Generation Gap

September 1, 2010 § 1 Comment

In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, there is a clear divide between the adults and the children in the town of St. Petersberg. This divide is clearly caused by a maturity and age difference, but could also be the effect of other tensions such as upper and lower class.

There is obvious conflict between Tom and Aunt Polly as well as Tom and the teacher due to Tom’s tendency to cause trouble and do as he pleases. As shown through Tom and his friends’ adventure to the island without much consideration about how their parents would feel, it is apparent that the kids value their curiosity and sense of adventure over the authority commanded by their parents. There is also tension between the teacher and Tom as Tom acts out in class often, even making it his incentive to get in trouble to sit next to Becky. Tom’s lack of respect for his teacher as well as disobedience to Aunt Polly are just two examples of the tensions between different age groups in the book.

Adding on to Keegan’s post, the tensions between age groups could also be caused by a conflict between classes. For example, it does not seem like any of the high class adults in the book favor Huck Finn because he is seen as a wild, troublemaker and is a lower class boy without a home. Yet the class divide doesn’t seem to have such a great affect between children of different classes and just affects adults vs. children showing the single mindedness of adults.

This conflict between adults and children is relevant even in everyday life. The majority of conflicts between age groups are usually caused by an inability to see a situation from the same perspective. It is understandable that people of different ages would have different perspectives; growing up in different time periods exposes varying generations to a myriad of trends, philosophies, and experiences, all which shape a person’s perspective on life. Kids grow up saying they will never turn out like their parents and will let their kids do whatever they want. But down the road, every generation will stick to what they were taught, and every kid will mature into an adult who will feel responsible for setting their kids straight according to the values they were brought up with thus always leaving us with conflict. This idea of a child maturing into an adult and ending up with the same values as their parent had before them is also relevant in Tim Flannery’s The Eternal Frontier. Flannery describes how people adapt when a frontier dies out. The idea of a frontier is something new and without boundaries, much like the mind of a child. As a child grows up, it is exposed to different environments that do not allow for as much freedom as before, thus killing out the frontier/freedom within them and forcing them to adapt and mature into being adults.

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Experience: the Necessary Ingredient for Inspiration

August 31, 2010 § Leave a comment

Despite his fame as Mark Twain, the successful, world renown writer, it is surprising that  the author of such classics as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, valued his life as Samuel Clemens, an unknown steamboat driver, over his career and fame as a writer.

As mentioned by the two posts below, Tom Sawyer, An Autobiography? and Nature is better than you, Twain derived his pseudonym from the jargon used by steamboat pilots while navigating the Mississippi River. Through creating his pen name as something somewhat representative of nature, it is clear that Twain wanted his work to be a reflection of his experiences as a steamboat pilot on the river. As he wrote in his book, Life on the Mississippi, “I loved the profession far better than any I have followed since, and I took a measureless pride in it. The reason is plain: a pilot, in those days, was the only unfettered and entirely independent human being that lived in the earth”. He valued his life as a steamboat pilot because a pilot’s job is to navigate through nature, whether it be the sky or a river. Being a pilot, one is completely dependent on themselves to explore what is around them, is susceptible to any unknown acts of nature and has the freedom of getting to know the nature in their environment and other environments as well. Through his life as a steamboat pilot, Twain learned to love nature, the Mississippi River in particular, thus providing inspiration for his writings. Although it is a tad surprising to hear that Twain valued his pilot career over his writing, it is understandable for being a pilot and experiencing nature firsthand is probably what allowed Twain to write so well and accurately while describing nature in his work in the longrun.


Man vs. Wild

August 29, 2010 § 3 Comments

In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Tom experiences numerous encounters with nature, whether it be through his time spent on the island, or dealing with various animals throughout the book. One particular scene in which Tom and his friends discover a dual side of nature is the scene with the storm. Previously, the boys had viewed nature as a peaceful, calm haven which they were able to survive in without much fear. When the storm hits, it becomes apparent to the boys that nature is more complex than previously thought, and has power over human beings and man-made items.

In the beginning, the storm, representative of nature, fluctuates between calm and intense, revealing a side of nature that the boys had not seen before, thus causing the boys to feel powerless, and therefore, frightened. In society, Tom and Huck were used to feeling in control of their decisions in life, both boys mischievous, disobedient and a tad manipulative. However, when the storm hits, nature has the upper hand in the situation, uncovering a side of Tom and Huck that was rarely seen previously in the book as “they clung together in terror” (116).

The power of nature over man is shown once again in the storm when the sail on the boys’ tent, due to the wind,”tore loose from its fastenings, and went winging away on the blast”, thus destroying their man-made tent. The boys then find safety in “the shelter of a great oak” (117), where they stayed protected as the storm progressed. This is symbolic of nature’s power over mankind for the tent was not able to withstand the strength of nature’s battle with itself. Instead, the boys were only safe while being protected by the oak, another part of nature although different from nature in the form of weather. By hiding under the oak the boys put a degree of trust into nature, even though nature was the force they needed protection from in the first place, displaying the conflicting views of nature that the boys possess.

Overall, this encounter with the storm causes the boys to begin to understand the varying impact of nature and start to respect the authority that nature possesses.

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