Thursday, March 25, 2010
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Iola Leroy is an amazing book that took me back in time and placed me among the slaves of the 19th century. Although I have learned a lot about this time through history books and class lectures, I was never quite able to grasp the true pain and suffering that so many experienced during this time. This novel helped me to begin to picture the struggle of the slaves as they sought their freedom. Along with the well written and gripping story, there are many great lessons to be learned through this book. One of the first that I picked up on was the lesson that Iola herself learned after finding out that she was of African American descent. Before this discovery, Iola was perfectly content with slavery and argued her beliefs in school with some of the northern girls who disagreed with it. Once Iola was forced to experience first hand the horrors of slavery, she began a life long journey to rectify the many wrongs inflicted upon them. She dedicated herself, first to the army as a nurse and comforted and saved many lives. After the war was over, she never lost her goal of moving back south to teach the freed slaves and provide them with the education that would assist them in making better lives for themselves. I was really pleased with the conclusion of the book because I am a sucker for happy endings but I was never-the-less left with a feeling of dissatisfaction. I couldn’t help but think of the number of freed slaves that never found their family. The number of mothers that continued to attend the meetings to tell their stories to no avail, or the number of children who continued to search out their parents and never found them or learned of their death at the hands of a cruel slave owner. I greatly enjoyed the book Iola Leroy but it definitely opened my eyes to a lot of unhappy and disheartening realizations of that sad time.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Pudd’nhead Wilson was a surprising book and I was unable to sufficiently predict the ending. I could easily see Mark Twain ending it several different ways including with the false Tom getting away with the murder of his surrogate uncle. I imagined an ending comparable to Behind a Mask in which the mask pays off and the wealthy “whites” were forced to pay the price for the injustices of the society. I was very satisfied, however, that Twain chose not to end the story in such a way. I think that, while Jean Muir had a character that lead everyone to almost wish for her success, false Tom’s character was just too pathetic and disappointing for anyone to have wanted such a profitable outcome for him. Along with the extremely happy ending for the twins and for Pudd’nhead himself, I was lead to believe that this novel had more of a romantic quality, but Mark Twain doesn’t make it easy to place his books into any genre and Pudd’nhead Wilson in no exception. The happiness is easy to see with the majority of the characters except for two very important figures. Roxy, it could be assumed, should be very happy with her ultimate fate. She is allowed to live out her live comfortably with a steady pension from the true Tom of $35 a month. Roxy can not live in happiness though because she looses her son in the exact way that she was trying to avoid through the actions she chooses in the beginning. Her story, therefore, could be considered a tragedy. The True Toms fate is similarly a tragedy. He is finally in the position he was born to hold and yet he lacks the education and the mannerisms to hold it. He is uncomfortable in his newly acquired role and will never be able to grow accustomed with his position. Despite the fact that he is no longer a “nigger,” he will live the rest of his live stuck between the identity he now has and the identity he was raised with. In the end I was left with the realization, yet again, that Mark Twain’s literature is a genre of his own.