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Book Analysis Essays

The Most Morally Complex Hero

On one level, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, is just a tale of a few mischievous kids and their charismatic leader, Tom Sawyer, getting into trouble. On another level, it is the story of all the real damage that can result from seemingly innocent adventures. Tom Sawyer is at the center of this narrative. He cons Ben Rogers into washing the fence for him. He lets Potter go on trial for a murder that Tom knows Potter did not commit. Tom lies to his aunt many times. Worst of all, Tom allows the entire town to believe that he and his friends have drowned.

Yet he does eventually come clean to save Potter. He also has deep regrets about the pain he ends up causing. It is hard to pin Tom Sawyer down morally because he acts in ways that hurt others, but when he realizes the consequences of his actions he is often regretful.

It is a fair argument to say Tom Sawyer should be forgiven all his mistakes. After all, he is just a child. He seems to understand that the things he has done hurt people, and he regrets them. Tom even goes to lengths to make the people he has hurt feel better. However, it would be difficult to argue that Tom would not make many of the same choices all over again. After Tom and Becky nearly died in a cave, Tom still brings Huck back to that same cave to find gold. While he presumably knew where he was going that time, the danger still remained. Tom caused immense grief and sadness for his Aunt Polly when he allowed her to believe his friends and him were dead. He even went so far as to come back to his house to spy on Aunt Polly grieving for him without ever revealing himself because it would have, “ruined the surprise.” There is sincere regret for each of these actions, yet they still occur many times.

The question remains for Tom Sawyer. Maybe Tom would not be so morally complex if he was an adult. He would be cast as manipulative, selfish, and callous. His youth muddies up the discussion. Yet, there has to be a point at which the moral immunity of his youth wears off. What Tom Sawyer’s character makes so difficult is where that point is.

Essays on literature are one of the most commonly assigned papers among college and university students. We posted this literary analysis essay example analysing one of the most morally complex heroes. Our writer selected Tom Sawyer to speak about in his/her essay. In case you need another character to analyze for your literature class, you are welcome to ask our experts to help you. Just tell your topic and your paper will be delivered as soon as you need it.

Enjoy reading one more literary analytical essay example.

The history about adventures of Huckleberry Finn is famous and well-known in the world. It must be clear that, as any high-quality story, it must have some moral. It is important that the moral of the story still stays interesting for the researchers. One can notice that they are interested not only in the main moral of the whole story but more about the moral of the main character. The case of Huckleberry Finn seems to be quite interesting, taking into account the factors that have an impact on him. Reading the story, one can notice that Huckleberry is surrounded by the common morality of his time and environment. However, when it is time to act in some way, Huckleberry behave in the way that seems to be right for him and the modern readers, not for the sources of common moral that could affect him. In this way, considering the sources of Huckleberry’s morality, one can notice not only different external sources but also his own feelings about right and wrong.

Considering the moral values and the source of morality for Huckleberry Finn one can pay attention to the article written by Schinkel, who cited Copeland (2002), writing that “whereas Miss Watson tries to get Huck to behave by telling him ‘all about the bad place,’ the widow, in a more Stoic frame of mind, teaches Huck to pray for ‘spiritual gifts,’ which means, as Huck says, ‘I must help other people, and do everything I could for other people, and look out for them all the time, and never think about myself’ [. . .]” (516). Considering the following behavior of Huckleberry one can say that widow’s morale had more impact on him. One can also suggest that Huckleberry’s own representations of morals, even they were not strictly formulated, was closer to widow’s moral. At least he definitely agreed with the idea of helping other people, particularly his friends and people who were kind to him. Independence is an important feature of Huckleberry Finn. However, he, like any other person, can not avoid an impact of environmental factors. Thus, he can accept or not the morals which Miss Watson and the widow tried to instill him. However, except these two women, there is one more source of morality that had an impact on Huckleberry Finn.

One of the main points related with moral of Huckleberry Finn is his interaction with his friend, fugitive black slave Jim. One can notice that in this relationships moral of Huckleberry Finn became the clearest. On the one hand, “in his earliest years, Huck wasn’t taught any principles, and the only ones he has encountered since then are those of rural Missouri, in which slave-owning is just one kind of ownership and is not subject to critical pressure” (Bennett). In this way, whether he accepts it or not, an environment has an impact on Huckleberry. On the other hand, Huck allows Jim to escape and helps him if their following travel. This fact clearly shows that except the common rural Missouri moral Huckleberry have another one, that makes him act the way he did it, helping Jim.

Considering the moral issue of Huckleberry Finn, Schinkel wrote that “Huck somehow has to deal with two alternately dominant manifestations of the concerned awareness we call conscience” (515). The researcher pays attention to the fact that “one of them is articulate, taking its standard from conventional morality; the other is mute and has no articulable standard to go by – Huck cannot articulate any standard on this side, because the whole of his moral vocabulary is in service of the first” (Schinkel 515). In this way, the researcher emphasizes and shows the issue of two morals that Huckleberry has. On the one hand, he has the moral that society and certain people tried to instill him. On the other hand, Huckleberry has his own moral, own feeling about right and wrong behavior and actions. What is more important, even the second type of moral is not articulable, this moral, not the first one, makes Huckleberry act in the way he acts and helps Jim. In this way, considering sources of Huckleberry’s morality, one can consider not only the different external sources such as society in general or particular people who have the impact on Huckleberry but also his own feelings about right and wrong.

In this way, there are different sources of Huckleberry’s morality. There are two women, Miss Watson and the widow, who tried to instill him their morality. One more source is the common morality of his time, which can impact on Huckleberry from the different people and different sources, but he in any way could not avoid it. However, actions of Huckleberry are not caused by any of that morals. Thus, the sources of Huckleberry’s morality can be separated in external and inner. One can notice the inner feelings and understanding of right and wrong is the most important for Huckleberry and it causes his behavior, not the common morality of his time or people who tried to instill their morality to him.

Works Cited

Bennett, Jonathan. The Conscience Of Huckleberry Finn. 1974, http://www.earlymoderntexts.com/assets/jfb/huckfinn.pdf.

Schinkel, Anders. “Huck Finn, Moral Language And Moral Education.” Journal Of Philosophy Of Education, vol 45, no. 3, 2011, pp. 511-525.

Literary Analysis: Using Elements of Literature

Students are asked to write literary analysis essays because this type of assignment encourages you to think about how and why a poem, short story, novel, or play was written.  To successfully analyze literature, you’ll need to remember that authors make specific choices for particular reasons.  Your essay should point out the author’s choices and attempt to explain their significance. 

Another way to look at a literary analysis is to consider a piece of literature from your own perspective.  Rather than thinking about the author’s intentions, you can develop an argument based on any single term (or combination of terms) listed below.  You’ll just need to use the original text to defend and explain your argument to the reader.

Allegory - narrative form in which the characters are representative of some larger humanistic trait (i.e. greed, vanity, or bravery) and attempt to convey some larger lesson or meaning to life. Although allegory was originally and traditionally character based, modern allegories tend to parallel story and theme.

  • William Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily- the decline of the Old South
  • Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde- man’s struggle to contain his inner primal instincts
  • District 9- South African Apartheid
  • X Men- the evils of prejudice
  • Harry Potter- the dangers of seeking “racial purity”

Character - representation of a person, place, or thing performing traditionally human activities or functions in a work of fiction

  • Protagonist - The character the story revolves around.
  • Antagonist - A character or force that opposes the protagonist.
  • Minor character - Often provides support and illuminates the protagonist.
  • Static character - A character that remains the same.
  • Dynamic character - A character that changes in some important way.
  • Characterization - The choices an author makes to reveal a character’s personality, such as appearance, actions, dialogue, and motivations.  

Look for: Connections, links, and clues between and about characters. Ask yourself what the function and significance of each character is. Make this determination based upon the character's history, what the reader is told (and not told), and what other characters say about themselves and others.

Connotation - implied meaning of word. BEWARE! Connotations can change over time.

  • confidence/ arrogance
  • mouse/ rat
  • cautious/ scared
  • curious/ nosey
  • frugal/ cheap

Denotation - dictionary definition of a word

Diction - word choice that both conveys and emphasizes the meaning or theme of a poem through distinctions in sound, look, rhythm, syllable, letters, and definition  

Figurative language - the use of words to express meaning beyond the literal meaning of the words themselves

  • Metaphor - contrasting to seemingly unalike things to enhance the meaning of a situation or theme without using like or as  
    • You are the sunshine of my life.
  • Simile - contrasting to seemingly unalike things to enhance the meaning of a situation or theme using like or as  
    • What happens to a dream deferred, does it dry up like a raisin in the sun
  • Hyperbole - exaggeration
    • I have a million things to do today.
  • Personification - giving non-human objects human characteristics
    • America has thrown her hat into the ring, and will be joining forces with the British.

Foot - grouping of stressed and unstressed syllables used in line or poem

  • Iamb - unstressed syllable followed by stressed
    • Made famous by the Shakespearian sonnet, closest to the natural rhythm of human speech
      • How do I love thee? Let me count the ways
  • Spondee - stressed stressed
    • Used to add emphasis and break up monotonous rhythm
      • Blood boil, mind-meld, well- loved
  • Trochee - stressed unstressed
    • Often used in children’s rhymes and to help with memorization, gives poem a hurried feeling
      • While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
  • Anapest - unstressed unstressed stressed
    • Often used in longer poems or “rhymed stories”
      • Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house
  • Dactyls - stressed unstressed unstressed
    • Often used in classical Greek or Latin text, later revived by the Romantics, then again by the Beatles, often thought to create a heartbeat or pulse in a poem
      • Picture yourself in a boat on a river,
        With tangerine trees and marmalade skies.

The iamb stumbles through my books; trochees rush and tumble; while anapest runs like a hurrying brook; dactyls are stately and classical.

Imagery - the author’s attempt to create a mental picture (or reference point) in the mind of the reader. Remember, though the most immediate forms of imagery are visual, strong and effective imagery can be used to invoke an emotional, sensational (taste, touch, smell etc) or even physical response.

Meter - measure or structuring of rhythm in a poem

Plot - the arrangement of ideas and/or incidents that make up a story

  • Foreshadowing - When the writer clues the reader in to something that will eventually occur in the story; it may be explicit (obvious) or implied (disguised).
  • Suspense - The tension that the author uses to create a feeling of discomfort about the unknown
  • Conflict - Struggle between opposing forces.
  • Exposition - Background information regarding the setting, characters, plot.
  • Rising Action - The process the story follows as it builds to its main conflict
  • Crisis - A significant turning point in the story that determines how it must end
  • Resolution/Denouement - The way the story turns out.

Point of View - pertains to who tells the story and how it is told. The point of view of a story can sometimes indirectly establish the author's intentions.

  • Narrator - The person telling the story who may or may not be a character in the story.
  • First-person - Narrator participates in action but sometimes has limited knowledge/vision.
  • Second person - Narrator addresses the reader directly as though she is part of the story. (i.e. “You walk into your bedroom.  You see clutter everywhere and…”)
  • Third Person (Objective) - Narrator is unnamed/unidentified (a detached observer). Does not assume character's perspective and is not a character in the story. The narrator reports on events and lets the reader supply the meaning.
  • Omniscient - All-knowing narrator (multiple perspectives). The narrator knows what each character is thinking and feeling, not just what they are doing throughout the story.  This type of narrator usually jumps around within the text, following one character for a few pages or chapters, and then switching to another character for a few pages, chapters, etc. Omniscient narrators also sometimes step out of a particular character’s mind to evaluate him or her in some meaningful way.

Rhythm - often thought of as a poem’s timing. Rhythm is the juxtaposition of stressed and unstressed beats in a poem, and is often used to give the reader a lens through which to move through the work. (See meter and foot)

Setting - the place or location of the action.  The setting provides the historical and cultural context for characters. It often can symbolize the emotional state of characters. Example – In Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher, the crumbling old mansion reflects the decaying state of both the family and the narrator’s mind. We also see this type of emphasis on setting in Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice.

Speaker - the person delivering the poem. Remember, a poem does not have to have a speaker, and the speaker and the poet are not necessarily one in the same.

Structure (fiction) - The way that the writer arranges the plot of a story.

Look for: Repeated elements in action, gesture, dialogue, description, as well as shifts in direction, focus, time, place, etc.

Structure(poetry) - The pattern of organization of a poem. For example, a Shakespearean sonnet is a 14-line poem written in iambic pentameter. Because the sonnet is strictly constrained, it is considered a closed or fixed form. An open or free form poem has looser form, or perhaps one of the author’s invention, but it is important to remember that these poems  are not necessarily formless.

Symbolism - when an object is meant to be representative of something or an idea greater than the object itself.

  • Cross - representative of Christ or Christianity
  • Bald Eagle - America or Patriotism
  • Owl - wisdom or knowledge
  • Yellow - implies cowardice or rot

Tone - the implied attitude towards the subject of the poem. Is it hopeful, pessimistic, dreary, worried? A poet conveys tone by combining all of the elements listed above to create a precise impression on the reader.