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View on Slavery in Mark Twains Writing

Writers and authors always express their views in their work, even if they say that they separate their lives from their writings. Great writers need experience their work and later on reflect and write about it. Henry David Thoreau went out to Walden Pond to experience life away from distractions and really work on his writing. Wordsworth believed that writing is the spontaneous overflow of emotion recollected in tranquility. A writer needs to experience things in order to receive the emotion needed to trigger a thought. From childhood, Clemens had always been around slaves.

He was taught as a young person that slaves were quite different from white people and that slaves did not get to do certain things (Lutz 8). Even though Clemens had always talked to slaves and played with the slave children, he never once ate a meal with a slave. There was an obvious and clear issue of segregation in Missouri around the time that Clemens grew up. This clear segregation has been found in many of his books. Along with many writers, his childhood and life experiences have influenced his writings. His novels and stories have been written after many years of observations.

He saw the things that were occurring around him and wanted to be able to change it. Twain wrote novels and short stories about slavery and racism in order to have the slightest effect and potentially influence others to the occurrences of both slavery and racism throughout the nation. At that time, Clemens had no idea that there was anything wrong with slavery. No one had taught him differently and the entire culture around him did not say anything about it. Even his father beat the slaves, sometimes for no good reason. No one challenged the idea of slavery because everyone was all right with it.

The papers claimed it to be a holy thing because there were slaves in the Bible (Lutz 9). Clemens early exposure to slavery appears in his later writing career through the characters and the fight against slavery. Clemens spent quite a bit of his life along the Mississippi River as a riverboat pilot. It was once his dream to get his pilot license and sail the Mississippi River. On April 9, 1859, Clemens had received his license (Lutz 22). For almost two years, he sailed the Mississippi River and up until the time of the Civil War, he thought that he would be sailing for the rest of his life.

As the Civil War broke out, many people took a strong stance on the issue of slavery. Clemens, only being twenty-five years old, did not take a stance on the issue either way. When Hannibal, Missouri, his hometown, was being occupied by Union troops, his friends attempted to convince Clemens to resist the Union troops, however, he refused to comply (Lutz 23). Clemens attempted not to take a side on the issue by not acting on anything that could deem as either for or against slavery. By May 1, 1861, after the attack on Fort Sumter, the country was a complete war.

Clemens was asked by his riverboat captain to stay with the boat and side with the Confederacy and the South. Clemens, still wishing to stay neutral in the Civil War, headed north as a passenger on the boat. The boat that he had traveled on was the last boat that the Union forces allowed to travel north (Lutz 24). Clemens decision had been made on which side he was going to be on in the Civil War. He was going to stay north for the time being and see what life there offered him. This time spent in the north undoubtedly reflected in his writings against slavery.

He revealed his thoughts and expresses his views on slavery through his writings during the post-Civil War period. Mark Twain seemed to not write the kind of literature that many people felt that should have been written, but told a story in a way that everyone could understand his views (Sloane 13). With Mark Twains work Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the world is introduced into a work of writing that has greatly changed the modern American literature. Set in about 1845, this work of literature is about racism in any time period.

The novel is about Clemens view on racism and his view on slavery. When this book was written in about 1885, the nation was just recovering from the after effects of the Civil War. Lynching of blacks by whites were still occurring. Some people were still unaware of the racist attitudes and were not educated that racism was wrong. Throughout the novel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Twain emphasizes the fact that people were unaware of the fact that the oppression of blacks was wrong. He shows that there needs to be better relations between the two races.

He attempts to show this through the character Huck Finn (Sloane 104). The setting of the novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a river town in Mississippi. This story was placed around 1845. Slavery is still strong throughout the South, however there is a bit of mercantilism beginning to grow throughout (Sloane 105). The region set in was struggling with a couple of moral issues. The first issue was the problem of slavery and the abuse of the person in slavery. People did not see anything wrong with slavery and the demeaning of the slaves.

Even though the people in the region were all religious and that all people are humans and humans are Gods creation, the societys general attitude towards slaves were too strong for anyone to take a stand and go against it (Sloane 106). Huck Finn is the narrator of the novel. The story develops Huck Finn from a young child into a matured adult. Huck befriends a slave named Jim and this is where the novel begins. Huck is not a very happy person. He does not enjoy society and the people that live in it. He is happiest when he is either by himself or with Jim (Robinson 42).

So they decide to runaway making a decision that at that time would condemn him to spend an eternity in Hell. When he makes this decision he does not really think about spending that eternity in Hell. He thinks about the bad experiences at home and the need to just get away from everything (Huckleberry 38). After making his decision to runaway and help Jim escape, Huck begins to struggle with his conscience a bit (Huckleberry 42). Huck made his decision to assist Jim instead of turning him in. Hucks conflict with his conscience begins with the fact that he was newly introduced into the religious culture of the society (Huckleberry 53).

Being newly converted to a religious background, Huck has to fight his conscience and the newly found religious belief. Huck has a new sense of sin in the novel. Naturally after establishing religious beliefs, along comes the sense of sin. He wants to help Jim even though all of society says that it is not wrong to have slaves. He also has an improved attitude toward others (Robinson 45). In the novel, Huck decides to not give the identity of Jim to some white men that stop them along the river. He feels that Jim has saved him multiple times, so he owes it to him not to turn him in (Robinson 46).

During Huck and Jims escape, Huck begins to understand and appreciate Jim (Huckleberry 96). He begins to bridge the gap of whites and blacks. Huck begins to not think of Jim as a person lower than himself but more of an equal. He discovers that Jim has regular human feelings that enable him stray away from his racist attitude. When Jim begins to feel bad that he had mistreated his daughter, Huck learns that Jim cares about his daughter, consequently to the belief at the time that blacks did not care for their young (Sloane 112).

Huck closes the great distance in which people feel that blacks and whites cannot be friends. Twains novel comes at a time where blacks were not being treated well. After the Reconstruction period, many African Americans experienced the worst of times. Many freed slaves were subjected to the Jim Crow laws, which put the old standards on freed slaves. Organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan arose and began the crude lynching of blacks. Even the government did not help solve the problems of racism. African Americans were put under strict voting registrations (Sloane 118).

Twain realized the harsh treatments towards blacks. He also noticed that whites most likely did not realize the great deal of suffering that the average black person received. He felt that writers could address this issue during this time; however, many people did not choose to discuss this in their novel. Twain attempted to teach the American public on the issue of slavery and the attempt to close the gap between whites and blacks (Sloane 119). Twain wrote another book called Puddnhead Wilson. The novel was published in 1894.

Again this book begins in a small town near the Mississippi River called Dawsons Landing. Puddnhead Wilson is an anti-slavery novel that reveals the things that slaves did to improve their life (Robinson 80). This is another one of Twains novels that was written just after the Reconstruction period that discusses the fight against racism and the moral issues behind slavery. The novel begins with the birth of two boys, Thomas Driscoll and Valet de Chambre. A slave named Roxy gave birth to Valet de Chambre and Thomas Driscoll is a son of an aristocrat (Puddnhead 8).

One day Percy Driscoll find that some of his things have been stolen, nothing much, only some extra food. Percy Driscoll, however, decides that this is unacceptable and threatens to sell them down the river. Roxy is quite threatened at the thought of this and contemplates how she can save her child from ever experiencing slavery. She then decides in order for her child to never experience slavery, she could switch the two children. Since the child is only 31/32 black, it would be seen as white (Sloane 147). As all this is occurring, a man named Wilson comes to town.

He is a lawyer looking for work. He cannot find any work because he alienates the people of the town, so he decides to have some fun by taking fingerprints of various people throughout the town. Roxys son grows up to be the heir to the estate and the real Tom becomes the bodyguard to Chambers (Blooms Major 81). Roxy is the only one that truly knows the identity of the two boys. When she tells her son of his true heritage, he runs away. Luigi and Angelo, two twins come to Dawsons Landing looking to rent a room, saying that they are tired of the fast moving world (Puddnhead 43).

Luigi confesses to Pudd’nhead Wilson that he once killed a man who tried to steal a fabulous Indian knife from him (Puddnhead 84). Roxys son, now known as Tom, steals this knife and used it to kill Judge Driscoll. Luigi gets into an argument with Tom and he has Luigi arrested. The twins lose their reputation through the fabrications made against them and cost them the election for offices. Wilson is elected as mayor instead. Shortly after the election, Tom murders Judge Driscoll with the stolen knife while robbing him (Blooms Major 82).

Right after the murder, the two twins enter the room and ultimately get blamed for the murder of the judge. However, they find the knife that has the fingerprints of Tom on them (Puddnhead 188). In the end, the truth is uncovered and everything is set straight. In the exchanging of the babies, Roxy put several years of slavery on a person that was going to live a great life. This shows the great desperate nature of people during the pre-Civil War era (Blooms Major 82). Roxy is a person that is caught up in all the trouble. Roxy is a slave that looks white.

She is only 1/16 black (Puddnhead 16); however in Dawsons Land that still makes her a slave. Her fear for her child makes her human and it shows the society of that day that slaves have human characteristics. Her fear also shows how slavery can change the state of mind of someone (Puddnhead 18). Her motherly sacrifice that allows her son to become heir to the fortune shows what great lengths a mother would go to in order to save her son from slavery (Puddnhead 22). This also demonstrates how horrible it is to be a slave and truly how demeaning it is.

Her sacrificial nature is the same as a completely white mother. However, in the end, Tom betrayal is so horrendous because of the sacrifice that she did for him (Sloane 153). Twains work shows the harsh nature of the period of time after the Reconstruction period. Slavery may have been abolished; however, the social status of a black person was not equal. The nation did not have the will to have true emancipation and the recovery from the Civil War was a long and difficult battle for a black person (Williams 96).

The central issue of Puddnhead Wilson is the fact that if a person is at all black, they are considered black legally (Sloane 155). This shows how the entire society will not stand up for something that they have believed since they were children. If a person appears to be white, but is 1/16th black, they are legally black (Puddnhead 16). Majority does not rule in this case. The fact that a person must be a slave if they have any slavery in their heritage is something that does not make sense at all. Another issue in the novel is the problem with slavery.

Slavery is the abuse of the rights of a human and distorts peoples beliefs of themselves. Slaves had an unfair chance in that they were stolen of their liberty from the day that they were born. They never had the chance to prove themselves. This lack of liberty caused the switching of the two babies by Roxy. Twain believed that the condition of African Americans at the end of nineteenth century as unfair and morally wrong (Sloane 157). Miscegenation is another issue discussed in Puddnhead Wilson. It is sort of the basis of the novel with the interbreeding between blacks and whites.

In this novel, Roxy is 1/16th black and 15/16th white (Puddnhead 16). This is the result of four generations of white males mating with African American females and Tom, being 1/32nd black results even from another generation of miscegenation. With the switching of the babies, Twain brings up a point about race. There are instances, if one was not to know about the heritage of a person, they would not be able to distinguish between white and black. Sometimes the appearance of a person can be obscure to the race of that particular person. This was the worst situation for the racist, white males.

If a person cannot differentiate if a person is white or if a person is black by the appearance, then they may feel that they need slavery in order to show that a black person is inferior. Without the label of slave, a person that is 1/16th black, seems to be a white person. Twain used his writings to attempt to get the nation to realize the fact that slavery and racism was morally wrong. Even though that many of the other writers of that time did not express their views through their writings, he felt it necessary to teach the nation about the issue.

Although Twain wrote the novels after slavery was abolished, racism was still a part of everyday life. Things had not gotten better for blacks in the South. Twain attempted to teach the nation about the incorrectness of racism. Twains colorful life shaped by his various careers and experiences enabled him to get the word out on the issues of slavery and his view about it. He was able to portray his views against slavery through the beginnings of the modern American novel. He used his ability to speak and teach about the issues of slavery and racism through his writing.

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