“‘She is completely uncultivated,’ Winterbourne went on. ‘But she is wonderfully pretty, and, in short, she is very nice. To prove that I believe it, I am going to take her to the Chateau de Chillon.’ ‘You two are going off there together? I should say it proved just the contrary. How long had you known her, may I ask, when this interesting project was formed. You haven’t been twenty-four hours in the house.’ ‘I had known her half-an-hour!’ said Winterbourne, smiling. ‘Dear me!’ cried Mrs. Costello. ‘What a dreadful girl!'” (Henry James’ “Daisy Miller: A Study” p. 400)
“At first I hated the school, but by-and-by I got so I could stand it. Whenever I got uncommon tired I played hookey, and the hiding I got next day done me good and cheered me up. So the longer I went to school the easier it got to be. I was getting sort of used to the widow’s ways, too, and they warn’t so raspy on me. Living in a house, and sleeping in a bed, pulled on me pretty tight, mostly, but before the cold weather I used to slide out and sleep in the woods, sometimes, and so that was a rest to me. I liked the old ways best, but I was getting so I liked the new ones, too, a little bit.” (Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” p. 117)
While at first glance, Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and Henry James’ “Daisy Miller: A Study,” don’t seem to be related, the truth is that they are, in some aspects, very similar. My objective is to compare the works by each of these authors, addressing the fact that they both explore the theme of freedom and the main characters of each story break away from tradition, in essence not adhering to social norms but choosing a path of their own. In a sense, Daily Miller and Huckleberry Finn are both “uncultivated,” which is a key word from one of the above passages which we will soon explore. While this word itself is only precisely mentioned in the Daisy Miller passage, the Huckleberry Finn excerpt also exemplifies the idea of it.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word uncultivated as “Of persons, their faculties, etc.: Not improved by education or training: uncultured.” In the passage by Henry James, it is evident that the young woman being spoken about, Daisy Miller, is not approved of by the more traditional, older woman. She is “uncultivated,” and has not adjusted to the normal behavior of the society in which she has come to. Daisy has chosen not to be exactly like everyone else, and for this reason they judge her and believe that she doesn’t meet their high class standard. In this passage, a topic being discussed is the idea of European’s that a young woman should not go off with a young man who she hardly knows. This is looked down upon, yet Daisy Miller doesn’t seem to care. She does what she feels like doing, possibly because she is not educated enough to know better, or maybe for the simple reason that she wants to be “free” to make her own decisions. This happens to be exactly what we see when examining Huckleberry Finn in the excerpt by Mark Twain.
The above passage from the “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” seems to exemplify the definition of “uncultivated.” The narrator, Huckleberry Finn, is telling the reader about the different ways that he goes against societal norms and does what he wants. He plays hookey from school, and sleeps outside at times rather than in his bed. These are just small examples of how Huck idealizes “freedom” of choice and expression. It is very evident throughout this passage, as well as the novel, that Huck Finn is uncultured. He has not received the proper education and training to function according to the traditions of society, however the above passage shows that he is in a way attempting to adjust and become more cultivated. He quotes that he liked the old way of doing things better, but he likes the new ways as well.
It is easy to find a relation between the two stories by Mark Twain and Henry James. Though many of the themes and the actual story lines do not have much in common, passages like those above show the bond. The main characters of these excerpts are very different, but they also have a world of similarities. The idea that they are “uncultivated” is what brings them together, though their approaches to dealing with that issue are somewhat opposite. James and Twain both do what is necessary to approach the theme of “freedom” by letting their characters make decisions that drag them away from tradition and into a whirlwind of judgment and finding their own self.
Book Title: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Mark Twain – author. Publisher: P. F. Collier & Son. Place of Publication: New York. Publication Year: 1918.