Monday, November 27, 2006

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in Uncle Tom's Cabin

Harriet Beecher Stowe
Mark Twain

"Tom had often caught glimpses of this little girl, - for she was one of those busy, tripping creatures, that can be no more contained in one place than a sunbeam..."
(Harriet Beecher Stowe - Uncle Tom's Cabin)

I think that the quote's meaning is self explanatory, just describing Eva and maybe a bit of her personality. It says that Eva is a good natured, curious and a little bumbling girl with lots of energy.


The reason I bring it up, may also be pretty obvious, especially given the illustrations I found. I realize that Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is generally about something entirely different than Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin these two sets of characters - Stowe's Eva and Tom and Twain's Huck and Jim are astoundingly similar. They are almost the exact same with two exceptions; Eva and Tom are essentially more "good" than Huck and Jim and Eva and Huck are the opposite sex to one another. I say that Eva and Tom are "good" because Tom is obediently with his owner and Eva is adventurous but doesn't misbehave the way Huck does.

The fundamentals are there though! Both are a benevolent relationship between an adult slave and a well meaning child. Both slave men play a guardianship role in the child's life but are also their friends and in a way they are set as their peers in the sense that as they are slaves are "beneath" the white adults and are paid attention to as much as one would a child. Both sets of characters are even traveling down the Mississippi River!

I think this speaks to the level of influence that Beecher Stowe had on Twain. I say Stowe influenced Twain because Uncle Tom's Cabin was published in 1851 and Twain didn't publish The Adventure's of Huckleberry Finn until 1884, a full 33 years later! Though I wonder if it wasn't more of a tribute or nod from Twain to Beecher Stowe, especially in light of the similarities between the two sets of characters.

Side note: it's annoying to find yet another example of how women get a raw deal with this sort of thing. Everyone and their dog knows Huck and Jim, but outside of academics, I bet you couldn't find 10 people on the street who know who the heck Eva and Tom are.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Why I Hate to Love Emerson


"But let us deal with them greatly; let them make their way by the upper road, and not by the way of manufacturing public opinion, which lapses continually into expediency, and makes charlatans. All that is spontaneous is irresistible, and forever it is individual force that interests. I need not repeat to you,--your own solitude will suggest it,--that a masculine woman is not strong, but a lady is. " (Emerson, "Woman")

I've taken this from an address Emerson delivered entitled "Woman". Seems to me that he is saying that men should be nice to women and that they should provide separate avenues for women to pursue their interests and influence society. He goes on to say that this is what women want, they don't want to "dirty their hands" so to speak with politics because it will damage them and masculate them, which is undesirable. Taking a full role in politics detracts from their womanhood and that is unattractive.

I am so disappointed. I truly am. While I think it is way too strong to call Emerson a misogynist, (I don't see any evidence for that at all.) he is not completely on the side of women. I read this address and I can't believe that he wasn't booed off of the stage. He doesn't grasp the idea of equality completely - that want to take their place as true equals. He seems to be taking a "separate but equal" stance - that women have their role in society, and men have theirs and that a woman that would seek to realize her role and influence in society in the same manner as a man isn't as powerful and the very act detracts from her value and virtue. AHHH! On the flip side of this, what makes it okay that the men are made into "charlatans"? The whole idea he is expressing is that women can't take it - they are too delicate. This very idea is sexist in that it still puts women in a "less than" position. He misses the point, and maybe a lot of other people did as well at the time. Still, what is confusing is that he says this after earlier in the address he says:

"One truth leads in another by the hand; one right is an accession of strength to take more. And the times are marked by the new attitude of Woman; urging, by argument and by association, her rights of all kinds, in short, to one-half of the world;--as the right to education, to avenues of employment, to equal rights of property, to equal rights in marriage, to the exercise of the professions and of suffrage. " (Emerson, "Woman")

Here he is saying that strengthening the rights of women strengthens everyone. And goes on to have a solid stance that women should have equal rights to general institutions and tangible items. I find myself frustrated an confused. He publishes and supports essays like Fuller's "The Great Lawsuit" in The Dial but then he gets right on up and says, "yes, women need rights, but let's not kid ourselves, they can't take being political like men can - we should protect the delecate things!" What in the world is that? I can't completely decide if Emerson is against women having FULL equal rights (including their societal roles) and thereby just not getting the concept or if he is against it because he is against politics in general, which would follow the pattern in his life. I don't see how he could be good friends with people like Margaret Fuller and Wendell Phillips or even Thoreau with the lack of follow though. I suppose the point of this, is that I love his work otherwise, but I can't really respect him on the point of "the woman question". His participation in the movement seems obligatory at best and it's hard to reconcile his ideas of the equality of men and slavery and those he held for women's rights. However, his level of participation seems to go along with his general principles and disposition and I do respect him for that.