Harper Lee, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Solomon Northup fulfill their American dream by overcoming racial prejudices through their passionate words in American literature. These three authors use the right of freedom of speech in their favor in order to share their beliefs on the injustices of social inequality. By confronting society with the moral realities of slavery, these authors are able to unveil the hardships of those who are not given a fair opportunity at the “American Dream”, sparking a desire in readers to end slavery.
Through the lessons taught by Atticus Finch, Harper Lee shows readers the racial injustice in the South. Tom, an innocent black man, is accused of raping a white woman; because of his true innocence, he is seen as one of the “mockingbirds” in the novel, “mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird,” (Lee 98). Although Robinson is an innocent man, he is accused of this crime not by facts or history but by the color of his skin.
In this sense, killing a mockingbird destroys innocence and promotes prejudice. The rather racist town of Maycomb dehumanizes Robinson because of the belief that blacks are inferior to whites; the whites in Maycomb would like to believe the idea that they are superior to those of color so they conscientiously turn a blind eye to obvious facts that lead to Robinson’s innocence. Theoretically, in a courtroom, one is given a jury of one’s peers to determine guilt or innocence; however, in Maycomb the jury consists of all white men who have already determined their decision before entering the courtroom.
This corruption in society during this time period is so common that it “makes men lose their heads—they couldn’t be fair if they tried. In our courts, when it’s a white man’s word against a black man’s, the white man always wins. They’re ugly, but those are the facts of life… the one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom, be he any color of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box,” (Lee 149). In To Kill A Mockingbird, justice is seen as a privilege, not a right and the only ones exploring this “privilege” are those who are born white.
Darren Felty’s critical overview of the novel To Kill a Mockingbird explains how Lee uses the perspective of innocent children to further progress the message of her book. By emphasizing Scout and Jem’s transition from a perspective of childhood innocence, in which their pure assumptions assume that people are good because they have never seen evil, are changed into an adult perspective, at the point where they have witnessed the evils of their elders and now must incorporate it into their understanding of the world without falling into the trap of prejudices that lie in front of them.
The innocent views of the children show how, “Tom Robinson, the second and more tragic figure, loses his life because of racial prejudice, teaching the children about the more malicious characteristics of their society and fellow citizens” (Felty). This unbiased point of view from the children shows readers how adult behavior is immoral and corrupt. The children’s, “honest and often confused reactions reflect their development as people and also help the reader to gauge the moral consequences of the novel’s events” (Felty).
The younger generation is beginning to understand the conflicting issues in society and they are able to identify between those who are corrupt and those who are honorable. This shows the audience that if young children are able to point out the injustices in society, then something needs to be changed. Felty recognizes Lee’s efforts to expose the corrupt figures in the community through this outward look on society that parallels present day issues during this time period.
Felty distinguishes Lee’s purpose in writing To Kill a Mockingbird when he says, “Lee wants to make explicit the consequences of racism and to guide the reader’s judgement. ” As a result of the children’s transition from innocence to experience, the reader is able to witness the threat that hatred, prejudice, and ignorance poses to the children in society. Lee presents her readers with the question of how are these children supposed to be the leaders of our future when they have no one to look up to? In doing so, Lee achieves the American dream by challenging society with the consequences of racism that are presented in the novel.
The novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin was written during a time period in which the American Dream was not a reality for all Americans. Stowe’s dramatic portrayal of slave life is credited to be one of the major sparks of the American civil war. Stowe progresses her novel with the use of grueling images of slavery, “The most dreadful part of slavery, to my mind, is its outrages on the feelings and affections, – the separating of families, for example,” (Stowe 301). In doing this, Stowe establishes sympathetic bonds between mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters of all races.
Stowe emphasizes the harsh punishments inflicted upon slaves when, “Legree, taking up a cowhide, and striking Tom a heavy blow across the cheek, and following up the infliction with a shower of blows” (Stowe 405). Stowe uses her powerful voice in literature in order to inform the public of the inhumane and unjust treatments of African Americans; she does this in hopes of stirring up the desire to fight for African American freedom. How the book impacted society: Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin is credited as sparking the start of the American civil war.
Stowe’s book touched so many around the world, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin was a runaway best – seller, selling 10,000 copies in the united states in its first week; 300,000 in the first year; and in Great Britain, 1. 5 million copies in one year. It resonates with an international audience as a protest novel and a literary work. ” (Harriet Beecher Stowe Center). Stowe’s words were soon spread around the world, challenging the moralities of slavery along the way. In the article, the author commends Stowe for having, “changed forever how Americans viewed slavery, the system that treated people as property.
By touching people even across borders, Stowe is able to change the views of millions. In doing this, Stowe achieves her American dream by helping others have the same opportunity to achieve their dreams. Because of Stowe’s passionate words, Uncle Tom’s cabin “demanded that the United States deliver on the promise of freedom and equality, galvanized the abolition movement and contributed to the outbreak of the civil war. ” Uncle Tom’s Cabin had a huge impact on society and changed the future of America forever.
Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave recounts the author’s life story as a free black man from the north who was kidnapped and sold into slavery during the pre-civil war south. Northup wrote this autobiography in hopes of enlightening those who are ignorant to the severities of slave life. Northup criticizes the United states’ hypocritical government when passing through the capital, “I passed, handcuffed and in silence, through the capital of a nation, whose theory of government we were told, rests on the foundation of man’s inalienable right to life, LIBERTY, and the pursuit of happiness! (Northup 34).
Northup emphasizes the ironical situation when slaves are being held bondage against their will as they walk through the capital of a nation who commends themselves on granting the right of freedom to all men. Northup implies that this nation is built upon lies and such a nation will soon find its demise upon the very basis it is said to be built upon. Northup also highlights the brutality of slavery in order to create emotions of sympathy towards slaves.
Among the list of reasons why slavery is atrocious, “the existence of slavery in its most cruel form among them has a tendency to brutalize the humane and finer feelings of their nature. ” (Northup 157-158). Northup utilizes first hand physical and psychological tortures he experienced in order to expose the truths behind slavery. Although experiencing the hardships of slavery himself, Northup was liberated by being able to challenge Americans’ moralities through his book which exposed the harsh realities of slavery, thus feeling fulfillment in this endeavor.
Twelve Years a Slave is a very different narrative and stands out from the rest, mainly because it is from the viewpoint of the slave himself. Although Northup was a successful, free, African American before being thrown into slavery, he still managed to persevere and turned his experience into a novel which would change American history forever. After escaping slavery, “Northup achieved a remarkable degree of success as an abolitionist indictment against slavery.
First published in 1853, three years after the fugitive slave act, Northup’s narrative served as an important cultural symbol of slave life on southern plantations during antebellum America before the civil war” (Lieblich). Northup overcame slavery by literally escaping it. He further went on to writing an influential novel which not only provided exposure to the unethical practice of slavery, but also confronted the government by holding it accountable to its guarantee to the American people and the sever conflict slavery posed against that.
This was a challenging, but gratifying achievement in obtaining the American dream for Northup. All three authors are able to rise above the pretenses of society and challenge America with the concerning topic of racial prejudices and slavery. Through their influential words, Lee, Stowe, and Northup prove that the “American dream” should be given as an equal opportunity to all peoples. They themselves, in return, fulfill their dreams of ending racial inequality through their uncensored novels pertaining to racism.