeal to the common man like he started from nothing and hard work paid off, yet thinks because he is financially privileged, that excuses him from having to deal with reality.

Although the idea of a United States of Huck seems nice, it in reality isn't the dominating ideal in today's American society. Even though Saunders says America has struggled to decide which character it is, doesn't mean we can't progress as a society to a United States of Huck.

No comments:

Post a Comment