Augustus Cain is a good person, despite his background and upbringing he was able to emerge through the narrative. Cain is a man in the corner; his conditions determine his values and morals. He lost himself to himself and his own society. Although, he has lost himself he evolves and turns into a “soul catcher” throughout this novel many times, one of the souls he’s caught was even his own. He evolved as a person through breaking the four guiding principles constantly that his father said for him to follow. The four guiding principles were that “one should always respect one’s property: that it was necessary to care for protect it, to never misuse it, as it will someday be called upon to care for and protect you” (White 31); “That a Negro was in many ways like a child and it was the moral duty of the white man to look after and guide them” (White 31); ” That his very whiteness not only set him apart from and above them – morally, intellectually, physically – but that it also linked him in a blood bond with every other white man” (White 32); ” Whites and Negroes were created by the Almighty to be separate” (White 32).
Cain engages in a forbidden relationship with a black woman named Rosetta. This relationship tests Cain’s character, will, care and decisions. She tests Cain’s will during her bathing in the river. While Rosetta is bathing, Cain is half turned away; “he felt this to be some sort of test of will, a temptation he felt bound to renounce in order to prove to himself, that he wasn’t common, that he wasn’t like Preacher or Strofes. That he was different” (White 206). He is also attracted to her in this scene. Post Rosetta exiting the river and him glancing at her and having a hard time averting this stare. He says that “he felt shamed as a rumbling commenced down between his own legs” (White 207) as he looked between hers.
When Preacher tries to rape Rosetta, Cain almost kills him out of protection for her. When Rosetta is kidnapped Cain goes and asks around for her, and says “I’m trying to help her” (White 287) and pushes onward out of his determination to save her. After saving her Cain is captured by John Brown and says that he doesn’t plan to send Rosetta back to Eberly, and Brown believes him and sends him away to a settlement in Ohio called Gist. Cain and Rosetta are laying together in a cabin and Rosetta kisses him, they continue to kiss and begin to remove their clothes. Cain then thought “He knew that he was crossing a line that he could never cross back over again” (White 377) and they made love.
Cain is different from the other men that are portrayed in this novel, that are to be thought of as of brothers to him because of the blood bond that they share. Cain is more sympathetic to blacks then the rest. When Preacher is beating Joseph, Cain hates preacher for his mindless cruelty and didn’t believe on harming anyone in his “profession” unless it was absolutely necessary. “He preferred using his wits rather than violence or force” (White 55). He also feels bad for Joseph, so much that he couldn’t ignore Preacher slashing cuts in his body. He says to him “Alright, that’ll be enough” (White 56) and kicks him. He also tells him to stop acting like a cur if he doesn’t want to be treated like one. He degrades him to a dog in this scene. He also tells Joseph that if he didn’t comply with them that Preacher would hurt him and that Cain himself “didn’t want that” (White 58).
Post Preacher suggesting they sell the boy and Cain disagreeing and calling it common thievery. Preacher also says that he shouldn’t act so high and mighty and that “Slave catcher, blackbirder. They’re all the same in my book” (White 60). Cain responds that “No, we’re not all the same. I’m carrying out the law” (White 60). This was a point in the novel where Cain again separates himself from his “brothers” and explains that he’s only doing this because he has to survive and pay off his debt not out of the malicious intent like a blackbirder or most slave catchers. At the end of all this Cain gives the boy a dollar coin to pay him back for his eggs.
Cain is compared metaphorically throughout the novel to the people that his whiteness is supposed to set himself apart from. Cain is a runaway. He ran away from the life of a farmer and slave-owner. “Cain had decided early on that he wasn’t cut out for the life of a farmer” (White 32). He instead joins the military to basically escape this inheritance from his father. When he tells Rosetta this she says to him “that makes you a runaway, too, Cain.” (White 245). He also “runs away” from the problems in his world by drowning himself in the vices, which are also the very things that metaphorically “enslaves” him. He is an alcoholic who constantly drinks laudanum.
He has a gambling problem and has sex constantly with prostitutes. He also was tired for working for people like Eberly. These kind of people were white slave owners “that thought their money made him their nigger” (White 11). Also Cain explains to Rosetta that he has to bring her back to Eberly although he doesn’t want to because of his honor. She says that “Honor. He done bought and paid for you just like me”; Cain responds “No one owns me”; Rosetta says “Oh, he own you, all right. The only difference between them was that she knows it and he doesn’t” (White 210).
Cain is overall a different person at the end of this novel. He has involved in interracial affairs with a black woman. He hasn’t respected the technically “property” of another man which would be Rosetta to Eberly, by not returning her to him, which ofcourse was the right thing to do. He is also acknowledged by Rosetta and other people in the novel even John Brown, as a “good man”.
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