The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn ; The Passing of Grandison by Mark Twain ; Charles W. Chesnutt
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Passing of Grandison are two works of fiction that invoke discussions about slavery in America. A sensitive topic, slavery had a tremendous impact on America’s domestic conflicts and international reputation. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn portrays the escape of a fugitive black slave and a young white boy. Introducing episodic events during their journey, the author Mark Twain utilized satire and allusion to criticize the ignorant south. Similarly, The Passing of Grandison ridicules the self-righteous misconception that southern slaves were loyal.
While both works encompass other key themes, both serve to censure the southern pro-slavery ideology thereby attempting to reflect on abolitionist sentiments and promote anti-racist sentiments. In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’s the plot portrays Huck and Jim’s experience in the south, and it is evident that Twain attempts to blend slavery into the obviously absurd southern norms like feuds and lynching to establish an anti-slavery tone. When the main character, for instance, Huck, stumbles upon the Grangerford family, he is informed that there is a long animosity between the Grangerford family and the Sheperdson families, and that they fought for so long that they forgot why they were fighting. Although it seems laughable, Mark Twain uses such absurdity to convince the audience that the southern lifestyle almost serves no constructive purpose. By dismissing the southern culture, slavery, the very core of southern values and economy, is also condemned. This idea is further perpetuated when Huck arrives at another town where a person named Sherburn is lynched for murdering a drunk person on the street.
Twain attempts to emphasize how plagued southern society was by liquor, but, more importantly, to accentuate the ignorance and the easily swayed nature of the mob. This crowd mentality is especially dangerous in the south where there is a trend of rising mob violence. Most importantly, it is evident that Twain establishes the horrifying nature of being “sold down the river” by leaving Jim, a slave, aghast when he hears about his master’s plan. These portrayals establish to impugn southern norms and its support of slavery. In turn, Twain achieves a more anti-slavery sentiment and the southern absurdity by incorporating slavery into the plot events.
While The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn undermines Southern pro-slavery sentiment by smoothly blending slavery into the narration, The Passing of Grandison directly portrays the ludicrous southern perception of slavery to achieve the same goal. In the story, the slave owner mistakenly believes that the slaves are more willing to rely on their masters than achieving freedom. Even before the slaves’ departure to Canada with a slave owner’s son, Dick Owens, the slave owner is very confident that his slave Grandison will not escape. While it is true that Grandison’s behavior contributes to his master’s confidence, the master’s later comments on abolitionists further develop typical southern self-righteous confidence. Upon the Grandson’s return from Canada, the Colonel does not blame the slave but instead criticizes the unseemly conduct of the abolitionists.
However, when he finds out that Grandison escaped with his whole family, it portrays that the “colonel’s faith in sable humanity is rudely shaken, and its foundations almost broken up”. It is evident from the description that the Colonel undoubtedly trusts the slave’s loyalty, a naive thought, and almost had his fundamental values collapse. This utilizes the misconceived sense of loyalty held by the slave owners to ridicule the pro-slavery ideology. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn criticizes the Southern pro-slavery ideology by presenting mocking episodes in Huck’s adventure, while The Passing of Grandison does so by telling a short tale of a slave-owning family. Through a concise comparison between these two stories, it is evident that although both differ in caliber and means of narration, they both strive to promote anti-racist sentiments by mocking southern values and ideas.