Analysing Slavery in Mark Twain's Writing

21 Feb 2018

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According to widely held view on slavery, it is has been acknowledged that it is ‘a virtually universal feature of human history' that has preserved up to nowadays.  As absolute proof of old origins of slavery accounts to the fact that there are written documents survived from ancient times as written in e.g., the Code of Hammurabi and The Old Testament showing that slavery was established in the early civilizations. As to present days, the United Nations' (hereafter UN) reports reveal a ‘huge  number' of women, children and men being exploited and forced into slavery ranging from at least eight hundred- thousand to three million people trafficked annually. Therefore, globalization has brought not only positive cultural exchanges, but also endemic slavery around the world, raising a discussion of tackling and eliminating this painful issue.

Concerning the term ‘slavery', it denotes much of negativism and violence e.g., torture, kidnap, murder, inferiority, punishment as well as ‘the wilful destruction of human mind and spirit' (Bales, 2005:6). Nevertheless, the historians (Bales:2005;David:2004; Kopytoff:1977) describe that slaves throughout human history have been treated as inferior, uncivilized and bestialized e.g., Mark Twain's story ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' portrays the Southerners' vision of  a runaway slave who is perceived as superstitious, uneducated and perhaps violent thing: merely a human in their view.

This helps to explain the hostile or negative feelings, attitudes and actions towards one ethnic group of people, in this case a white person's disdain and superiority overblack person. The superiority of white or Caucasian race derives from times of slavery as the historian Kevin Bales (2005:7) states slavery can damage people's mind, namely, (1) slaves; (2) slaveholders and (3) members of society who live this system. As to Bales (ibid), such society accepts dehumanization of a person that allow prospering slavery around the globe. Thus, we can observe that slavery has remerged not only in many different times throughout human history, but also is present in our times. This research paper aims at illustrating a link between past and present displayed in Mark Twain's literary works. They reveal that slavery in the South can be perceived as a ghost of the past, which has been equally haunting African Americans and Caucasian race. As a result, the past has widened a gap between those two races in America. William Faulkner has said that ‘only with Twain, Walt Whitman became a true indigenous American culture' (quoted in Hutchinson, 1998:80). Mark Twain who was born and raised in the America's South was the pioneer of displaying the spoken language, the very American language in literature that is characterized as  vivid, but with sardonic humour, neat aphorism. It has to be mentioned that Mark Twain is regarded as a complex personality; since he managed to contradict himself not only in a real life, but also in his writings.

The subject of the bachelor thesis is institution of slavery in Mark Twain's works.  In other words, the paper investigates aspects and issue of slavery described in Mark Twain's writings, including ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' (1884-85) and ‘A True Story, Repeated for Word, as I heard It' (1874) which are set in the pre Civil War society of American South-West.

The aim of the paper is to gain a comprehensive picture of slavery from Mark Twain's works.

The objectives of the research paper

  1. the task is to select and to review the most common images of slavery presented  in Twain's writings by such  characters as  Aunt Rachel, Jim  and Huck Finn
  2. to make the use of a study of history i.e. Slavery in America , but  take into account  Mark Twain's personal view on slavery
  3. to analyse the images of slavery using  the writer's stories
  4. to test the results  i.e. to  compare those two different images of slavery i.e. literary works and official  history of slavery
  5. to draw the relevant conclusions taking into account both his  writings and the  historical context.

Hypothesis: Mark Twain's literary works imply personal responsibility and awareness on such complex issue as slavery, but problems of slavery cannot be viewed separately from historical context. 

Methods of research

  • case study: analysis of such  historical works on slavery  written by Suzzane Miers, Igor Kopytoff, Christine  Hatt,Robert McColley and others
  • analysis of two Mark  Twain's  stories
  • Juxtaposition: to contrast and compare those two different images of slavery, namely, historical and literary description of slavery.

The author of the paper has chosen the case study as a research method for a number of reasons. First of all, case study research allow us better understanding a complex issue or object and this method of study is especially useful for testing theory by using it in real world situations. Secondly, a case study is an in depth study of a particular situation. It is a method used to narrow down a very broad field of research into one easily researchable topic.  Finally, it provides a structural way of looking at events, collecting data, analyzing information, and reporting the results. As a result, the researcher may get a better understanding of why the event happened as it did, and what is important to look at more closely in the future.

The first chapter deals with the history of racism and the concept of racism. The second chapter provides an insight into understanding of slavery and deals with the issue of institution of slavery in the USA. The third one and its subchapters deal with issues of  slavery, namely, they show how  slavery is depicted  in Twain's literary work 'Huckleberry Finn' and provide a brief insight into history of slavery in America and explores' A True story' and Aunt's Rachel point of view of slavery.


This chapter deals with the history and the concept of racism. Racism is a subject that most people, at least in Western societies, have their own opinion on and it is as old as civilization, it continues to be an important factor in society today.

Alana Lentin (2011) claims that racism is a political phenomenon rather than a mere set of ideas. To analyze racism it is necessary to go beyond the texts of racial scientists and to look at how certain political conditions during particular historical contexts led to some of the ideas proposed by racial theorists being integrated into political practices of nation-states. There are three aspects - the political nature of racism, its modernity and its grounding in the history of the West that are fundamental to understanding racism's hold over contemporary Western societies. It is very important as well to look at the statements, what a race is.

According to Ivan Hannaford (1996), the word race as used in Western languages is first found as late as the period 1200 - 1500. Only in the seventeenth century did it take on a separate meaning from the Latin word gens or clan and was related to the concept “ethnic group”. In other words the dispositions and presuppositions of race and ethnicity were introduced - some would say “invented” or “fabricated” - in modern times and in any case, were not given the meaning they have today until after the French and American revolutions. The reason why the notion of race became such a powerful and attractive idea is due to the “deliberate manipulation” of texts by scientists and historians to show that a racial order has always structured humanity (Hannaford 1996: 4). There was a definite division of the periods over which the idea of race developed. Hannaford divides it into three stages: 1684 - 1815, 1815 - 1870 and 1870 - 1914. The final period is known as the “Golden Age” of racism, it was a time when it was possible for the British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli to proclaim that race is all and there was no other truth. (ibid, 1996).

As Alana Lentin (2011) states the word “race” was first used in its modern sense in 1684, when a Frenchman published his essay, where race stood for divisions among humans based on observable physical differences. At this stage race was used a simple descriptor and there was no intention of superiority meant by presenting humanity in this way (2011).

Hannaford (1996) states that Western scholars later started to think about that it means to be human that fundamentally changed the way people thought about the origins of human life, the universe and society. It is the bases for the way we think about these things to this day. The most significant changes were in fact that theological explanations about life were replaced by logical description. (Hannaford, 1996: 187).

Lentin Alan (2011) considers that many people do not ask nowadays why racism is apparently so important, despite the end of colonialism, slavery and the Holocaust, the answer is that it is natural. Racism has entered into everyday speech and therefore in our consciousness. The idea of racism is so widespread that we easily mistake it for something that is just there, a fact of life. Racism is associated with the fear and even hatred that human beings are commonly expected to have for each other. Fear based on racism is inherent and there is no need to ask why it exists (2011).

As Neil Macmaster reminds us that racism is always a dynamic process, a set of beliefs and practices that is imbedded in a particular historical context, a particular social formation, and is thus continuously undergoing change, a plastic chameleon like phenomenon which constantly finds new forms of political, social, cultural or linguistic expression (2001: 2).

Lentin (2011) refers to race in descriptive terms, it takes account of racionalization. Racionalization is the process through which the supposed inferiority of black, colonized and non-whites is constructed. Today's global racism divides the rich and the poor worlds and is no longer a simple black and white issue. Racionalization involves endowing the traditions and lifestyles that are attributed to groups of different “others” with negative signifiers (2011). According to Alan Lentin (2011), the development of a radicalized discourse about a group of people provides justification for their discrimination. It puts into words the very thing about a particular group that is said to disturb us and pose a threat to our way of life. The fact that racionalization and racism are repeated, affecting different groups over time, does not mean that racism is inevitable. Rather, it shows that considerable transformations of our political systems, our social and cultural infrastructure, and our discourse - the very way in which language is used - needs to change if racism in Western societies is to be overcome (2011:10).

Memmi (2000) investigates racism as social pathology - a cultural disease that prevails because it allows one part of society to empower itself at the expense of another. For Memmi, racism emerges from within human situations, rather than simply as the enforcement of an ideology, or the “natural” belief some people have according their innate superiority. Racism is a charge, like a judicial accusation that is levied against somebody, who is indicated as being in some manner (racially) different. It implies that the other has, in being different, somehow broken certain assumed rules, and is thus not a good person. Thus the person is devalued and disparaged and he suffers from it. The indictment, however, is unfounded and unjust, and the accused is thus the victim of an injustice. As well Memmi (2000) states that in France, reference to “le raciste” in a  third person nominative mode, as to some unspecified person who behaves in a particular way, upholding certain ideas and attitude, would call up a more or less familiar picture, bur in the United States it would not really be as clear. It is a nation in which white racism is wholly generalized and integrated into political and social life. Though it may be invisible in everyday life, it can see by White people through accepting themselves without question as white. Thus racism moves beyond individual prejudice to engage broader questions of collective behaviour and social responsibility.

As it can be seen, the topic of racism is very broad. Some people would say that racism is just based on prejudices but some would say that it is something that people are born into, and they are not able to fight against it, nor break out of their social status. People who are in such situations, are born into a situation where they do not have an unfair disadvantage when trying to move out of their social status and thus fall into a category that can make them more susceptible to racial prejudice and ideologies. The next subchapter will have a closer look at types of racism.  


The current subchapter aims at giving additional conceptions  of  the term ‘racism' as well as outlining  basic types of racism proposed by several authorities(Reilly, Kaufman, Bodino:2003)(Fredrickson:2002). The given section suggests that there is obvious correlation between racism and slavery.

The website on racism ‘Anti-Defamation League' defines racism as ‘the belief that a particular race is superior or inferior to another as well as that a person's social and moral traits are predetermined by his or her inborn biological characteristics'.

According to Reilly, Kaufman and Bodino (2003:9), race has no basic biological reality, because all we see is just a colour or different texture of hair or shape of eyes, but it does not have any decisive influence over a person's intelligence or other traits. As a result, ‘misconceptions about race have lead to forms of racism that have caused much social, psychological and social harm' (Reilly Additionally, Frederickson points out (2002:1) that ‘racism that is the antipathy of one group towards another' that ‘can be expressed and acted upon with a single mindedness and brutality'.

Nevertheless, the same experts describe racism as prejudice or discrimination against other people because of their race, due to their biology or ancestry and physical appearance. This pattern is clearly visible in Twain's work ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' when a slave named Jim runs away from his owner, whereas the whole city spreads out the rumours about him having killed Huck's father. Their assumption is based on prejudice that all black people are savages, violent and ca not be trusted. Thus, their attitude towards, slaves can be described as racism, because they judged those people, due to their ancestry and physical appearance.

Although the term racism first came into common usage in 1930ies (as stated in the book ‘A Racism: a short history') (Fredercikson, 2002:5), the act of discrimination is still there i.e. while reading  Twain's literary works we can perceive how coloured people were treated in the American South.

This attitude or and approach of white superiority overwhelm the Southern society at the time when Huck Finn was embarking in his famous adventures on Mississippi river. A great deal of harm has been done to generations and in this particular case to Jim, Aunt Rachel and Huck Finn. The pain and burden of slavery of these characters are depicted in chapter three.

As to types of racism, the website on American Research and Geography called ‘Amerigis' provides detailed information on types of racism. The types are as follows: Historical, Scientific, New, Spatial, Institutional, Internalized and Individual.

The online resource stated above claims that racism looks different today from it did thirty years ago. The author of the current paper finds important to mention that racism back in 19th century was blatant and caused so much pain and injustice to black race. Thus, the graduate proposes the idea that discrimination and injustice has derived from the time when slavery was acceptable even more it was the cornerstone of the South's vision of sound social order.  The author of BA thesis asserts that such blatant discrimination has never been experienced in human history as it was back in early 19th century; it was the root of all evil caused to black race.

The classification of racism is based on several resources such as the Internet resource mentioned above, and three publications on racism

The types are as follows:

Cultural racism

According to Belgrave et al(2010:104)  cultural racism is expressed as assumed superiority of a language or dialect, values, beliefs, worldviews and cultural  heritage e.g., in the novel ‘Huckleberry Finn' the slave named Jim is regarded as superstitious person whose beliefs and values are regarded as infantile  even compare to young white  lad like Tom Sawyer.

Individual Racism

The same scholar (ibid) explains that individual racism has the same meaning and features as of racial prejudice i.e. it assumes the superiority of one's own racial group and justifies its domination and power over other race. For example, when Pap Finn gets all furious about a ‘white shirted free nigger to right to vote', because he holds the view that black  race has no right to  freedom nor participate in elections.  As he states ‘they told me there was a State in this country where they'd let that nigger vote,' [ thus he determines ] , ‘I'll never vote agin as long as I live'.

Institutional Racism

The Internet source ‘American research and geographic information system' point to „white privilege” that frequently is hidden, because it has become internalized and integrated as part of one's outlook on the world by custom, habit and tradition. For example,  concerning antebellum society in the South of America if a white person helps a runaway slave towards freedom, ‘and in doing so he violets the laws of man, and he believes the laws of God' (Hutchinson, 1998:130). The fact of helping slave that according to the Southerner rules is a deadly sin that sends a sinner into flames of hell. This points out that the church played a great role in peoples lives whereas any person who would disobey the given rule would be perceived as danger to their moral social order in the South. As a result, the southern upbringing does not allow Huck Finn to show his sympathy towards Jim, a runaway slave.

Slavery functioned as main social moral and religious issue in the South. The preceding sentences and extracts from Twain's writings show that social order had a tremendous impact over members of the Southern society at the given time.  Nevertheless, at that time there were no subtle forms or hidden ways of showing one's hate towards other race, unlike today where many people express their hate via the Internet. On the contrary, it was impossible to show sympathy towards a slave e.g., the runway slave Jim who has abused the system and has sinned against the owner Miss Watson, arises the question to Huck whether he deserves his freedom.

Additionally The psychologists Bhattacharya, Cross, Bhugra (2010:41) also give the classification racism based on the analysis of human behavior under certain circumstances, namely, being  exposed to people of other ethnicities in our global world. The author of the BA thesis will highlight the types which can be found in the following works ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' and ‘A True Story, Repeated for Word, as I heard It'

  1. dominative when a person acts out; 
  2. aversive when a person feels superior , but is unable to act;
  3. regressive when a person'sdue to his or her view on racism behaves regressively;
  4. pre-reflecting when a person has fear of strangers;
  5. post reflecting when a person justifies his fear of strangers;

The study on racism shows that it involves biased judgments on humans and their action e.g., racist determines what is good, correct, beautiful, sane, normal. Nevertheless, the historians and other experts of this field (Fredercikson, 2002), (Reilly, Kaufman, Bodino: 2003), (Carol: 1987) agree upon the view that  racism and the same slavery is seen as ideology, as practice as social structure. Whereas, Mark Twain's writings reflect on slavery as doctrine, practice and social cornerstone of the America South in antebellum society that has brought so much injustice and pain, as well.

The next subchapter will explore the ideology of racism.


The chapter gives an insight into the ideology of racism as it is an important matter discussed, portrayed in history books and literature. Ideology is a body of beliefs that drives the goals and expectations of an individual or a group. According to Martin N. Marger (2006) “As a belief system, or ideology, racism is structured around three basic ideas:

  1. Humans are divided naturally into different physical types.
  2. Such physical traits as people display are intrinsically related to their culture, personality, and intelligence.
  3. The differences among groups are innate, not subject to change, and in the basis of their genetic inheritance, some groups are innately superior to others” (Marger 2006:19).

Thus, racism is a belief that people are divided into hereditary groups that are different in their social behaviour. Racist thinking states that differences among groups are innate. 

Carol Brunson argues that “the ideology of racism prescribes the parameters for perceiving social reality thereby defining guidelines for “desirable” interracial behaviour. Once the members of society are imbued with racist thinking, they will not only perceive their institutions as natural, they will voluntarily carry out institutional mandates as of they are a function of their own individual choice” (Carol Brunson, 1987:17).

According to the authors of the books on the ideology of race it can be seen that it is powerful and it persists in different forms of expression. Robert Miles' work “Racism” is an essential reminder that racism is the object of ideological and discursive labouring. Robert Miles argues “Racism is best conceived primarily as an ideology for at least one other reason. Racism, qua ideology, was created historically and became interdependent with the ideology of nationalism. The argument that racism is a form of ideology is important and worth repeating” (Robert Miles, 2003:10).

When it comes to ideological components - assumptions of racism, Carol Brunson holds the following viewpoint: “Racist institutions not only create the structural conditions for racism, but also create a culturally sanctioned ideology that keeps the system operating. Racist ideology is a set of notions that ascribe central importance to real or presumed biological, cultural, and psychological differences among racial groups, attributing the arrangement of both historic and current social systems to these differences” (Carol Brunson, 1987:15). While ideological and cultural arguments are two pillars that support racism, one or other may be in the forefront at any given time. Stephen Gould states two assumptions of biologically based racist ideology:

  1. Humans are classifiable into discrete, hierarchically ranked biological groups (with whites at the top).
  2. Differences among the races reflect the natural and/or ordained order and therefore are eternally fixed (Gould, 1981:45).

Besides this biological argument, there exists also cultural argument, explaining the realities of the lives of people of colour. William Ryan (1976) defined blaming the victim as an ideological stance that locates the origins of social problems. Ryan identified four steps in victim blaming process. Locating social problem and population affected by it, comparison of values and behaviour of people affected by the social problem, locating the source off the problem in how the affected people are different from the successful ones, initiation of treatment that would change the affected people (Ryan, 1976).Victim blaming therefore provides a framework for explaining the problems of people of colour. It is also a framework for strategies to ameliorate the position of people of colour in our society.  Many people learn about the ideology of racism and families, schools and media contribute to this education. They learn and behave according to the dictates of racist ideology. Carol Brunson argues that very early, children of all backgrounds learn stereotypes about other groups regardless of whether they have contact with actual people (Carol Brunson, 1987:18). These stereotypes later shape people's reality and they start judging and interpreting ideas and behaviours by their learnt stereotypes. Each person's own judgement is not harmful but over time the prejudices may become poisonous and damaging.

 As it can be seen, there appear new arguments of racism and its ideology, justifying institutional, cultural and individual racism. While these new faces and arguments of racism try to cover the problem, racism and racist ideology are alive and existent in America. Racism affects us as individuals and the choices that we make in responding to it. Anti-racism education should require an immediate focus on each individual. The goal of the anti-racism education should be generation of development of individual consciousness, enabling people to become active initiators of the change in perception of racism. All people should be responsible for transformation of racism ideology. However, the situation is difficult because, while groups keep racism alive, the responsibility is not equally positioned. Yet, racism has always gone hand in hand with slavery, and it is a precedent to slavery.

Racism is evil. It is not a social problem that will gradually disappear through education and legislation. These alleviate the symptoms, but no more than that. The only cure is in understanding that evil is real. In the words of Jeffrey Burton Russell,

The essence of evil is abuse of a sentient being, a being that can feel pain. It is the pain that matters. Evil is grasped by the mind immediately and immediately felt by the emotions; it is sensed as hurt deliberately inflicted. The existence of evil requires no further proof: I am; therefore I suffer evil.

The definition implies two things: One, that every human being suffers evil. Two, every human being inflicts evil. Thus, the essence of the human condition is in how we live with evil.

Of necessity, then, evil has two faces - one is individual, the other is collective. That we as individuals will and do commit evil is unavoidable. Our efforts not to do evil, however, need the support of a collective, i.e. a society that not only recognizes evil but condemns it.

In contemporary America,

In her Gifford lectures, Hannah Arendt said: As citizens, we must prevent wrong-doing because the world in which we all live, wrong-doer, wrong-sufferer, and spectator, is at stake; the City has been wronged....We could almost define a crime as that transgression of the law that demands punishment regardless of the one who has been wronged....the law of the land permits no option because it is the community as a whole that has been violated.

America is struggling to reach a consensus that racism violates the community as a whole. It cannot do so as long as blacks are still excluded from a sense of community.

Blacks have no doubts or questions about their humanity and thus are made to suffer evil, an evil that is still not obvious to the white majority. Racism is an act of evil but white people do not hear the moaning of the wounded or the death rattles of the dying.

The evil of slavery, the evil of the Holocaust are written large. So much so that many are in danger of thinking that these cataclysms are the only ways in which racist evil expresses itself. That is why it is both ironic and maddening that so many blacks equate anti-Semitism only with the Holocaust and thereby conclude that because they would never condone the extermination of Jews they are not and could not be anti-Semitic. Non-blacks are equally culpable when they equate racism solely with acts of violence.

Because our perception of evil is limited to the dramatic, we have lost the capacity to recognize it. Evil has become so prosaic in appearance, manner and style that it is now woven into the fabric of the normal like smog, acid rain and K-mart. Hannah Arendt maintained that the horror of evil in the Third Reich was that it had "lost the quality by which most people recognize it - the quality of temptation." The racist evil of contemporary America is as charismatic as an empty can of cat food. In her Gifford lectures, Hannah Arendt attempted again to describe the figure of Adolf Eichmann and what had so horrified her about him:

I was struck by a manifest shallowness in the doer that made it impossible to trace the incontestable evil of his deeds to any deeper level of roots or motives. The deeds were monstrous, but the doer...was quite ordinary, commonplace, and neither demonic nor monstrous. There was no sign in him of firm ideological convictions or of specific evil motives, and the only noble characteristic one could detect in his past behavior as well as his behavior during the trial...was something entirely negative: it was not stupidity but thoughtlessness....It was this absence of thinking - which is so ordinary an experience in our everyday life, where we have hardly the time, let alone the inclination to stop and think - that awakened my interest. Is evildoing (the sins of omission, as well as the sins of commission) possible in default of not just "base motives"...but of any motives whatever, of any particular prompting of interest or volition? Is wickedness, however we may define it...not a necessary condition for evil- doing?

What Arendt saw in Eichmann is true of American society. This is not a country of wicked white people imbued with a virulent racism based on some principle or other. What exists is far more distressing. Racism has become a psychological habit, a habit many wish to dislodge, but it is so ingrained that they do not know where to begin. It is imperative, however, that they look, for as Goethe wrote in Wilhem Meister, "every sin avenges itself on earth."

Where they must look is in themselves. Whites cannot feel the pain of blacks, Jews and women until they feel the pain they inflict on themselves by passively accepting a definition of Order that crowns whites as racially superior beings. I do not know why whites do not feel the evil they inflict on themselves because I see the evil of racism taking its revenge on a drug-addicted white society which did not care forty years ago when drugs appeared in black slums. If America had been able to feel then that black life is human, if America had been able to feel that racism is a silent evil inflicting pain as murderous to the human spirit as any weapon is to the body, it would have been alarmed and moved to alleviate the conditions that made drugs appear to be a viable alternative. If America had been able to conceive that black life is human life, thousands of white and black lives would not have been destroyed, literally and psychologically, since drugs entered white American society. I do not understand why white America cannot understand this simple principle: Everything white people do to black people, they will eventually do to each other.

 The ultimate evil of racism is not in its effects, but in the inability of white people to recognize themselves in black people. This evil will continue until white people take responsibility for that which they wish was not within them, namely, evil.

Ultimately, we must accept that evil is, that it is not something out there but something in here. It cannot be expunged because our humanity lies as much in our capacity to evil as in our capacity to good. Evil is. Our humanity is found in the effort to live close to our evil, to make our capacity for evil an intimate, because, you see, if I keep my evil close to me, then I will not see it in you.

 What this means for white peopleis staggering. It means relinquishing the definitions of Order by which they have lived. As long as whites cling to racism as the keystone of Order, they cannot know what it means to be human, despite all the books they write proclaiming that they do know. But whites cannot know what it means to live as human beings until they lose their superiority and accept my humanity. Only by accepting the humanity of Blacks, Jews and women, can humanity itself survive.

My humanity teaches me that to be human is to live with the tension of the opposition of good and evil. This means refusing to be seduced by the temptation of thinking we can resolve the tension by choosing what we perceive as the good. This can never be a resolution. To choose the good makes an orphan out of evil and leaves it to wander through the world, alone, unloved, abandoned and angry. It then assumes the form of a Them - Jews, blacks, women, Arabs, Chinese - and what is, in reality, an inner tension becomes projected into society where it must be enacted through social unrest and racial antagonisms on the national level, and through war on the international.

But, that is the logic of racism. The world tolerated the decimation of Africa by the slave trade; the world tolerated the further decimation of Africa by colonization, when the Boers exterminated the Hottentot tribes, when the population of the Congo was reduced from 20 to 40 million people to 8 million; the world tolerated the destruction of one-third of the Jews in the world.

This imply that racism causes a lot damage to anyone

The next chapter will discuss the roots and institution of slavery.


To be a slave is to be controlled by another person or persons so that your will does not determine your life's course, and rewards for your work and sacrifices are not yours to claim. According to Kevin Bales, one of the world's leading experts on contemporary slavery, "people are enslaved by violence and held against their wills for purposes of exploitation."

While people today most likely believe that slavery is a thing of the past, the practice is still thriving wherever poverty, social conditions, and gullability can be exploited. Bale estimates that there are 27 million slaves in the world today. (Kevin Bales, Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy, University of California Press, 1999)

The Slavery Convention (article 1.1) in 1926 defined slavery as"...the status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised...." The convention defined slave trade as "...all acts involved in the capture, acquisition or disposal of a person with intent to reduce him to slavery; all acts involved in the acquisition of a slave with a view to selling or exchanging him; all acts of disposal by sale or exchange of a slave acquired with a view to being sold or exchanged, and, in general, every act of trade or transport in slaves by whatever means of conveyance." (article 1.2)

The 1926 Convention's definition of slavery was broadened to include forced or compulsory labor in 1930 in the ILO Convention (No. 29) concerning Forced or Compulsory Labour (article 2.1):"...all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily."

According to the United Nations, 4 million people a year are traded against their will to work in a form of servitude. The majority of them come from Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America.

Nowhere is slavery legal in the sense that no legal system recognizes title or property in a living human being. This means that no court will enforce a contract to buy and sell slaves or enforce the right of a master to the labor of his or her slave.  However, although slavery, as a form of property recognized by the state, has been abolished, millions of people are still enslaved.

The Society uses the definition of slavery enunciated in 1880 by the High Court of Allahabad in India, which, in substance, is that a person is treated as a slave or is reduced to a condition of slavery if another exercises power or control over that person:

(1)to restrain their personal liberty; and

(2)to dispose of their labor against their will —

without lawful authority.

Slavery is sometimes confused with other forms of servitude, such as forced labor, bonded labor, pawnage and servile concubinage.

The expression "forced labor", in international law, refers to those forms of labor obligations or penal labor imposed by a state or an agency or agent of the government or state and which are described in the Forced Labor Convention 1930 and the Abolition of Forced Labor Convention 1957.


The term slave has its origins in the word slav. The slavs, who inhabited a large part of Eastern Europe, were taken as slaves by the Muslims of Spain during the ninth century AD.

Slavery can broadly be described as the ownership, buying and selling of human beings for the purpose of forced and unpaid labour. It is an ancient practice, mentioned in both the Bible and the Koran.

‘As for those of your slaves which wish to buy their liberty, free them if you find in them any promise and bestow on them a part of the riches which God has given you.'[Koran, Chapter 24, Verse 32.]

‘Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. ‘[Old Testament, Ephesians 6, Chapter 6, Verse 8.]Indeed, the main religious texts of Judaism, Islam and Christianity all recognise slaves as a separate class of people in society. Going back further in time the Mayans and Aztecs kept slaves in the Americas, as did the Sumerians and Babylonians in the Near East. The Egyptians employed huge numbers of slaves, including the Jews, Europeans and Ethiopians.

The Greeks and Romans kept slaves as soldiers, servants, labourers and even civil servants. The Romans captured slaves from what is now Britain, France and Germany. Slave armies were kept by the Ottomans and Egyptians. In Imperial Russia in the first half of the 19th century one third of the population were serfs, who like slaves in the Americas, had the status of chattels and could be bought and sold. They were finally freed in 1861 by Emperor Alexander II. Four years later slavery was abolished in the southern states of America following southern defeat in the American Civil War. In Africa there were a number of societies and kingdoms which kept slaves, before there was any regular commercial contact with Europeans, including the Asanti, the Kings of Bonny and Dahomey.

In 1562 John Hawkins, an English navigator, seeing the want of slaves in the West Indies, determined to enter upon the piratical traffic. Several London gentlemen contributed funds liberally for the enterprise. Three ships were provided, and with these and 100 men Hawkins sailed to the coast of Guinea, where, by bribery, deception, treachery, and force, he procured at least 300 negroes and sold them to the Spaniards inHispaniola, or Santo Domingo, and returned to England with a rich freight of pearls, sugar, and ginger. The nation was shocked by the barbarous traffic, and the Queen (Elizabeth) declared to Hawkins that, " if any of the Africans were carried away without their own consent, it would be detestable, and call down the vengeance of Heaven upon the undertakers." He satisfied the Queen and continued the traffic, pretending that it was for the good of the souls of the Africans, as it introduced them to Christianity and civilization.

Already negro slaves had been introduced by the Spaniards into the West Indies. They first enslaved the natives, but these were unequal to the required toil, and they were soon almost extinguished by hard labor and cruelty. Charles V. of Spain granted a license to a Fleming to import 4,000 negroes annually into the West Indies. He sold his license to Genoese merchants, who began a regular trade in human beings between Africa and the West Indies. These were found to thrive where the native laborers died. The benevolent Las Casas and others favored the system as a means for saving the Indian tribes from destruction; and the trade was going on briskly when the English, under the influence of Hawkins, engaged in it in 1562. Ten years before a few negroes had been sold in England, and it is said that Queen Elizabeth's scruples were so far removed that she shared in the profits of the traffic carried on by Englishmen. The Stuart kings of England chartered companies for the trade; and Charles II. and his brother James were members of one of them.

After the revolution of 1688 the trade was thrown open, and in 1713 an English company obtained the privilege of supplying the Spanish colonies in America, South and Central, for thirty years, stipulating to deliver 144,000 negro slaves within that period. One quarter of the stock of the company was taken by King Philip V. of Spain, and Queen Anne of England reserved for herself the other quarter. So the two monarchs became great slave-dealers.


This subchapter deals with the issue of institution of slavery in the USA. The institution of slavery is as old as civilization. Many nations and empires were built by slaves. In ancient civilizations slaves were usually war captives. Slaves were usually considered somehow different than their owners.

Tonya Buell (2004), states that slavery began and flourished in America for three main reasons. First, there was a huge need for cheap labour. Second, there existed a belief in America that some people should be property owners but others should be workers. These reasons and prejudice against black people, helped to create a system that allowed slavery and made early American colonists to justify slavery. Finally, the rise of large plantations and the invention of gin increased the need for good workers caused the tradition of slavery to flourish. When the first English colonists arrived in Virginia, in 1607, they started to develop the area and many of them were accustomed to hiring servants to farm their land, it was cheap and reliable labour in the New World. Eventually they had an idea of buying slaves from Africa, giving them no rights and human worth. This began the long and troubled history of race relations in the United States.

Peter J. Parish (1992) claims that in the American South, as elsewhere, slavery rested upon contradiction, its main principle was that slaves were property. The master learned to this his slaves both as property as an as men and the slave learned how to express his humanity even while he was constrained. Slave society was the society of the double standard, adopted for its own convenience by the slave owners. The master claimed the absolute right of an owner over his property, for the master, there were competing demands of profit and paternalism, economic interest and social status, whereas slaves were obliged to strike their own balance between resignation and rebellion. Slaves in their daily lives strove to reconcile the demands of survival with the impulse to assert their autonomy. They struggled to create a situation where their lives were patently, not entirely their own. Slaves hated slavery and disliked their owners.

Carl Schneider (2007) argues that for much slavery was simply a matter of status. African societies were organized into kinship groups that were headed by leaders to whom they owed respect and labour. Many slaves were simply more dependent and of lower class than other tribes people. What mattered was not freedom, but belonging and slavery could offer a new belonging that was assimilation into a new group. Slave experiences differed from time to time and from place to place and from master to master. Different tribes employed slaves in different ways; some used them as human sacrifices. Tries who forced them to work gold mines had hardships unknown to those tribes who existed on agriculture. Few whites thought of slavery as a moral issue.

Another problem that concerned slavery in America was breaking up a family. Family institutions of slaves could not have a solid grounding due to captivity of slaves. As Marie Patterson puts it “Slave trading often broke up families. There were some owners who sold children as they were old enough to work. The slaves usually had no say whether or not their families stayed together” (Patterson, 2005:13).

It was a tragedy in family institutions and many slaves faced different obstacles that ruined their families, took away husbands, wives and children. Slaves were in constant fear of losing their relatives. There are many sources that state many situations of terrible family separations among slaves. As Barry Gaspar states, “A common, perhaps apocryphal, tale indicates the extreme anxiety among slaves regarding the evil effects of being sold - a mother and her small son, sold separately, meet again years later and get married, only to discover to their horror their true relationship” (David Barry, 2004:13).

According to the Internet source, ‘white slaves transported to the colonies suffered a staggering loss of life in the 17th and 18th century. During the voyage to America it was customary to keep the White slaves below deck for the entire nine to twelve week journey. A White slave would be confined to a hole not more than sixteen feet long, chained with 50 other men to a board, with padlocked collars around their necks. The weeks of confinement below deck in the ship's stifling hold often resulted in outbreaks of contagious disease which would sweep through the "cargo" of White "freight" chained in the bowels of the ship.

White slaves to America often lost half their slaves to death. According to historian Sharon V. Salinger, "Scattered data reveal that the mortality for servants at certain times equaled that for slaves in the 'middle passage,' and during other periods actually exceeded the death rate for slaves." Salinger reports a death rate of ten to twenty percent over the entire 18th century for Black slaves on board ships enroute to America compared with a death rate of 25% for White slaves enroute to America. White slaves "experienced discomforts and sufferings on their voyage across the Atlantic that paralleled the cruel hardships undergone by negro slaves on the notorious Middle Passage. The whites were "indiscriminately herded aboard the 'white guineamen,' often as many as 300 passengers on little vessels of not more than 200 tons burden--overcrowded, unsanitary...The mortality rate was sometimes as high as 50% and young children seldom survived the horrors of a voyage which might last anywhere from seven to twelve weeks. (Online 1)

Thus, slavery has done great harm to civilization altogether, ruining many families, enslaving people, taking away their freedom. Institution of slavery in America has a negative impact in cultural and social aspect. According to the above cited works, all forms of slavery, such as sale and trafficking of children and compulsory labour, including forced recruitment of children, debt bondage harmed slaves and it all had a bad influence on the enslaved people, moral, ethical and physical. Besides, slavery was directly and closed to poverty and humiliation, the enslaved people were subjected to living in poor conditions and they were humiliated, that had an impact on their health and general perception of enabling environment and favourable conditions. There were degraded moral issues and there were questioned qualms of conscience of slave masters.The next chapter will discuss the results of the case study. 


Norman Mailer described ‘the mark of how good Huckleberry Finn has to be is that one can compare it to a number of our best modern American novels and it stands up page for page, awkward here, sensational there - absolutely the equal of one of those rare incredible first novels that come along once or twice in a decade"

On the other hand, the release of the ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' resulted in the Concord Library Ban, which today is regarded as one of the most infamous episodes in American cultural history. The members of the Concord library assumed that ‘the book is absolutely immoral in its tone, still it seems to me that it contains but very little humour, and that little is of a very coarse type', the harshcritics suggested that ‘the whole book is a of class that is more profitable for the slums than it is for respectable people, and it is trash of the veriest sort' (Hutchinson, 1998:56).

Mark Twain's initial reaction was' the committee have given us a rattling tip-top puff which will go into every paper in the country' (ibid). Despite fierce criticism, the book of Huck Finn's adventures would sell well on the both sides of the ocean.

Indeed, there are different opinions expressed on Mark Twain's style e.g. the famous novelist  William Faulkner claimed  that  Mark Twain was the first truly American writer while the novelist Norman Mailer put forward the idea of contrasts in Twain's  style by reporting that it  is‘flawed, quirky uneven,...., but all the same what a book we have here!'(Hutchinson, 1998:80).  Andrew Lang adopted similar opinion stating that ‘nothing less than a masterpiece!'

In order to understand such mixed reviews of Huckleberry Finn, a reader should have a general insight into slavery issues in America. Norman Mailer pointed out that the issue of slavery is ‘the near - burned-out, throttled, hate- filled dying affair between whites and blacks is still great national love affair'. Toni Morrison contrasted the approach of slavery and described it as ‘the yearning of whites for forgiveness and love'. 

Today, slavery in the South can be perceived as a ghost of the past, which has been equally haunting African Americans and Caucasian race. The past has widened a gap between them. This assumption implies that Huck has to face a desperate struggle over moral code of the Southern society. Consequently, Huck is about to discard the ethical code of white person of Mississippi, the code he has always taken for good. Unconsciously he makes decision to help Jim who is just a runaway slave, ‘an invisible man' (Ralph Ellison). 

Somehow, unconsciously Huck is told to help Jim to escape from slavery.  His inner self guides Huck not to ‘do a right thing' the thing that is right according to a rest of society. The boy is going against the system, the order of antebellum society that has been built centuries ago and been stable for years. The main question how the outcast boy, the Southern boy who is supposed to return Jim back to his owner, back to slavery, makes such  decision not to do ‘a right thing'. 

Huckleberry Finn unfolds the story of old America, about America in times of the pre-Civil War which was' full of violence and even cruelty, but which still maintained in sense of reality' (Hutchinson, 1998:101).

Furthermore, the chapter provides a historical perspective on slavery, which has ‘existed on nearly every continent, including Asia, Europe, Africa, and the Americas, and throughout most of recorded history. The ancient Greeks and Romans accepted the institution of slavery, as did the Mayas, Incas, Aztecs, and Chinese. Until European involvement in the trade, however, slavery was a private and domestic institution. Beginning in the 16th century, a more public and “racially” based type of slavery was established when Europeans began importing slaves from Africa to the New World

At this point the term ‘slave' entered the Southern vocabulary as ‘a technical word in trade, law and politics' and ‘chattel slavery was fundamentally different in the Americas from other parts of the world because of the racial dimension' (Robert McColley, 1988:281)

Nowadays, ‘the modern historians have discovered that the estimated number is ‘at least 24 million Africans who where captured to satisfy the European demand for slaves' (Hatt, 2007:14).

As the result, the population of West Africa experienced an enormous decline. Despite the abolition in 1802 the British slave trade increased thus major slaving ports flourished e.g. London, Bristol and Liverpool. As slave trade flourished, the same did trade business, namely European traded guns, textile, copper, glass while imported sugar, tobacco, cacao beans. It all meant growth and profit not only for British Empire, but also for other major European states including France Spain and the Netherlands.

Hatt (2007:22) specifies that ‘majority of the enslaved Africans' sent to the United States worked on cotton or rice ‘plantations and farms' in the South.  Their status was governed by slave codes.

Following the rise of abolitionism, Britain outlawed slavery in its colonies in 1833, and France did the same in 1848. During the American Civil War, slavery was abolished in the Confederacy by the Emancipation Proclamation (1863), which was decreed by Pres. Abraham Lincoln. Brazil was the last to abolish slavery, doing so in 1888'. Chapter 2 looks at aspects and issues described in the field of history on whom or what was the slave according to the common European man in 19th century. What kind of image of Africans was created in Western men's mind? ‘The slave of the Common Western image is first and foremost a commodity, to be bought and sold and inherited'. He is a chattel, totally in the possession of another person who uses him for private ends (eds.Miers, Kopytoff: 1977:3). The misery of the slave is seen in Jim's words as he understood that “I wouldn't shake my nigger, would I? The only nigger I had in the world, and the only property.”

According to studies on African American history, the price tag for an African male in 1638 was around $27, while the salary of a European laborer was about seventy cents per day(Page, 1997:262). Jim is almost a thing,  when was offered $200 for Jim's capture in New Orleans', thus making him into  the  man  without ‘own destiny, no choice of occupation, no rights to property or marriage, no control over the fate of his children', but ‘may be ill-treated or even killed' (eds. Miers, Kopytoff: 1977:3).

The investigation on Twain's biography (the writer's correspondence and records from trips) has shown and the researchers of this field claim that Twain at beginning was rather a racist, but his opinion changed gradually over his life time. Mark Twain who was born and raised in Missouri, in the South of the United States in the family  of slave owners and wassurrounded by people and community which supported slavery (Church did support such institution as well) a reader can understand his attitude towards slavery.  Once the author of ‘Huckleberry Finn' suggested that ‘the American society should be divided into logical classes men women and ‘niggers' (The Journal of Negro History, 1971:88).  At this point, it is hard to determine whether Twain's attitude and harsh humour against African Americans were his own feelings or it was shaped by racist society back in Missouri. Also one can perceive it simply as his very way sense of joking, his sardonic humour. Additionally, Twain contrasted his own  opinion noting that ‘the black face is a welcome to me now as it was then', however, Mark Twain himself similar to as Huck Finn  was aware of ‘color and conditions interposed a subtle line with both parties were conscious of'(Hutchinson, 1998:132). The writer put forward the idea of 'a subtle line‘which does not allow Huck to appreciate Jim's true personality and his qualities. The African American novelist Ellison states his judgment about Jim ‘a white man's inadequate portrayal of a slave'.  Ellison's judgment highlights the gap or a subtle line between white race and black race.  This intolerable burden of them being victims of slavery institution do not allow seeing a satirical side of the story as well as a wide usage of the term ‘nigger ‘offend African American readers greatly. In other words, they perceive the story differently as implied in Hutchinson' book ‘black students do not see the same thing in this book that a white teachers see'(Hutchinson, 1998:133)

Having studied Twain's course of life, it helped to understand how his view on slavery had changed. In 1870 Mark Twain married Olivia Louise Langdon whose family was the abolitionists and gave him opportunity to meet many liberal minded people who might have taken part into his later changes towards slavery.

  • In a 1853 letter, Mark Twain wrote: "I reckon I had better black my face, for in these Eastern states, n***s are considerably better than white people."
  • In 1872, Mark Twainwrote to William Dean Howells about "Roughing It": "I am as uplifted and reassured by it as a mother who has given birth to a white baby when she was awfully afraid it was going to be a mulatto."
  • In his autobiography,
  • Mark Twain wrote: "The class lines were quite clearly drawn and the familiar social life of each class was restricted to that class."
  • In 1904, Mark Twain wrote in his notebook: "The skin of every human being contains a slave."
  • In A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Mark Twain wrote: "The blunting effects of slavery upon the slaveholder's moral perceptions are known and conceded the world over; and a priveleged class, an aristocracy, is but a band of slaveholders under another name."
  • In "The Lowest Animal," Mark Twain wrote: "Man is the only Slave. And he is the only animal who enslaves. He has always been a slave in one form or another, and has always held other slaves in bondage under him in one way or another. In our day he is always some man's slave for wages, and does that man's work; and this slave has other slaves under him for minor wages, and they do his work. The higher animals are the only ones who exclusively do their own work and provide their own living."

The obtained information has shown that his marriage played a great role in his later shift towards slavery, because Twain encountered the new world, from now on the writer belonged to a different society.  Additionally, frequent visits he paid toEurope and to Free states of America made his anti slavery attitude even stronger, because he felt responsible for revealing truth about such an inhuman institution as slavery.  In his autobiography he wrote that' he held him responsible for the wrong which the white race had done the black race' (Howell, 1968:277).

At this point the author of the paper looks upon Mark Twain as the writer as well as individual who is a complex one; he managed to contradict himself not only in a real life, but also in his writings. His intellectual development and his personal influence together with the time and the place he lived in make hard to determine his feelings toward black race.  An exploration of slavery continues in his work ‘A True story'. Through this story he revealed his concerns and true nature of slavery in the South. 

His earlier view on slavery was much influenced by the place and the time he lived, but later into his life Twain found new vision upon injustice and cruelty done to African Americans back in his times. The society and surroundings as well as events in Twain's life shaped his vision and his attitude towards slavery in America.  In the next subchapter a comprehensive survey on slavery is carried out.

3.1 Slavery in the Novel ' The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn'

The author himself described ‘The adventures of Huckleberry Finn as ‘a book of mine where a sound heart and a deformed conscience come into collision and conscience suffers defeat‘. The present subchapter focuses on a detail description what meaning does it bears on the main hero Huck, ‘where a sound heart and a deformed conscience come into collision and conscience suffers defeat'. A boy who is an outcast of the community, the son of abusive drunk who runs away from an abusive father begins to mistrust his own conscience. It is important to analyse Huck's commitments, expectations and conscience.  Beyond his conscience, there is his sound heart. 

In Mark Twain's novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, there are many varied examples of slavery. Because Mark Twain's novel is set in the American 1840s, it reflects the points of view of individuals and society in this time, which differs greatly from now, the American 1990s. Three types of slavery that catch the reader's eye in Huckleberry Finn are psychological, biological, and moral. These forms can be either very subtle or very prominent throughout the novel, depending on one's point of view. Psychological slavery has to do with the mind. It can be interpreted in two different ways, as a kind of bondage induced by one's own mind, or as control shown over someone's mind by another person. This form of slavery digs deep into a person's psyche and changes them, for the better or the worse. In Huckleberry Finn, Huck is psychologically held by his drunken, abusive father, Pap. Pap is illiterate and oppressive and threatens to Huck that he will "take some of these frills out o' you before I'm done with you" (20) because he suspects Huck of putting on airs and thinking he is better than his father.

  In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Jim is Miss Watson's slave. He is a deeply superstitious man, who escapes from his captivity (simultaneously fleeing from the society's restriants). In the epic journey of Jim with Huckleberry Finn down the Mississippi River, Mark Twain portrays Jim as a deeply caring and loyal friend. Jim becomes a father figure to Huck, opening the boy's eyes to the human face of slavery.

Ralph Waldo Ellison said, "Huckleberry Finn knew, as did Mark Twain, that Jim was not only a slave but a human being [and] a symbol of humanity... and in freeing Jim, Huck makes a bid to free himself of the conventionalized evil taken for civilization by the town..." Mark Twain wrote: "In those old slave-holding days the whole community was agreed as to one thing--the awful sacredness of slave property. To help steal a horse or a cow was a low crime, but to help a hunted slave, or feed him or shelter him, or hide him, or comfort him, in his troubles, his terrors, his despair, or hesitate to promptly to betray him to the slave-catcher when opportunity offered was a much baser crime, & carried with it a stain, a moral smirch which nothing could wipe away. That this sentiment should exist among slave-owners is comprehensible--there were good commercial reasons for it--but that it should exist & did exist among the paupers, the loafers the tag-rag & bobtail of the community, & in a passionate & uncompromising form, is not in our remote day realizable. It seemed natural enough to me then; natural enough that Huck & his father the worthless loafer should feel it & approve it, though it seems now absurd. It shows that that strange thing, the conscience--the unerring monitor--can be trained to app

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