Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn
When comparing Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of OZ one does not need to look very hard to find interesting similarities of theme. Both are stories of surprise, travel, adventure and friendship. In both stories the protagonist finds him or herself suddenly gone from a loving home. And in both cases, the people at home who care for them are unaware of what exactly has happened to them. Huckleberry Finn is torn from the home of the Widow Douglas by his violent and drunken father, then fakes his own murder and runs away to escape.
Dorothy, on the other hand, runs away to save her dog; when she changes her mind and heads home, it is in the middle of a cyclone and her family is nowhere to be found. Two of the main themes of both novels are travel and adventure. Huckleberry Finn finds himself floating down the Mississippi. He gives explanations of what it is like to go down the river. He also has serious trouble getting to where he is going. When looking out for Cairo, a town at which he and Jim intend to start heading up the Ohio River, they experience incredibly heavy fog, through which they cannot see.
In his disappointment Huck explains, “When it was daylight, here was the clear Ohio water in shore, sure enough, and outside was the old regular Muddy! So it was all up with Cairo” (Twain, 105). Similarly, Dorothy and her companions have difficulty getting to the Emerald City. In the case of the Wizard of Oz it is flowers rather than fog that nearly does the party in. The “Deadly Poppy Field” does not stop Dorothy however because two of her traveling companions are not affected by it.
Baum writes, “They carried the sleeping girl to a pretty spot beside the river, far enough from the poppy field to prevent her breathing any more of the poison of the flowers, and here they laid her gently on the soft grass and waited for the soft breeze to wake her” (Baum, 54). Unlike Huck and Jim though, Dorothy’s trouble does not prevent her from reaching her intended destination. Both protagonists meet up with bad characters and have frightening experiences along the way. Huck and Jim meet up with two con men who title themselves the Duke and the Dauphin.
These two men travel with them to several towns, running cons and causing havoc along the way. At one town the Duke and Dauphin try to swindle three young ladies out of their inheritance. In another town they put on a stage play, charging very high ticket prices for a very short presentation. In the end, the Duke and Dauphin get their just deserts though, as they are tarred and feathered and taken out “astraddle of a rail” (Twain, 245). Dorothy and her companions meet up with the Wicked Witch’s servants before meeting her.
The Tin Woodsman destroys her wolves and the scarecrow wrings the necks of her crows, before the winged monkeys attack. But at the end of her story the Wicked Witch gets what is coming to her as well as Dorothy throws a bucket of water on her. “[T]he Witch fell down in a brown, melted, shapeless mass and began to spread over the clean boards of the kitchen floor. Seeing that she had melted away to nothing, Dorothy drew another bucket of water and threw it over the mess. She then swept it out of the door” (Baum, 92).
The main theme that the stories share is that of friendship. Huck befriends the runaway slave Jim. Even though Huck finds himself feeling “guilty” throughout the novel for not returning another person’s property, he stays true to his friend to the very end. Though he has several opportunities to give Jim up, he chooses not to. When Jim is betrayed by the Duke and Dauphin and “sold” to farmers, Huck decides he will rescue his friend, even though the “sale” would ensure the return of Miss Watson’s “property.
” Dorothy starts the fantasy part of the story with Toto as her only friend and traveling companion, but along the way she meets three characters that become her loyal friends. They stand up for one another and, like Huck and Jim, protect each other along the way. When Dorothy is captured by the winged monkeys and kept hostage by the Wicked Witch, her friends rescue her at great peril to themselves. These novels share many themes. The protagonists find themselves suddenly on a trip for which they have not truly planned, they travel long roads (or rivers as the case may be) and have unplanned adventures along the way.
Though the friends “part” at the end of both novels, Jim finding himself a free man and Huck heading west while Dorothy wakes to find her friends were all a dream, you get the feeling the characters are forever changed by the friendships formed during their quests. The themes found throughout Huckleberry Finn and The Wonderful Wizard of OZ, make for delightful reading and remind the reader why these books are “American Classics. ” Sources Consulted Baum, Frank. The Wonderful Wizard of OZ. New York: Sterling, 2005. Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. New York: Penguin, 1985.