Characters and the Way They Term Paper

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By the final chapter, although Huck has come to like Silas and Sally, he knows that they are still a part of the society he has come to distrust and fear so, before the dust from his adventures is fully settled he is already planning to detach himself again:" but I reckon I got to light out for the territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she's going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can't stand it. I been there before" (chapter 43, Electronic text center, University of Virginia Library).

In Austen's novel the theme is to show the violation of the moral and social codes and its disastrous results in a humored way. While human follies and stupidities lead to the violation of the code and only the self-knowledge can prevent the human error, Jane Austen's main theme becomes to know yourself. Through self-analysis Emma changes from an arrogant girl to a caring and considerate human being, learning that social code must be based on human moral qualities, a change that wouldn't have been possible if it hadn't been for Mr. Knightley who has always made her aware of her mistakes:" She was vexed beyond what could have been expressed...How could she have exposed herself to such ill opinion in any one she valued" (chapter 43, Pemberley e-text of Emma).

The theme of Potok's novel is the process of finding one's identity and fulfilling one's potential having as background a powerful culture confrontation. Asher is a fascinating creature with two conflicting forces pulling him in opposite directions, on the one hand is the Hasidic indoctrinated community in which he was brought up and, on the other hand there is his prodigy. From this very confrontation Asher's identity is built and enforced. It is Potok himself who acknowledges the use if this particular theme in his novel:" What I'm trying to explore in my books is one kind of such confrontation of ideas. Of cultures in tension with one another. A kind of tension that I experienced as I grew up and made my way into this world. All of us have one kind or another of ongoing culture confrontation almost every day of our lives" (Chaim Potok lecture, "On Being Proud of Uniqueness").

Characterization is one of the most important literary elements in trying to learn more about the protagonist's actions and feelings.

From the very beginning of the novel Huck proves to be a complex character whose actions are based on instinct and his own experience rather that conventional conscience:" the Widow Douglass she took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilize me...But Tom Sawyer he hunted me up and said he was going to start a band of robbers, and I might join if I would go back to the widow and be respectable. So I went back." As a result, he makes up the rules for himself as he goes along, forming a conscience that is aware of society's prejudices but whose actions are based on what he has experienced. It is in fact his own conscience that helps him discover his true identity.

Austen's novel begins with a characterization of the main character, presented to us by Mr. Knightley, the person who has guided Emma throughout the novel:" the real evils, indeed, of Emma's situation were the power of having rather too much her own way...The danger, however, was at present so unperceived, that they did not by any means rank as misfortunes with her" (chapter 1, Pemberley e-text of Emma). Although this quotation seems to foreshadow the novel's entire structure, it is in fact presenting Emma as she was at the beginning in order to reinforce in the end of the novel her total transformation.

Although most of Potok's novel is told from the point-of-view of the artist Asher as though he were talking directly to the reader, there are moments in the novel when we perceive Asher through other characters' eyes and not only from what he says:

Wherever I travel now, there is always someone who knows your name. 'Are you the father of Asher Lev, the painter? 'they ask me. it's a very strange feeling. Asher Lev, the painter." (Spark Notes, My name is Asher Lev). The characterization is implicit here because through his father's words we realize now what Asher has become in the eyes of the entire world, he has become the artist or better said he has found his true identity.

All in all, by means of literary devices such as theme, characterization and conflict we have witnessed the growth of each character and we have tried to point out the most significant moments throughout their evolutions.

As a conclusion to what has been said so far, we can acknowledge that all there characters are struggling in order to discover who they really are and which are their roles in this life. Although they are complex personalities living in very different social environments what unites them is their journeys to self-awareness. What must be aided here is that their quest for identity has been successfully accomplished.


Twain, Mark (1835-1910)

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn"

Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library

Jane Austen Info Page - Pemberley E-Text on Emma

Spark Notes - "My name is Asher Lev"

Robert Clark, University of East Anglia. "Emma"

The Literary Encyclopedia

Publisher 28 October 2000.

Chaim Potok lecture, "Proud of Uniqueness," March 20, 1986

Southern College of Seventh-day Adventists, Collegedale, Tennessee U.S.A

Edited by Dr. Jerry Gladson

Sources Used in Document:


Twain, Mark (1835-1910)

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn"

Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library

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