Can you help me compare and contrast the themes of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and A Farewell to Arms? What are these works saying about society and humanity in general? How do they differ...

Can you help me compare and contrast the themes of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and A Farewell to Arms? What are these works saying about society and humanity in general? How do they differ and how are they similar?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Social sabotage is a prevailing theme in both A Farewell to Arms and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Both Huck and Jim run from a civilization attempting to control them; likewise, Frederic Henry runs from a bureaucracy that has failed him. He wishes to be free of the appropriations of war. As a Modernist character, Henry is disillusioned with war after the debacle of Caporetto, as is Catherine Barkley.

Surreptitiously making love in the hospital after Frederic is wounded in the leg, and later running from the army after Caporetto, Henry and Catherine must conduct their love affair outside the boundaries of the rules of war-- Frederic as a deserter, and Catherine as having abandoned her post of nurse. Together, they try to find "a separate peace," but are halted in their happiness by the fate of Catherine that cannot overcome mortality.

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Like Frederic and Catherine, Huck Finn wishes to shed the dressings of what he perceives as a hypocritical society. In a humorous example of the Widow Douglas's religiosity, Huck tells the reader.  

When you got to the table you couldn't go right to eating, but you had to wait for the widow to tuck down her head and grumble a little over the victuals, though there warn't really anything the matter with them.

There is nothing wrong with her praying before a meal, but her releasing Huck to his reprobate father who beats the boy and neglects him seems to contradict Christian behavior. In fact, it is these actions of the Widow and Miss Watson who maintain their religious views, but condone slavery and child abuse, that precipitate Huck's running away and failure to report Jim.

Huck also has problems understanding the Grangerfords, who seem to be friendly people, but they engage in a generational feud. Buck explains feuds: "by and by everybody's killed off, and there ain't no more feud." Similarly, Huck does not understand why the King and Duke exploit people as they do, duping them and cheating them out of money. 

It is this rejection of the hypocrisy that surrounds him that leads Huck to break from the rules of his society and not turn in Jim as custom tells him he should. "I'll just go to hell," he decides. Feeling that his soul is sabotaged by the mores of a hypocritical society, Huck breaks the rules and releases himself into true freedom. Thus, his revolt from the forces of society is successful, whereas those of Catherine are deadly and Frederic's disillusioning.

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