Theme, structure and social characteristics as the literary elements, highlighting the spiritual growth of the main characters in “My Name is Asher Lev”, “Emma” and “Huckleberry Finn”
The present paper is designed to discuss three novels about moral maturation and the growth of self-awareness, “Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain, whose protagonist is Huckleberry Finn, Jane Austen’s “Emma”, named after the protagonist and “My Name is Asher Lev” by Chaim Potok, whose main character is Asher Lev. Notably, the authors necessarily indicate the protagonists’ names in the titles, underlining their moral and psychological development as a central plotline.
The literary elements of theme, structure and protagonist’s social characteristics actually strengthen the reader’s understanding of the character’s spiritual growth: Lev’s novel demonstrates’ the protagonist’s liberation from the community bonds through the lens of the theme of social pressure, Twain’s writing – the progress of Huck’s humanistic views underlining the theme of slavery, Austen’s work – Emma’s psychological maturation, through prioritizing the theme of marriage, moreover, all works by their structure provide the mistakes made by the protagonists on their path and thus make clear to the reader that development is not a smooth and gradual process, whereas the change or stability of sociological characteristics pay reader’s attention either to the connection between self-awareness and social position or to the purely inner revolution.
The characters actually perfect very distinct aspects of self awareness: Emma, for instance, overgrows the selfish and infantile girl, whose main interest is manipulating the others’ fates (as she appears at the beginning), Asher Lev realizes that he is actually an independent personality rather than the subject of the Hassidic community after being judged for depicting the his mother’s anguish, whereas Huckleberry Finn, who has never considered carefully the issue of racial equality, begins to realize his humanistic views and oppose the oppression of slaves and the split of their families.
Due to the fact that the major theme in “My Name is Asher Lev” is community bonds and the conflict itself develops in terms of the weakening of the commitment to the groups of Hassids (Walden, 1985), the protagonist, who is a bright and unordinary individuality, should ascend over the blind observance of community tradition and learn to distinguish himself from the group. Therefore, his development is associated with individuation and learning of his ego and the religious conflict results in the development of Asher’s ability to assert his self: “So it is time for the defense, for a long session in demythology. But I will not apologize. It is absurd to apologize for a mystery”(Potok, 1998, at http://search. barnesandnoble. com).
The theme of marriage as the leading one in “Emma” is also related to the main character’s development: whereas at first, Emma views marriage as a game, popular in her environment, she is still not infantile to understand that this specific type of partnership is based necessarily on strong affection after developing the feelings for her brother-in-law; whereas at the beginning she has fear for the responsibility associated with marriage. The theme of slavery also supports the reader’s understanding of the young protagonist’s moral growth in “Huckleberry Finn”: “I’m low down; and I’m a-going to steal him” (Twain, 1999, Ch. 33); as one can understand, Huck no longer views Jim as property, but in order to persuade Tom, he recognizes his own inclination to wrongdoing and takes entire responsibility for the stealing the slave.
The structure of the stories is generally similar: the greatest part of the plot is dedicated to depicting the behavioral imperfections of the protagonist, so that the reader can feel the protagonist is an ordinary person, whose growth is based upon his/her own mistakes. For instance, “Emma” at first depicts an arrogant and class-conscious girl saying “The yeomanry are precisely the order of people with whom I feel I can have nothing to do” (Austen, 2001, Vol. 1 Ch. 4) and throughout the first two parts she acts as a quarrelsome person, whereas her later reasoning can be characterized as wiser: “I think Harriet is doing extremely well “(Austen, 2001, Vol. 3, Ch. 28), i. e. she approves of her best friend’ marriage to the farmer, having got the idea of love and letting it in.
Beyond mistakes, Potok’s and Twain’s protagonists also encounter difficulties and adversities, which shape their outlooks; for instance, Lev’s story can be divided into three parts (Walden, 1985): period of the teenage conflict with the environment, movement toward the goal in Kahn’s studio and the resolution of the conflict and individuation (Potok, 1972). Huck’s moral development is less gradual and actually consists of several insights: 1) first encounter with Jim as a fugitive slave and the initial desire to help him; 2) The loss of the companion after meeting the “aristocrats” and Jim’s imprisonment in Phelpses’ house. Finally, social characteristics of the protagonists are quite expressive themselves and point actually to the qualities to be changed.
For instance, Emma is introduced as a girl with a degree of self-importance and class-based prejudice because of her upper class identity, but later she begins to understand her friend Harriet in her love for Martin and thus grows more open-minded; furthermore, her maturation is accompanied by the change of social characteristics, as Emma accepts Knightley’s proposition Huck Finn’s social characteristics remain practically the same, as the author seeks to maintain the reader’s focus on the advancement of his moral qualities, so that the adolescent still remains to some extent uncommitted to social norms (“Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can’t stand it” (Twain 1999, Ch. 43), in spite of having developed his distinct attitude towards slavery. Asher Lev, in turn, drastically changes his social identity: the growth of his self-awareness and self-identity result in his alienation and separation from the community.
To sum up, the reader’s understanding of the protagonist’s path toward self-awareness is to great extent manipulated by the authors: Jane Austen, Chaim Potok and Mark Twain design the plot structure, which underlines the failures and subsequent insights of the protagonist, embed the central theme into the main character’s spiritual growth and substantially change the protagonist’s social features, except Huck’s case, in which the focus on morality shift is broadened through remaining social characteristics stable. Reference list Austen, J. (2001). Emma. At http://ebooks. adelaide. edu. au/a/austen/jane/a93e/. Twain, M. (1999). Huckleberry Finn. At Potok, C. (1972). My Name is Asher Lev. Alfred A. Knopf. Potok, C. (1998). My Name is Asher Lev. At http://search. barnesandnoble. com/booksearch/isbninquiry. asp? ean=9781400031047&displayonly=EXC&z=y#EXC http://etext. virginia. edu/toc/modeng/public/Twa2Huc. html Walden, D. (1985). The World of Chaim Potok. State University of New York Press, 1985.