Adventures Of Huck Finn And History The world in which we live in now is much less oppressive than say the world lived in the middle of the 1800s. Up until the Civil War, the South depended on their peculiar institution of slavery, in order to be productive a successful. Most people believed slavery was not wrong, but those who thought otherwise seldom tried to alter it. In general if surrounded by oppressive environment, one does not usually try to make a difference in that world. This is because people are afraid to defend what is right against a whole mass of people who believe otherwise. Huck Finn in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Billy Budd in Billy Budd, and Frederick Douglass in his autobiography all portray individuals who because of their good, innocent qualities go up against the oppression in their society.
Living in an oppressive society does not always draw you to do the wrong thing you are still capable of generating change, whether it be for a certain individual or against a whole mass of people. Billy Budd starts off on the ship the “Rights of Man”, Melville obviously showing his intent in the naming of the first ship. This shows that on this ship where Billy wanted to be and chose to be he had rights. That he and the other crew had choices of what to do and how to be. Then along comes the British navy and decides that they are going to take Billy aboard their ship “Power of War”.
This is when Billy is brought into an oppressive society. This is the navy and wartime during which rules must be followed as well as a lifestyle that must be followed. Billy is a poor innocent boy with a childish stutter. This stutter shows Billys humane side, a flaw, as well as leading you to the thinking that he has the innocence of a child. This stutter is connected to innocence because of its childish qualities. When most children begin speaking they have some sort of stutter, which usually goes away.
The stutter parallels innocence because it is showing that you are just learning how to talk and dont really comprehend the correct way to make sounds, as you grow older you learn and the stutter disappears. Like innocence you are born with it, but as you grow older you usually are not portrayed as innocent any longer. Billy is like the premature kid who still has both his stutter and his innocence. Billy is introduced to many people aboard his new ship and is confronted by John Claggart. In this movie Claggart is the one who Billy must actually go up against.
Being in an oppressive society and Claggart being the master Billy is forced to listen to Claggart. Although he tries to avoid him he is nevertheless confronted by him. Claggart and Billy are totally opposite in character. Claggart is an evil man who is out to get Billy whereas Billy is a sweet innocent young man who tries to help others. It is these two opposite traits that eventually lead to the death of both of these men.
Billy tries to avoid Claggart because he has heard of his evil and does not want to deal with it. It is until he hears of Claggarts accusations that he is involved in a mutiny that he confronts him leading to the deathblow, which Billy delivers to Claggart. Captain Vere now holds a court to determine Billys consequences. Captain Vere is torn here between doing the right thing morally and doing the right thing legally, and in the end he realizes he has sworn to uphold the law and does just that. Billy did indeed kill a higher officer and according to the laws must be sentenced death. On the other hand, Billy was sticking up for himself.
Captain Veres legal side wins the battle; Billy is condemned and hanged. Billys hanging meant a lot. It tore the officers among themselves, most saying Billy was justified in his actions therefore should not be punished to the extent of death. This makes a difference in the whole issue of oppression aboard this ship. We now know that the officers, while usually acting inhumane, actually do have a humane side and are capable of being in touch with that side when needed. Billy changes the society by killing Claggart because now no one aboard the ship will have to deal with his evilness again, although Billy and his goodness did not prevail in this oppressive society the lasting effects of his actions will. By killing Claggart he has forcefully removed all of the evil, except Squeek, aboard this ship.
During the trial we are shown Captain Veres human side with his struggle to decide which is more important moral or legal. While most would agree that he should have gone with his moral side one realizes that Captain Vere is not evil. He is the medium between Billy who is the best end of good and Claggart who is as evil as it gets. When being hanged Billy yells out “God bless Captain Vere”, which shows until the end he was still good and makes Captain Vere feel awful, it was now too late to save poor Billy Budd. Billys doing this may have forever changed Captain Vere into making the right decision next time, one can only speculate. Billy was just a boy oppressed onto a ship that he didnt want to be on, but Frederick Douglass was born a black man in the south, a society raging with slavery.
And like Fredierick Douglass he was living in an oppressive society and managed to initiate change among the oppressive society. Frederick Douglass was born a black man into pre-Civil war southern society. On January 1, 1834 his master, Master Thomas ordered Douglass, to go to a man named Covey. Covey is much like Claggart except for the degree of intelligence which Covey seemed to lack. They are also alike in the fact they were both determine to uphold their jobs. Claggart was an official and had to make the right legal decisions and Covey was a slavbreaker who had to do that to slaves in order to keep his job. Covey looks at Douglass as an animal, an ox, and treats him like one too. This is like Claggart who treated the people aboard the ship as machines and not as humans.
Covey was a slavebreaker; thus, beating the blacks who were sent to him to be broken in. Douglass gets sick and Covey does not believe that he is sick only that he wanted to get out of working so he continues to treat him as a healthy slave would be treated. This is where Covey and Douglass begin their escapades with each other. Douglass begins to mouth off to Covey saying he wished he had another master and this leads to Douglass running away and then returning and then the final incident and to Douglass ultimately escaping. Throughout these few ordeals it shows that Douglass would rather die then to give in.
He looked to God to help him through and in the end that must have worked, for he escaped. Douglass does not change society as a whole nor does he change something for somebody else. He changes the oppressive state for himself. He escaped to Massachusetts in 1868. This is where he tries to attack the society as a whole. In Massachusetts he became an active anti-slavery lecturer.
By changing his surroundings, those of an oppressed person he was given the chance to try and change slavery as an institution. By escaping to a free state he was able to attack the institution of slavery and be safe, instead of attacking one master and having to suffer consequences. Unlike Billy Budd who did not prevail in his oppressive society Frederick Douglass has the chance to. While putting his life on the line to escape he still did it and in the end it would help him make a difference for all th …