roots of Southern literature and how the authors view moral freedom in their works. It has 5 sources.
When the Puritans of Europe left their homeland for the vast and wild continent of America they envisioned social and religious freedom. For them American had been a deserted place and the only enemy they have had been the Natives. However, they did not envision the fact that they would undergo severe battle of the inner self as well as the harsh external environment. As they spend more of their time on the continent they realized that the promise of a free new land has been a dream and that in order to survive they have abandon their old ways to become more focused and adapt to the environment. The pervasive and massiveness of the diversified American culture at the time posed a mixture of excitement as well as danger for them. In the midst of these struggles and adaptations, the Puritans underwent a series of emotional and psychological turmoil. Mark Twain as well as Cormac McCarthy and William Faulkner all recounts of the initial settlements and how they have changed over time in their attempt to adapt to their new habitat. But perhaps the most prominent feature of their writings had been the portrayal of the struggle for moral freedom and the emotional dilemma they underwent in achieving their ideology.
In the following paper the author plans to show that Southern authors demonstrate the divergence of moral freedom as a common theme in the works of Twain, McCarthy and Faulkner.
American authors such as Faulkner, McCarthy and Twain offers insight into the dilemma of the initial generations of colonialists who struggled for their religious freedom and at the same time attempt to preserve their roots less they disintegrate in the midst of the strong Native cultures. The Puritans had been faced with the dual problem of facing the reality of their religion and their culture and at the same time they had been faced with the perspective of the Natives. They had been forced to look from the point-of-view of their enemies even as they struggled to eradicate them. In The Bear for example Faulkner’s character Ike has been faced with the problem of lineage and culture. Whereas Ike discovers the truth about his diversified family, he has also been presented with the fact that his ancestors had been pure except for the new generation who is left with nothing but the wilderness. In R.W.B. Lewis’ analysis of Faulkner’s work writes “The central poetic insight… which Faulkner shares with Mark Twain and many another American writer is… An insight into the fertile and ambiguous possibility of moral freedom in the new world” (“Kenyon Review” 13.4 [Autumn 1951], 653) and “possibility of moral freedom in the new world” According to Lewis Faulkner’s attempt had been to present the experience of the preceding generation in the midst of wilderness. It has been during this time that the newly settled colonialists started to develop a whole new set of codes and rules so as to combat both the internal guilt they felt and at the same time distinguish themselves from the Natives in that they are more religious. This religious fanaticism although is still at the initial level but nevertheless the populous had started to realize the importance of spiritual freedom which they inherited from their European counterparts.
Other authors like C.L.R. James for instance posit that Faulkner’s attempt had been to present the changing moral perception of the Frontier people. He points out that Faulkner demonstrate the cultural and social rejection of the old system through Ike’s action of relinquishing his property show that the colonialists were gradually changing their ways and shy away from what they used to believe and what they considered to be the cultural and social system. In rejecting the Puritan settlers had in fact started to develop a new set of rules, a new way of life and most importantly new sets of principles through which they measure their actions. And the landlessness of the Frontiers resonate their inner freedom. The spiritual freedom exploration thus led them to a new standard for morality. Such concepts can also be observed in the works of Twain and McCarthy. Twain’s famous Huckleberry Finn demonstrates the cultural diversification of the people of the American continent. His unconventional approach in showing that religious harmony that once had a high distinction among colonialists was no longer valued. Stan Poole’s essay “Pretty Ornery Preaching” for example outlines Twain’s attempt to enlighten the way the anti-slavery movement operated in the South. And as a result of this social paranoia and social pressure, Twain felt the need to portray a rebel at heart in the form of the character of Finn. As one ritual that Twain followed had been those belonging to the lower staff who was also African-American. The fact of the matter is that Twain presented his character similar to Faulkner’s literature. In this book, Twain showed Huck’s rejection of the holiness that surrounds those who prays. But at the same time Twain also present the fact that moral imperatives are necessary for carrying the Christian faith forward but under peer pressure Twain presented moral imperatives of the Christian family to show how humility, concerns and other practices might ruin the social perceptions of the Southern settlers [Paine, 2001].
Twain and Faulkner were not the only ones who focused their works on the communication to other folks in this regard. While their presence have triggered a lot of negative vibes yet at the same time the populous cannot help develop the notion that their freedom in actuality differ from those they attained from their homeland. The differences in the works of these authors and those living around them stem from the fact that they have been excluded from their original habitat where their culture bred and governed their actions. In the new land however, this scenario totally changed so that they were forced to look into the matter from a different perspective, thereby allowing one to explore the new cultural freedom and expression and not to mention principles through which one live by. Moral freedom and principle findings therefore in Twain’s and Faulkner’s context had been to reorganize the older ones’ needs with the newer one’s demands. Given this preference therefore it has not uncommon that the moral freedom in terms of cultural norms, sacrifice, and rapidity all differ from those of their predecessors.
In McCarthy’s characters for instance demonstrate such freedom that could be considered to be a culture of their own. In All the Pretty Horses, McCarthy demonstrates the story of cowboys of the modern century and there do not exist the previous morality. Instead, his characters fully live on the new principles. McCarthy thus exposes his characters as the result of desperate measures for the adoption of the new culture and shirking the nobility of the older one [Arnold, 1998]. Through John Grady Cole the author showed the strict principles that the settlers bring with them but then at the same time through Racey Rawlins he shows that not everyone share the same faith and strict principles and thereby can sway from their original course [Blair, 2001].
Thus, one can therefore conclude that Southern authors no doubt revolutionized the way one view of the colonial settlers but also cleverly demonstrate the fact that today the moral freedom that we have inherited from our ancestors derive from a cultural transformation and sacrifice of these people. Twain and Faulkner showed the impropriatory of following the old European moral principles in the midst of the new land whereas McCarthy showed the resultant adoption of such moral freedom among the Americans.
Blair, John. “Mexico and the Borderlands in Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses.” Critique 42.3, Spring 2001: 301-07.
Arnold, Edwin T. “Horseman, Ride On.” World & I Oct. 1998: 259-67.
Paine, Albert Bigelow. Mark Twain: A Biography, New York: Harper & Brothers, 1912; BoondocksNet Edition, 2001. http://www.boondocksnet.com/twaintexts/biography/(Aug. 1, 2003).
Lewis, R.W.B. “The Hero in the New World: William Faulkner’s ‘The Bear’.” Bear, Man and God, 306-322.
James, C.L.R, Mariners, Renegades and Castaways. Detroit: Bewick/Ed, 1978.
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