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Literature: Mark Twain

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Of the many novels written in recent history, perhaps two of the most of these
society expectant novels are Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club, and Mark Twain’s
The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn. These book present the views of society very
well, yet at the same time, differentiating very much from each other. In The
Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn, a boy takes an incredible voyage down the river,
representing of course life’s journey. This voyage takes Huck Finn through
many places, and demands him to keep good moral decisions along the way,
regardless of what society thinks. In the process of the story, Huck Finn learns
that although society is usually correct in his eyes, he must learn to make and
keep decisions that he knows deviate from societies, yet he also learns to know
his decisions to be morally correct. In a different perspective, The Joy Luck
Club sheds an indefinitely different light on societies expectations, partly
because of the different ethnicities involved in these two stories. The societal
demands on the characters in the Joy Luck Club are very different from the ones
expressed in Twain’s novel. While the characters in The Joy Luck Club are
Chinese immigrants, the characters involved in Twain’s novel are White
Americans, with the exception of Jim, the Black slave Huck learns to befriend.
In critiquing these two novels, one notices that these two novels are in fact
very different from each other, especially so in the aspects of societal
expectations. In The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn, the main conflict that
comes up is that of the issue of slavery. The society in this novel does not
even consider slavery to be wrong, while Huck Finn continues to shun slavery
more and more, as the book unfolds. This very belief Huck Finn beholds is
evident, with his ever growing friendship with Jim, a slave in the novel. While
society sees Jim as property, Huck can discriminate, and sees past the societal
ploy for ethical mistreat on another human being, more specifically on an entire
race. In this same novel, other societal expectation are present, and
noticeable. This is evident through Huck’s education. Society expects him to
be educated, while Huck resents this all the while (Twain 20,21). In this
expectation of Huck by society, there can be found no wrong. In fact, this is
beneficial for Huck, seeing how without an education, he would most likely
follow in the path of his poorly educated drunken father. One can deduce,
however that Huck eventually begins to adapt to school life, and gradually learn
to live with it. Huck states, At first I hated school, but by and by I got to
where I could stand it. (Twain 20) This shows Huck’s true feelings about his
education. In The Joy Luck Club, the expectations imposed on the Chinese
immigrants by society differ from those previously seen in novels such as The
Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn. As new immigrants to the United States, the
Chinese women in the book , more specifically the daughters named in this book,
are expected by their fellow ethnic members to excel, regardless of language and
cultural differences. This is evident by the way the mothers are always
pressuring their daughters to excel, sometimes in areas that their daughters
lack talent in. Such is the case with June, or Jing-Mei. Her mother, believing
that America has plenty of opportunity for all, placed her in piano lessons, and
expected something to come of it (Tan 132). June, on the other hand, realizes
what her mother is trying to do, and reacts, stating, I’m not a genius! I
can’t play the piano. (Tan 136) After her mother sacrifices much to obtain
piano lessons for June, the daughter realizes it is all in vain, for she lacks
both the talent and the motivation to ever become a child prodigy on the piano.
June’s mother expects her daughter to be a piano prodigy partly because of
Waverly Jong’s excellent success at the game of chess. Just as Waverly is a
child chess prodigy, June is expected to be a prodigy of the piano. However, as
Waverly’s mother continues to drive her daughter to be better, Waverly
continues to grow more and more frustrated, until one day she can’t hold back
any more, and runs away, so to speak. Waverly’s mother has expected her to
become a prodigy of chess, and that she did. However, as Waverly started to get
recognition for this on many local and national levels, her mother began to show
Waverly off, and this upset Waverly. This is evident when the situation comes to
a head as the two are in the alley, and Waverly tells her mother her feelings,
before running away. (Tan 94-100) These two novels are very elaborately written,
with different styles evident in each one, to convey the societal expectations
thought to exist on the characters, by the authors. Twain is quite covert in
expressing the societal expectations on Huck, while Tan, on the contrary, is
rather direct. Twain uses his novel as a mask of sorts, to convey his message,
without any of it resting on his shoulders. Tan, goes about it in a different
manner, and states directly in her novel, how the characters don’t desire to
meet the demands placed on them, and specifies on the societal demands. From
reading both of these books, one can get an overview of the societal demands
involved in them, and perhaps see some of the same demands evident in their own
life.
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