The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear (Nelson Mandela). These words perfectly describe Elijah Freeman’s character development in the novel Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis, as Elijah takes part in extreme acts of courage to free a baby from slavery. As a free baby, Elijah did not experience slavery and oftentimes he does not understand the importance and significance of the freedom.
However as the story goes on, he realizes the struggles that black Americans went through as slaves to rich white people. His journey portrays character development from a fragile, naive and fearful little boy to a courageous and mature man. Elijah’s character is developed while attempting to balance his ideals with the reality of 1 800 slavery. This is shown through his actions, his opinions, and his interaction with other characters.
On quoting the famous saying of “actions speak louder than words,” Elijah illustrates character development through his activities and his reactions in different situations. Elijah shows that he is developing into a fearless man when he reads the letter to Mrs.. Hilton addressed from America. The people of the settlement are aware that the mail from America symbolizes bad news especially because Mrs.. Hilton was in Buxton without her husband. Elijah is scared of death and immediately cringes on the talk of death; however he becomes aware of the reality that death occurs in American slavery.
Elijah is realizing that slaves are constantly going through physical torture and sometimes the body is not able to endure that torture, “l hadn’t cried nor let my voice get hake-itty nor even sniffled whilst I was reading the letter to Mrs.. Hilton” (peg. 199). It shows character development as Elijah is aware that he had to become more mature and calm to complete this letter reading. In another situation Elijah acts to show that he has become brave as he agrees with Mr.. Leroy to go on the dangerous journey with him to America in search of the preacher and the gold he stole.
This incident suggests character development because Elijah is fully aware of the dangers that involve the journey to slave infested America. Despite white men who may kill him, Elijah agrees and commits to the journey to America. Furthermore, Elijah comes across the slaves and realizes that he may be able to take the baby back to freedom in Buxton. Elijah was never a slave and was born as a free baby so he did not directly experience the struggles and hate of slavery. However, once he sees the way his people are treated in America he makes the fearless judgment to take that baby.
The fact that he did not experience slavery but was able to understand the struggles Of slavery as he took the child shows that his character has fully developed into a daring and strong man. In inclusion his actions showed that he had matured a lot from the beginning of the novel. Elijah Freeman’s opinions about adults, gossip, murder and slavery throughout the novel shows that he is growing as a person. Although he is raised to respect the words of his elders, there are times when adults use their words to trick or take advantage but he starts to not fall for them.
This is seen when the preacher boasts about Elijah’s ability to catch fish with stones. At first Elijah is pleasantly surprised by the preacher’s comment but then he starts to reflect on the preacher’s sweet talking. Wet-talking is like a rattling-snake’s rattle, it’s like you’re getting a warning that you’re ’bout to get bit” (peg. 48)Elijah’s change in opinion about the sweet-talking is evident as he does not fall for the preachers boasting which shoes great maturity. In any community, there is bound to be gossip being spread about people and the things they have done.
Elijah had gossip spread about himself and as a result he was always confused as to where these stories were coming from as they were far from the truth. His opinion of gossip and the people who are involved in gossip was very negative as he believed eyeteeth were liars. His opinion however was adjusted upon realizing the reason behind all the gossip. He Was brought to the reality that gossip was in fact a consequence Of slavery. Since the slaves had no freedom and no time to anything else, they would talk and talk and talk to one another.
Elijah realizes that the gossip was coming from former slaves who had nothing to do but talk as their only source of entertainment and immediately changed is opinion about peoples gossip. This change in opinion was evident of his character adapting to the laity of 1800 slavery and further allows his growth. In addition his changed opinion to kill the preacher and avenge Mr.. Leroy death shows character development because it is not in Elijah’s nature to get angry and inflict physical harm on anyone.
After much thought he was able to come to this conclusion because of his understanding and knowledge of what hard work and freedom is. Mr.. Leroy worked many years to save up money to buy his family from slavery but the preacher took all the gold and ran. The preachers betrayal has to be punished to show the significance of freedom. Elijah’s interactions with different characters in the novel help shape him to be the courageous and mature man from a fragile little boy. He does not understand the intensity of the hate experienced upon being called the N-word. As he was talking to Mr..
Leroy, Elijah immaturely brought up that hate word referring to himself and his classmates. “All I saw at first was a bright light. Which I figured was Mr.. Leroy backhanding me ‘cross my mouth. ” (peg. 96) This interaction between Mr.. Leroy and Elijah emphasized the severity of the word and what it meant to the former slaves that now settled free in Buxton, lowing Elijah to realize his mistake. In another instance, Elijah’s interaction with his mom right before he leaves to America shows character development as she kisses him and says she may never see him again.
He is aware of the fact that he may never see his mother again and that he may even die but that did not stop his mother from letting him go. This depicts the fact that freedom from slavery was more important than their own lives. At this point Elijah takes the courageous step as a man and leaves on to a journey to try and free Mr.. Lowers family. Furthermore, character development is seen again from the interaction between Elijah and the slaves that he meets in America.
The slaves are all locked up and there is no way that he can save them. However there was one mother who held onto a baby that was not locked up. When he meets the mom he realizes that not every slave can be saved so he promises to give the baby the best life it ever had and takes the baby to Buxton. Elijah becomes a stronger man because he experienced a mother giving up her own child to a stranger in hopes that her baby will be free. The significance of freedom is yet again shown to Elijah when the mother and baby part ways.
These interactions were crucial in fully developing Elijah’s character from a fearful and naive little boy to a valiant, strong man, mature man. In conclusion, Elijah changes for the better in the story with his actions, his opinions, and his interaction with other characters. His actions in many situations have allowed his growth into a fearless young man. His Opinions have also changed throughout the novel as a result of new knowledge. Lastly, his interactions with various characters helped him evolve for the better.