American Literature of the 19th Century
April 2, 2014
In Mark Twain's 1884 novel The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn, he explores how societal institutions impact Jim and Huck's relationship. While on the river away from societal influences Jim and Huck are able to build a healthy relationship and are able to develop a classless society. Jim is able to be himself on the river where he is free from people's judgments, and Huck allows this because societal pressures do not influence to do otherwise. Accordingly, Huck rejects class systems and creates a classless society on the raft. Published in 1898, Henry James' novella The Turn of the Screw is set in this time period with its main character embodying the class anxiety of the time. A young unnamed woman accepts the position as a governess due largely to her obsession with the employer; a prosperous, charming, aristocratic gentleman in London.
Her obligations as a governess at Bly, the uncle's country estate, include watching over her employer's niece and nephew, Miles and Flora, and managing the servants, who are of lower class. The governess's appeal to her upper-class employer, coupled with her peculiar status at Bly, causes her to be poisoned by the class consciousness which she is a victim. She puts forth the love of two former employees, Peter Quint and Miss Jessel, as distasteful because of their difference in class, even though she yearns to love her aristocratic boss. She fails to recognize her own prejudices and fallacies, like she fails to recognize the nature of the illusions of Jessel and Quint post their deaths. Taken together, the authors give nuanced illustrations of how societal institutions impact different characters. On the raft away from society Huck rejects social classes by forming a...