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What is an example of parody in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark...

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dcjo | Student, College Freshman | eNoter

Posted March 13, 2011 at 1:59 AM via web

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What is an example of parody in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain?

Please include quotes from the story and explain.

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 13, 2011 at 1:41 PM (Answer #1)

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[eNotes editors are only permitted to answer one question at a time. If you have additional questions, please post them separately.]

In Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, one outstanding source of parody by Twain is found in the character of Tom Sawyer.

It is important to note the definition of parody, which is a "playful" form of satire. eNotes.com's definition:

a humorous, satirical, or burlesque imitation of a person, event, or serious work of literature designed to ridicule in nonsensical fashion or to criticize by clever duplication.

Tom has a vivid imagination. He reads a great deal and turns ordinary events into enormous adventures. For example...

[Tom] turn[s] a raid by his gang on a Sunday school picnic into the highway robbery of “a whole parcel of Spanish merchants and rich A-rabs . . . with two hundred elephants, and six hundred camels, and over a thousand sumter’ mules, all loaded down with di’monds. . . .”

Tom's ability to turn a Sunday School picnic into a swashbuckling, action adventure is one of this character's trademarks. (Note Tom's use of hyperbole in describing the number of animals and the quantity of diamonds...)

With this description of Tom, we can see similarities to the famous character of Don Quixote, in the novel by the same name by Miguel de Cervantes. Quixote is a delusional old man. He, too, has read many books; his have to do with how to be a knight. The woman he is defending is a prostitute, not a fair damsel, and the enemies he fruitlessly attacks are windmills.

Twain's allusion to Don Quixote is evident with the character of Tom Sawyer. Tom takes the everyday and turns it into something it is not, and then goes about solving the very problem he has created. Whereas the character of Don Quixote is somewhat sad, Twain's parody in the form of Sawyer is entertaining and ridiculous.

For example, Tom appears at the end of the story. When he finds out that Huck plans to free Jim, he agrees to help. In Chapter Thirty-Four, Huck says he can easily free Jim:

"This hole's big enough for Jim to get through if we wrench off the board."

But Tom has plans of his own that are, to him, exciting; in the scheme of things, though, they are unnecessary.

We'll dig him out. It'll take about a week!

Rather than being simple like a first grade play, Tom turns it into a Broadway musical. As the novel continues, the plans change and become more extreme. Tom says there must be spiders and snakes to keep Jim company. Jim must write an accounting of his imprisonment on the back of a shirt. These details come from stories Tom has read about, where heroes in prisons fight for their freedom.

In doing all this, Tom makes up illusionary obstacles, just as Don Quixote mistakenly saw windmills as his enemies. And when all is said and done, Jim has already been freed by Miss Watson! In Chapter Forty-Two, Tom reports:

Old Miss Watson died two months ago, and she was ashamed she ever was going to sell [Jim] down the river, and said so; and she set him free in her will.

When asked why he did it, Tom responds: "Why I wanted the adventure of it."

His ritual for the rescue of the captured Jim (who he knows has already been set free by Miss Watson’s last will) is a masterful selection of details from all the romantic rescues of fact and fiction.

Tom may seem clever to Huck, but to the reader, he is like Don Quixote, stabbing at an imaginary foe.

Additional Source:

http://www.enotes.com/literary-terms/parody

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