For this paper I have chosen to analyze the similarities between Daisy Miller and Huckleberry Finn. Though the novels containing these characters seem to be of very different genres, with very different subjects and content matters, the two main characters are in all actuality very similar, both in personality and background.
The first and most striking similarity between Huckleberry Finn and Daisy Miller is that neither cares a whit about social norm – what is proper; what is expected of them. The appropriate behavior of the day is neither acknowledged nor appreciated. Huck continually struggles with Miss Watson’s rules for living in her house – clean, starched dress clothing, formal table manners, early to bed early to rise. He is bewildered by how a tight collar is better for a body than loose-fitting clothes one can move in, or how a fork can possibly be easier to use than one’s hands. In Daisy’s case the rules being broken were not quite so simple. She has no problem using table manners or dressing in appropriate fashion.
Her rebellion comes in the way of drawing room manners. She wants to run around with whoever has her fancy at the moment; she sees nothing wrong with holding several suitors at once. The whole of appropriate society gossips left and right about her inappropriate traversing with so many men, and yet she can do nothing but laugh at them and be on her way. She goes so far as to throw it in their faces per se, by running around at all hours of the day and night alone with one or another of her suitors.
What I would have to say is the most socially significant similarity Daisy and Huck share ties into the previous similarity. While neither of the two cares about social norms, there is the bigger picture not of two rebellious children, but rather of two independent minded, liberal people struggling against a closed minded, conservative society. Both have fresh, new ideas – Daisy with her liberated womanhood, and Huck with his personal freedom, even for black men. Their natural intelligence and willingness to think through situations on their own merits and follow their instincts allows them to come to conclusions that are right in their contexts but would shock society.
Another social factor for both Huck and Daisy is that both come from the lower ranks of their classes. Both fit in to their social group in all obvious aspects, yet they are still only begrudgingly admitted, and are consistently reminded of this fact. Neither one’s mistakes are easily forgiven, if at all. They are very critically watched, for each mistake simply more so confirms the fact that they are indeed trash, dredged from the slum of society. It is almost an impossible hole to climb out of, they begin in the bottom of it, and each mistake simply digs them deeper. There is no way to move forward, to come out on top. The standing they were born into is the standing they will die in, for society has no room for a swift change by little forces.
Something else that ties Daisy and Huck together is their youth. Both dream of their lives ahead of them, even while Huck only has brushes with death and Daisy must succumb to it. To each the world is new and unexplored, and social proprieties seem to only hinder them from discovering what wonders lie outside. Each experience is an occasion for thought. Because of their backgrounds, however, rather than just applying the rules they have been taught, they create their own rules. However, neither of them are self-governing ethical geniuses.
They still must struggle with ingrained ideas society has given them, and whether they should or should not break them. Even while Daisy wishes to run around late at night with her Italian suitor, being shunned from the drawing rooms of high society embarrasses her. Huck also is nervous about whether he should turn Mrs. Watson’s Jim in; he reasons that there is nothing wrong with a man working for his freedom, yet he feels that at the same time it is like to stealing Mrs. Watson’s property by not informing on his whereabouts as according to law.
The authors of each story also took a look at the main character’s gender roles in the society they were in. For both, it was a man’s world, but the child and the woman managed to each forge their lonesome path and live their own lives. They only wanted to live as they sought fit. Huck was almost an orphan, having no mother and a vagrant father. A kindly old woman adopted him in sorts, but she had no sense of a boy’s life. Even when living with her, he still had to deal with his drunkard father on his own. Once he left home and set out on his journey down the Mississippi, he faced and outfoxed
far more than anyone would ever expect a grown man, let alone a thirteen-year-old boy. He often got himself out of tight spots by claiming that his pa sent him, or that his pa was on his way. No one believed a small boy could be doing anything of his own accord.
As for Daisy, it was not proper for her to be having an affair of sorts with her Italian love, but it was perfectly okay for Winterbourne to be seeing both her and his foreign interest. Talk about double standards. This is a classic one. Men can do anything they want with whoever they want, but for a woman to even think about doing the same thing is so unspeakable that she should be shunned for life. Daisy, being the strong woman that she is, blatantly flaunts her indiscretions, knowingly embarrassed, but refusing to be held down to a standard not applied to everyone else.
Finally, one last similarity that I found particularly appealing is the greater role of Huck and Daisy in representing the emergence of America into the world’s political, economic, and social scene. Both characters are young, inexperienced, trying to make their way in an old culture with set rules and practices. The outgoing behavior of Huck and Daisy shock their surroundings, just as did America’s want for independence and a progressive way of life to all of Europe. America sought a new society, free from chauvinism and such tension between societal ranks. Daisy and Huck enter society just as America entered the world, young, inexperienced, with little understanding of class and culture, but with a great deal of interest in wealth, and knowledge of what lies in humanity. Perhaps more importantly, even in what is thought of as such a racist novel, Huckleberry Finn represents the progression of America from the fetters of slavery into the Abolitionist movement, a time of struggle, experience, and, most importantly, freedom.