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Book Analysis

1984 and Huckleberry Finn Comparison and Contrast - Shreya Sachdev

Freedom:

Comparison: In both 1984 and Huckleberry Finn, the two protagonists (Winston Smith and Huck) want freedom and want to escape from their daily lives. In 1984, Winston Smith is constantly questioning society and the rules and strict regulations that Big Brother imposes onto him. He constantly wonders about a secret group that rebels against the party as shown by the quote “The Brotherhood, its name was supposed to be” on page 13. He is eager to change things for future generations and dreams about rebelling. Likewise, Huck is skeptical of the world around him and the ideas that are passed onto him. He realizes that according to the law, Jim is Miss Watson’s property, but according to his own feelings and logic, he thinks that it’s right to help Jim. Huck’s natural intelligence and his willingness to think through a situation on its own merits lead him to some conclusions that are correct in their context but that would shock white society. For example, Huck discovers, when he and Jim meet a group of slave-hunters, that telling a lie is sometimes the right course of action. Therefore, Winston and Huck are both a little bit more suspicious of the world in which they live in and are not so quick to accept the rules and laws that society has forced them into.

Contrast: In 1984, Winston Smith seems to more aware of the dangers that society can pose on him, and this is why he dreams of rebelling. In Huckleberry Finn, the reader gets the sense that Huck is more confused, and isn’t actually focusing on rebelling against society as he lacks knowledge on what exactly is right and wrong.

Civil Society:

Comparison: In 1984, the society in which Winston Smith lives in claims to be civil and claims to care for society, but in reality Big Brother is only trying to brainwash the citizens and make sure that they have total control over them. Big Brother watches their every move, it’s impossible to switch the telescreen off, and the citizens are given cigarettes and alcohol to make them cope with their confusion. Therefore, one can certainly say that this society is not human and is not as civil as they claim to be. Likewise, in Huckleberry Finn, whilst Huck does not live in a totalitarian government, the laws and the rules created by the court claim to be morally right. However, the treatment of Jim and the fact that the court allows Huck’s drunk father to continue taking caring of Huck is proof that the court isn’t as morally right as it appears to be.

Contrast: The contrast here is that Winston Smith and the other citizens are brainwashed into believing that Big Brother is heroic and that everyone should be obedient to him, whereas the court in Huckleberry Finn is not attempting to brainwash Huck, but have just put up rules that they believe are moral. Furthermore, Huck is the only one who seems to be skeptical of these rules and doesn’t understand why Jim is treated the way he is.

Misconception:

Comparison: Both Huck and Winston Smith have misconceptions about people in their life. For example, Winston Smith is convinced that Mr.Charrington and O’Brien are also against the party and that they want to help him, but in reality they are actually part of the Party. Therefore, Winston Smith is wrong when he believes that these two are on his side. Likewise, in Huckleberry Finn, Huck believes that everything Tom Sawyer says is correct and  is eager to join “Tom Sawyer’s Gang.” Tom Sawyer, however, is a controversial character as he pulls pranks on Jm. Tom knows all along that Miss Watson has died and that Jim is now a free man, yet he is willing to allow Jim to remain a captive while he entertains himself with fantastic escape plans. Tom’s plotting tortures not only Jim, but Aunt Sally and Uncle Silas as well.

Contrast: O’Brien and Mr.Charrington’s motives seems to be much more dangerous and cruel than Tom Sawyer. Tom Sawyer’s actions and cruel nature can perhaps be excused as Tom Sawyer is just a child. Furthermore, Tom Sawyer is not necessarily intentionally trying to trick the boys and trick Huck, whereas O’Brien has been purposely hired by the Party to find out Winston’s plans to rebel against the government.

Doublethink:

Comparison: Doublethink is the ability to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancel out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them. In 1984, this is evident in the slogans the party has which state that war is peace, freedom is slavery, and strength is ignorance. Another example is in chapter 3 when Winston believes that Eurasia has only been at war with Oceania for 4 years, but this is contradictory to what the records state. Therefore, these two contradictory ideas confuse Winston even more and in a way stop the citizens from being able to differentiate between what is true and what is false. Likewise, in Huckleberry Finn, there are times when Huck’s views completely contradict each other. For example, society has taught him to be respectful and open minded of others, but have also taught him that black people are inferior to whites.  According to the law, Jim is Miss Watson’s property, but according to Huck’s sense of logic and fairness, it seems “right” to help Jim. Therefore, Huck is placed with two contradictory ideas in his mind.

Contrast: The party in 1984 seems to be forcing this doublethink onto Winston Smith and the other citizens, whereas in Huckleberry Finn, Huck comes across these contrasting ideas himself and this is what allows him to question the world around him and the rules that it has.

Opening Lines:

Comparison: Both the opening lines of Huckleberry Finn and 1984 portray the main characters (Huck and Winston Smith) as somewhat controlled and not particularly content with their life. For example, in the opening lines of 1984 Winston is described as being old, weak, and having to stop every few seconds in order to rest. He is also described as “a smallish, frail figure, the meagreness of his body merely emphasized by the blue overalls which were the uniform of the party. His hair was very fair, his face naturally sanguine, his skin roughened by coarse soap and blunt razor blades.” Likewise, in Huckleberry Finn, the quote  “I got into my old rags and my sugar-hogshead again, and was free and satisfied” don’t present Huck as a clean or healthy child. This is also present in the quote “The widow she cried over me, and called me a poor lost lamb, and she called me a lot of other names, too, but she never meant no harm by it. She put me in them new clothes again, and I couldn’t do nothing but sweat and sweat, and feel all cramped up.” In addition to not being presented well, the authoritative figure in 1984 is Big Brother and the opening lines present Big Brother as constantly keeping an eye on Winston Smith and following him around everywhere he goes. Likewise, Huck is also being controlled, although to a lesser extent, by Miss Watson: Miss Watson would say, “Don’t put your feet up there, Huckleberry;” and “Don’t scrunch up like that, Huckleberry—set up straight;” and pretty soon she would say, “Don’t gap and stretch like that, Huckleberry—why don’t you try to behave?”  It is obviously impossible to truly compare Big Brother and Miss Watson, but one can say that it is their ideas and rules that make both Winston Smith and Huck question society. The party’s implementation of Goldstein prompts Winston Smith to wonder whether or not Goldstein is even real, and whether or not he even actually rebelled against the party at one point. Likewise, Huck doesn’t understand why the widow continues to talk to him about dead people as he doesn’t find this to be of importance. He begins to question the widow’s intelligence.

Contrast: The Widow and Miss Watson obviously have very different motives compared to Big Brother.

Smoking:

Comparison: Interestingly enough, both Winston Smith and Huck smoke. Perhaps this is their coping mechanism and how they are able to deal with their everyday life, and how they are able to deal with living in a society in which they are unable to express their own opinions and voices. Even though Huck is just a child and perhaps wants to smoke to look cool, he may be smoking due to the fact that it does actually calm him down and help him live in the world he lives in.

Contrast: It can be said that it is the government that imposes smoking and drinking in 1984 because they want their citizens to calm themselves down and to be able to cope with not having any freedom. However, in Huckleberry Finn, there is no evidence of a government doing such a thing. Huck simply chooses on his own will to smoke, which in turn symbolises his freedom from civilisation.

Ending:

Comparison: In both 1984 and Huckleberry Finn, there is a question of whether or not freedom truly is achieved or not. For example, in Huckleberry Finn, Instead of returning home or staying on the Phelpses’ farm, Huck wishes to escape civilization altogether and “light out for the [Indian] Territory” in the West, and this clearly is a symbol of freedom and Huck being able to make his own decision for the first time in a long time. This also reflects his bravery and independence which is perhaps what Mark Twain is trying to reflect. Likewise, in 1984, to a certain extent it can be argued that Winston Smith is now free from his pain, misery, and suffering as he no longer feels the need to rebel against The Party and has instead turned into a member of the Thought Police. One can argue that freedom is not being restricted to your own opinions and being able to pursue what you believe in. Since Winston Smith has ultimately become brainwashed by the O’Brien, he is somewhat free. However, it can also be said that Huck is not free in the end of the novel because the reader does not actually know what is going to happen to him as heads out on a new journey completely by himself. It is possible that he perhaps finds himself in a society where there are even stricter rules and regulations, and his situation is much worse than what it was before. Thus, Mark Twain is perhaps criticizing childhood innocence and naivety. Likewise, in 1984, the reader gets hints that Winston Smith is not completely brainwashed as he continues to have flashbacks about his childhood and remembers his mother which adds to his suffering and confusion. There is also the impression that deep down Winston Smith knows that there is something wrong with him as shown by the quote “Under the table Winston’s feet made convulsive movements. He had not stirred from his seat, but in his mind he was running.”

Contrast: Perhaps the reader feels a bit more sympathy for Winston Smith than Huck, because although it can be argued that they are both free, Winston Smith had to go through a much more traumatic experience to become free and everything he was trying to accomplish (changing society for future generations) vanished very quickly due to the strength of the inner police. The reader is much more excited and optimistic about Huck being free because the reader knows that Jim is also free.

Setting:

Comparison: Both settings are descriptive, helping the readers be able to picture the setting in their minds. They are both depict an oppressive society; one towards the outer party and the other towards the slaves and lower class individuals.

Contrast: The contrast between the two settings is that in 1984, the setting is described as quite dull and unpleasant with expressions such as “ his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind” and “The hallway smelt of boiled cabbage and old rag mats.” However, a large portion of Huckleberry Finn takes place in natural settings. Both Huck and Jim possess a great deal of knowledge about nature and the river, knowing the names of trees, the behavior of animals, patterns of weather, and so forth. Huck can be quite eloquent in describing his natural surroundings, as when he watches the sunrise, saying, “a pale place in the sky; then more paleness, spreading around; then the river softened up, away off, and warn’t black anymore, but gray... you see the mist curl up off the water, and the east reddens up… and next you’ve got the full day, and everything smiling in the sun, and the songbirds just going it!” (Chapter Fourteen.) Huck’s beautiful, easy, and optimistic language when describing natural settings enforces the sense that the nature and environment is actually quite beautiful.

Corruption:

Comparison: The Duke and Dauphin pretend not to know each other, and they portray themselves as down-and-out European royals in an attempt to inspire in Huck and Jim a combination of pity and reverence. It doesn’t take long before Huck figures out their ruse, but he and Jim still get swept up in their swindling ways. Together the four characters go from town to town, giving mediocre performances and scamming the locals out of their money. But no amount of failure and village backlash seems to change the ways of the duke and dauphin; they keep doing what they do, no matter the consequences. If anything, failure only increases the intensity of the characters’ greed, which comes to a head in the novel when the dauphin steals Jim away and sells him to Silas and Sally Phelps. In addition to driving the plot by offering further “adventures” and selling Jim, the duke and the dauphin also serve thematic purposes in the book. First, their greed echoes that of several other unfavorable characters, including Pap and the murderous thieves aboard the wrecked steamboat. This pervasive hunger for money at the expense of others contributes to the book’s overall concern with the corruptness of society. In 1984, there is clear corruption in society by the amount of information that The Party keeps hidden and how they trick their own citizens in order to make sure that nobody rebels so that they are able to stay powerful.

Contrast: These levels of corruption are very different.

Weather:

Comparison: In Huckleberry Finn, weather is used to foreshadow the danger that Jim and Huck find themselves in when they are with the Duke and the Dauphin. The quote “Towards night it begun to darken up and look like rain; the heat lightning was squirting around low down in the sky, and the leaves was beginning to shiver—it was going to be pretty ugly, it was easy to see that. So the duke and the king went to overhauling our wigwam, to see what the beds was like” is proof that Mark Twain is using the weather to foreshadow how the Duke and Dauphin was bad news and that they are going to try and steal Huck and Jim’s beds. Huck and Jim are also put in extreme danger when they are ordered by the Duke and Dauphin to look over the raft whilst they slept comfortably in Huck and Jim’s beds: “The waves most washed me off the raft sometimes,” Likewise, the opening lines of 1984 say “It was a bright cold day in April” and the coldness could foreshadow the coldness and heartlessness of The Party.  

Contrast: The role of weather in 1984 seems to be of extreme importance throughout the book as it is used a lot, for example even when Winston meets Julia for the first time in the forest he states that the sunlight exposes him. In Huckleberry Finn, the role of weather is used mostly around the Duke and the Dauphin.

Narration:

Comparison:  In both the books, there is a journey from the beginning to the end. For example, in 1984, the story begins with Winston Smith observing how controlling the government is and how he doesn’t like his daily life. Then, the story goes on to describe how Winston Smith is now fantasizing about rebelling against the party. He then takes a small action of rebellion by sleeping with Julia and speaking to others about how he wants to rebel. Unfortunately, the Thought Police catches him and he goes through an intense period of suffering before he is completely brainwashed into loving Big Brother. Likewise, in Huckleberry Finn, Huck is at first extremely confused with the society he lives in, and doesn’t understand why Jim is treated so badly and why the world can sometimes be so cruel. He then goes on the Mississippi River with Jim and his entire perspective changes. He realizes that Jim should be treated right and that this civil society is actually quite hypocritical.

Contrast: Huck is the one speaking in the novel, as the novel is narrated in the first person whereas in 1984, it is third person.

Shreya Sachdev