Since this nation first gained its independence, there have been disagreements on the best way to keep it successful. Mark Twain, with or without knowing it in his writing, has wrapped up the two sparring sides of American culture flawlessly in two of his characters, Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer.
Both characters are introduced in both The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, though the reader only truly beings to understand the yin-and-yang-like dynamic between the two little boys in the latter novel.
Huck, while simultaneously softened and made stronger through his experience with Jim, becomes increasingly empathetic and more socially conscious throughout the story. He thinks long and hard about his actions and decisions before he does or takes them. By the end of the novel, Huck gains a level of maturity that far exceeds his age. Seeing himself no better than anyone else due to his humble upbringing, he is more easily able to swallow his pride, listen to those around him, think for himself, and solve conflicts in a clever and peaceful way. Flipping all of these characteristics straight on their head would create Huck’s best friend, one Tom Sawyer
Tom is so completely unconcerned with anyone other than himself, it’s almost impressive. His wild adventures never seeming to open up his mind, Tom remains a selfish and unsympathetic child, completely unbothered by his blatant racist mindset and lack of social understanding, just as long as neither of those things inhibit him from getting what he wants. Then and only then could he consider trying to change himself -- and even then, it would not be for a good and genuine reason. Seeing himself one step above everyone else, Tom, at such a young age, has already promised himself a life of ignorance and discrimination.
It would be very nice if, when comparing our nation to these two boys, it was obviously and overwhelmingly a nation under Huck. Unfortunately, however, just the opposite is true. Becoming more apparent than it has been in a long time with America’s most recent presidential election, it is most definitely, crushingly, a nation ruled by Tom. Discrimination in society today, though taking progressive steps, is still largely overlooked. This careless overlooking is done by the Toms of this country.
Tom, having always gotten everything his way and growing up believing he was better than most, finds it nearly impossible to level with any Hucks. With the inability to listen to others’ opinions, the Toms adopt a “my way or the highway” view of things, essentially dooming any chance of a reasonable compromise or resolution between the Hucks and the Toms. It is an extremely dismaying thought for Americans that after spending eight wonderful years being led by someone who was very clearly a Huck, we have now taken an unbelievably large step backwards, now being led by a man who many would say makes Tom look like an angel.
More and more Hucks, however, are learning to speak up. Refusing to accept unfair treatment, discrimination, and close-mindedness in the face of this nation’s Toms, there will most definitely be a recovery period when everything will begin to feel more balanced again. Hucks, not only are extremely tough, they are also incredible healers.