Compare and contrast the representation of the figure of the slave, and of the theme of freedom, in Douglass’s “Narrative” and Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”.
The two novels that I am studying are “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain, and “The Narrative of Frederick Douglass – Written by Himself”. Both these texts give us an insight into the life of slavery and the societal beliefs of the South in America in the nineteenth century. The theme of freedom and the figure of the slave are two common aspects of the book that I shall be looking at. Frederick Douglass’ text gives us a first person account of life as a slave and in Huck Finn we get an account of a slave’s life through the eyes of a young southern boy.
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slaves know as little of their ages as horses know of theirs” (chapter 1). The comparison to animals that Douglass makes is common and it dehumanises the slave and somehow makes the white owners to feel superior to the black slaves. In contrast to this, in Huckleberry Finn, we see a humanisation of the slave Jim. On the raft, Huck and Jim form a friendship and this was seen as hugely controversial at the time of publishing. Huck learns to see Jim as a human and although he does fight against the moral code he was brought up to believe, his moral instincts win out as he said “It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to go and humble myself to a nigger – but I done it, and I warn’t sorry for it afterwards neither” (Chapter 15). Huck knows that when he helps Jim he is committing a moral crime but his instinctual moral code wins out. He connects emotionally with Jim, something that other ordinary Southerners wouldn’t normally do due to societal beliefs at the time. However it is often said, and truthfully so in my opinion, that the relationship between Jim and Huck is actually demeaning towards Jim. Jim is seen not as a man, but as a mere boy. The relationship between Jim and Huck is similar to a boy with his child friend, in comparison to a child’s relationship with a grown man. Douglass also addresses this topic in his narrative when he refers to his masters son saying “He could grow, and become a MAN; I could grow, though I could not become a man, but must