Struggle for Freedom in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Native Son Throughout history, great authors have served as sentinels for racism and prejudice in American society. The Mark Twain novel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a graphic story of 1840s America that depicts the plight of an uneducated black slave named Jim moved many to empathize with African-Americans. Compassion against the evils of slavery soon spread across the country. A war-torn America abolished slavery in 1865. However, Richard Wright’s 1940 novel, Native Son, a compelling story of the life and death of another black man, Bigger Thomas, makes a convincing argument that slavery in America was still very much alive during that period.
Civil rights legislation and enforcement would not come until years later. A generation apart, Jim and Bigger embody the evolution of the black man struggling to be free in American society. On Twain’s Mississippi of the 1840’s, slaves are regarded more as property than human— there is no freedom for the black man.
Jim is trapped in a society that trumpets racial hatred; for example, Huck’s father said, “they told me there was a state…where they’d let the nigger vote…I says I’ll never vote again” (Twain 35). Early in their travels, Jim and Huck mirror the chasm in black and white relations that plagues America at the time. Blinded by prejudice, Huck seems incapable of recognizing that, much like himself, Jim is scared and running from a life of few choices, towards a dream of independence. Instead, he can only see what society allows him to—the blackness of Jim’s skin. He is reluctant to be seen with Jim because he knows “People would call [him] a low-down Abolitionist and despise [him] for keeping mum” (50). Even afte.
. .e and what kind of work he [can] do” (Wright 394). Bigger’s society collectively denies him freedom to better his life with “restrictions placed upon Negro education,” authorities “that make it plain in their every act that they mean to keep Bigger Thomas and his kind within rigid limits,” and real estate operators who have “agreed among themselves to keep Negroes within ghetto-areas of cities” (394). Unlike Jim, Bigger can’t escape his slavery by running to the free north. His slavery is all-encompassing. Jim only sees freedom at face value, so his can be achieved. He can only hope for freedom in its simplest form… release from the physical shackles of slavery. Bigger’s freedom begins where Jim’s leaves off. Works Cited Twain, Mark. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. New York: Harper & Row, 1885. Wright, Richard. Native Son. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1940.
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