Similar Themes in The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn And The Perks Of Being a Wallflower
Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower are separated by more than a century; yet, both novels have similar themes, transmitting a message regarding truth. However, these two novels approach this theme of truth in different methods. The narrative style in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn utilizes colloquialism irregularly, illuminating the discretion between moral and conventional truth. The Perks of Being a Wallflower employs an epistolary form to address the delicate nature of truth.
The inconsistent usage of colloquialism in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, especially during the act of lying, uncovers a distinction between moral and conventional truth. The sudden absence of colloquialism when the duke and dauphin prevaricate tinges their lies with a strong sense of sin. When duke and dauphin lie all dialect disappears and proper English is suddenly communicated. For instance, the duke and dauphin suddenly transition from dialect into formal speech when introducing themselves as royalty to Huck and Jim, an outright lie. The dauphin initially appears to be natural in local dialect, proclaiming “drot your pore borkent heart…We hain’t done nothing” (134). Imprecise orthography and syntax ooze from that sentence alone. However, when explaining his position as a king, his English significantly improves with sophisticated diction like “premature” (136) and “exiled” (136). The duke also displays flawed spelling and proficiency in dialect with misspelled words such as “staid” (132) and Southern expressions like “what’s yourn” (133). However, the “Duke of Bilgewater” displays sophisticated speech and eloquence – a large contrast from Southern slurs – when he identifies himself as “the lineal descendant of [the eldest son of the Duke of Bridgewater] – [he is] the rightful Duke of Bridgewater” (135), a well-crafted statement. An effect of colloquialism onto the reader is the establishment of an aurora of trust as if a friendly sincere farmer is talking to the reader. As a result, when the duke and dauphin lie and abandon dialect, the reader is left with a stronger sense of mistrust even apathy towards the duke and dauphin for their mendacities.
On the other hand, Huckleberry Finn never breaks his vernacular, regardless of whether his is lying or not. Huckleberry Finn lies on a fair number of occasions but never conceals his way of speech. For example, Huckleberry visits a “town…a little below the ferry landing” (65) in order for provisions. In order to avoid recognition, Huck Finn even dresses as a girl with a “sun bonnet” (64) and heads to town. Yet, the extent of his deceit fails to hide his accent with phrases such as “I ain’t afread of the dark” (66) and “it ain’t no matter now” (71). Even in fabrications in which it seems more convincing to hide the Southern yeoman drawl, Huckleberry does not shroud his patois. For instance, Huckleberry Finn attempts to convince the watchman he had relations to the affluent Jim Hornback would be more convincing if his speech was more refined than a country accent. More elegant rhetoric would give more reason for the watchman to believe his anecdote. Yet, Huck still persists with his vernacular, recalling, “Miss What-you-maycall-her, I disremember her name” (85) and how the characters “saddle-baggsed” (85). Huckleberry Finn, by never breaking his vernacular, creates a sense of trust with the reader. The colloquialism effect of trust is not broken by Huck, unlike the duke and dauphin, pushing the reader to favor Huck and waive his lies.
The colloquialism contrast coincides with the intent of the characters’ untrue concoctions to illuminate upon the distinction between a moral and conventional truth. Established by colloquialism, the duke and dauphin fail to earn the reader’s trust while Huckleberry Finn does. Huckleberry’s fabrications, therefore, seem innocent while the duke and dauphin’s actions appear to be imbedded with a sense of felony. Simultaneously, another disparity is that the duke and dauphin deceive mainly for personal gain while Huck seems to have a larger moral purpose. For example, the duke and dauphin are untruthful mostly to make a profit – they are swindlers. They lie to the townspeople when hosting a play in order to make money. They lie to the Wilks family in order to receive their family inheritance. The duke and dauphin are impervious to moral hazards when trying to make a profit. Jim is even sold – by hoodwinking Huck – due to their greed. However, Huck’s lies serve moral humane purposes. Huck deceives to the watchman in order to save the lives of two burglars stranded on a ferryboat. He also lies multiple times to hide the fugitive status of Jim and assist Jim in regrouping with his family. Huck’s white lies are to protect people, an obvious moral cause. This contrast in intention coincides with the trust built through the colloquial effect, conceiving Huck’s meaningful bluffs to be innocent while the duke and dauphin appear to be more sinister. Therefore, the reader finds sympathy with Huck’s moral decisions, a moral truth. Although Huck breaks conventional antebellum Southern customs by committing faking death to assisting a runaway slave, the reader is nudged to view Huck’s sins lightly and his cause to be fairly noble, pushing the reader to further polarize the gap between morality and antebellum Southern justice.
The epistolary form of The Perks of Being a Wallflower communicates the theme of a delicate truth – the need for confidentiality and the drastic effects of exposing the truth – through an establishment of trust. The theme of a fragile truth is communicated via text. The truth is to be trod on lightly, suggesting negative consequences of a blunt attitude. One instance that proves this theme is the secrecy in Brad and Patrick’s relationship. Brad and Patrick are gay; however, Brad wanted to keep his sexuality a secret. After Brad and Patrick “fool[ed] around in the basement” (43), Brad would always mention on Monday “’Man, I was so wasted. I don’t remember a thing’” (44), concealing the truth. Brad even pretended to pass out after having sex with Patrick due to his desire to hide his homosexuality. Truth was sensitive and fragile for Brad, a topic of caution. His reaction after his sexuality was disclosed to his father shows how the effects of truth, underscoring the need for confidentiality. After his father realizes Brad is gay, Brad becomes irrational, calling Patrick a “’Faggot!’” (150) and “punching…wrestl[ing] and hit[ting]” (151), leaving “[Patrick’s] face pretty messed up, and crying hard” (151). Brad’s breakdown and hysteric attitude about the truth shows how important confidentiality is and how devastating the divulgence of the truth can be. Charlie also has a similar experience. Charlie dearly loves his Aunt Helen, claiming, “we loved Aunt Helen, especially me” (16). However, Charlie comes to a revelation, realizing that Aunt Helen had molested him as a child. This realization left Charlie “sitting on the couch in the family room…completely naked” (208), unable to wake up even after his father “even slapped [him]” (208). Once again, the truth had a devastating effect on Charlie, suggesting that the truth should be dealt with carefully like a triggered landmine, kept secret in the dirt to avoid an explosion.
The epistolary form of the novel accentuates the theme of a delicate truth through its characteristics. Letters are a highly personal form of communication, intended for a single person and implied to be confidential. Charlie is also confiding in the reader, identifying the reader as the person who “listen[s] and understand[s] and didn’t try to sleep with that person at that party” (2). He makes his desire for his story to be private explicit, stating “I will call people by different names…because I don’t want you to find me” (2). Charlie, in a novel that discuss the need for confidentiality through details such as Brad’s homosexuality and Charlie’s concealed love for Sam, is once again emphasizing the need for secrecy through narrative style. The epistolary form also further reinforces the theme of a delicate truth. A letter is not a verbatim analysis of a day, but rather a perspective. The perspective of Charlie is viewed through these letters and his focus on even minor events such as his silence after a rape at his brother’s party and his sister’s breakup shows how much emphasis is placed on secrets. Charlie views secrets to be important and integral in his everyday life.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Perks of Being a Wallflower both have a theme related to the truth that is spotlighted by their narrative styles. Colloquialism creates discretion between moral and conventional truth while epistolary form helps describe the delicate nature of reality. The elucidation of the various aspects of truth leave readers with lingering thoughts, pondering on if truth is a huckleberry, simple and plain, or a delicate wallflower with streaking colors.
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