Monday, February 4, 2013

Don Quixote and Huckleberry Finn, continued

An update from an earlier post: out of curiosity, I did a search of Don Quixote and Huckleberry Finn, and I found this from


Here is a portion of what it says:

Huck Finn
is Mark Twain's joyous and inverted take-off on Don Quixote. Tom Sawyer is a parody of the Don, the one who reads all the books and tries to make life imitate the books. But in this novel he is the secondary character, not the primary character. He is all romantic imagination, as the Don is, and has little interest in reality. Huck, the realist, is the primary figure. And he is like Sancho Panza. Huck tries to follow Tom, but in failing to do so, he illustrates the silliness of Tom's romantic nonsense and underlines his own good sense. Tom is middle class and conventional. Huck is an outcast, worse than an orphan, but very clever and very thoughtful. He is full of common sense.

Literary Allusion
The relationship between Don Quixote and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a perfect example of the way literature is created; that is, it is always created in some relation to literature that has already been written, in response to it, in reaction to it, in commentary on it, in elaboration of it.

Mark Twain was thinking of Don Quixote as he wrote Huck Finn. When Tom mentions Don Quixote, Twain creates the best kind of literary allusion. Twain isn't showing off, proving that he's read Don Quixote. He is using Don Quixote to throw a special light on Huck Finn

If you've read Don illuminates your reading of Huck Finn. You see the two central figures, Tom and Huck, as counterparts of the Don and Sancho, only you see them reversed, so that Huck, who has the realism of Sancho, is the central figure; and Tom, who has the romantic illusions of the Don, is reduced to a secondary role. There is certainly an implied comparison of American to European culture here. At any rate, that's what literary allusion is all about, throwing a special light on the literature that uses it.


  1. Interesting! I will read Huck with Quixote in mind now.

    1. Tonia, as soon as you start reading HF, you may get DQ flash backs and think it too familiar. It will come automatically.