Sometimes in literature, authors will use minor characters to highlight important qualities of another character. This approach helps the reader better understand the character since character foiling helps to identify their strengths and weaknesses. Mark Twain uses several character foils, each of which have a different impact on Huck’s moral growth. Throughout the classic American novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck’s friends help to bring out the best of his traits and morals: Buck, Tom and the King and the Duke. ! For example, Tom Sawyer serves as a character foil for Huck Finn.
Tom and Huck’s religious beliefs con? ict since Tom believes in genies, and Miss Watson tries to teach Huck what she thinks is right. Huck comes to the conclusion Tom doesn’t know what he is talking about; “So then I judged that all the stuff was only just one of Tom Sawyer’s lies” (14). As a result, Tom’s ideas lead Huck to form his own beliefs and challenge the majority of peoples’s way of thinking. Tom also foils Huck at the end of the book when he uses his imagination and knowledge of books to corroborate a plan to free Jim.
His unrealistic plan aggravates Huck; “Good land… why, there ain’t no necessity for it” (239). Tom’s foolish childish behavior didn’t bother Huck until now but since Tom is fooling around with Jim’s life and freedom, it makes Huck question his relationship with Tom. Tom’s actions affect Huck is a positive way that help him grow religiously and in maturity. Just as Tom foiled Huck, Twain uses Buck to do the same Buck Grangerford’s lifestyle is not similar to Huck’s which highlights the differences in Huck’s up-bringing. Buck’s home life is much different than Huck’s speci?
cally in regards to Buck having someone to wait on him hand and foot: “My nigger had a monstrous easy time, because I warn’t used to having anybody do anything for me, but Buck’s [slave] was on the jump most of the time” (106). This example shows that Huck is independent and doesn’t need someone to wait on him. Buck can relax and be free of any responsibility. In addition, Buck has “… a might nice family, and a mighty nice house, too” (99). Buck was raised without the worry of when his next meal was going to be put on the table, or if his father would die from his alcoholism problem.
Buck is raised with a fair amount of money, an education, and freedom which Huck lacks. Huck’s lifestyle is the opposite of Buck’s and Twain does this on purpose to express the struggle Huck has with his own life. Not only does Twain use Buck and Tom to foil Huck, he uses the king and the duke to contrast Huck. ! The outlandish, inconsiderate Duke and King affect Huck with their remorseless theft and sel? shness. The con-artists’ plans to take money from the innocent townspeople rub Huck the wrong way but when they want to steal from Mary Jane and the Grangerford’s, Huck won’t stand for it.
Huck decides to tell Mary Jane that her “uncles of yourn ain’t no uncles at all: they’re a couple of frauds- regular dead-beats”, because they just want land and money from the Grangerfords (187). The King and Duke’s actions compel Huck to be mature and tell Mary Jane what is actually going on. Later on in the book, Huck sees the King and the Duke tarred and feathered being chased from the town because of what they have done. Huck realizes he is “sorry for them poop pitful rascals, it seemed like I couldn’t ever feel any hardness against them any more in the world” (230).
Huck thinks back on how he hated them and thought they were scumbags because of what they had done to innocent people. Now he feels bad for them even thought they deserved it. Huck has grown as a person who can forgive instead of keeping a grudge. ! Twain artfully uses Tom, Buck, and the King and the Duke as character foils that help Huck grow morally throughout the book. All three sets of foils are different on purpose because Twain wanted to show the readers the affects other characters can have someone. It does not the age or intelligence of the minor character.
Twain’s logic is that using character foil gets his point across because the reader may not have picked up on traits or morals a character has since it was not directly stated. Not only do people affect others in literature, in the real world people’s actions affect others. A small kind gesture can change someone’s mood or attitude for the rest of the day. Or even something someone says might change another person’s outlook on a problem they are having or even larger, their life. The use of character foil is very important in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and more importantly the real world today.