Heroes of American Realism Essay

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Heroes of American Realism

The American realists of the late 19th century were notably adept at creating deep, memorable characters --whether virtuous or villainous-- who are continuously developed throughout the tales in which they exist. These authors often used their protagonists for a higher purpose than mere storytelling, endeavoring to construct a critique of the times by placing the characters in opposition to their respective societies. As a result, the protagonist often becomes an unassuming type of hero to the reader, by courageously (or obtusely) defying convention, and doubting the ignorant assumptions of society. Three such characters that were born of American realism are found in the novels The Adventures of
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The first book, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, features Huck, who narrates his adventures along the Mississippi with Jim, a runaway slave. Huck escapes from his alcoholic, abusive father early in the book, and, immediately thereafter, is primarily concerned with his own survival and contentment. However, even these basic amenities are threatened as he continues his voyage south. First and foremost, Huck must survive in the wild, a task he undertakes with remarkable skill and resourcefulness. Early on in the novel, Huck's skill at living in the wilderness is plainly established, and the reader never doubts his ability to provide for himself.

Unfortunately, other complications soon arise. Huck happens upon Jim soon after his own escape. Jim had run away from Huck's aunt after learning of her intent to sell him south to New Orleans, and once these two fugitives cross paths, their companionship is maintained for most of the book. Jim's presence presents several problems to Huck. At first, when Huck initially runs into Jim, he is simply glad to find a companion for his idle days on the raft. Indeed, Jim does prove a loyal friend to Huck, and his companionship comes to be deeply appreciated by the latter. However, it is soon evident that Jim's company is rather dangerous as well, for he is sought after by slave hunters, and, in those days, any person caught harboring a runaway slave was just as much a
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