Positive Influence on Children in Literature

When children are young, parents engrave morals into their heads of what to do and what not to do. They carry some of those into the future, but leave others behind. Imagine someone attempting to change that. In both Kindred by Octavia Butler and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, young kids discover a role model, who attempts to change their racist morals and make them better people. Jim from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was successful in changing Huck's beliefs through life lessons and demonstrating good morals. On the other hand, Dana from Kindred was unsuccessful in influencing Rufus because it is evident that Rufus's surroundings overpowered Dana's teachings.

To begin, Octavia Butler's novel, Kindred, is about a present-day African American woman named Dana. She goes back in time to attempt and change the thoughts of a young, white boy, named Rufus. Rufus's father runs a plantation and he is exposed to racist behavior on a daily basis… So he obviously doesn't have a bright future in front of him, for he is expected to grow up and fill his father's shoes. All throughout the story, Dana is trying to positively influence Rufus in hopes his racism will not follow him as he gets older. Amongst the flickers of hope that Rufus will change, he did not. For instance, Rufus took advantage of Dana's race and put her to work. He was somewhat considerate and gave her undemanding jobs since she wasn't really a slave, but when Dana slid out of line and tried to correct Rufus on his behavior, Rufus thinks she "ought to be in the fields," because Dana "would've learned a few things" (Butler 126). In other words, Rufus thinks that Dana belongs in the fields because if she were to be, she would've been whipped for standing up to a white person. The fact Rufus threatens Dana with physical punishment represents his paucity of care for African Americans (even after Dana was trying to inspire him to respect all people) regardless of their race. This scene was the turning point to show Rufus hasn't changed because if he had really listened to Dana, he would've done something about the abuse of slaves on the plantation.

On the contrary, Mark Twain represents how an African American slave is able to change the beliefs of a racist little boy in his novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Huck runs away from his father and stumbles across Jim, who is trying to elude slavery. Huck helps him find freedom and the unlikely pair goes on a long journey together, thus they get to know each other exceedingly well. After a long day of moving toward freedom, Jim begins to cry because he has been away from his family for a prolonged amount of time. From a distance, Huck notices and feels sympathy for him and thinks "[Jim] cared just as much of [his family] as white folks care for their'n" (Twain 55). While some might argue that this isn't a big deal because Huck never went to comfort Jim, this has actually been a monumental turning point in their journey because Huck is finally realizes that African Americans have equal feelings as white people do. Just through demonstrating caring morals, Jim unintentionally teaches Huck about the equality in emotions of African Americans.

Meanwhile, Dana has still not made an impact on Rufus's supremacist thoughts. As the story of Dana and Rufus goes on, Dana grows more and more worried about the treatment of the slaves on the plantation with Rufus there, therefore she clearly has no trust or hope in him being reasonable. Dana has seen Rufus beat, rape, whip, and yell at slaves and each time she sees him his racism has taken over his body more and more, much like an incurable epidemic. At one point Dana sees that Rufus's mind has been permanently set into Antebellum South mode and expresses that she's worried about "'...what's going to happen to [slaves] if [Rufus] live?'" (Butler 225). Rufus shakes her words off like the slaves aren't anything more than the dirt he walks on, making it clear that Dana is the only one who genuinely cares about the well-being and justice of the slaves. Rufus didn't show one sign of caring and moved on to accusing Dana of threatening him; it is clear he doesn't take her words to heart. A few moments later Dana lost hope and thought she'd "been foolish to hope to influence him" (Butler 123), which is a clear sign of giving up on successfully influencing Rufus. One point for racist Rufus, zero points for Dana.

Referring back to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Jim continues to provide first-rate life lessons and serve as a role model for Huck. Through their adventures together; Jim and Huck become surprisingly close and build a brotherly bond. Jim is talking about what he's going to do when he's a free man; he grows more and more thankful for Huck and makes it clear that "[Huck] de bes' fren' Jim's ever had" (Twain 33). From Jim showing his appreciation for Huck reveals that fact that they get along and respect each other. If Jim didn't influence Huck positively, then Huck would not be treating Jim with the kindness he does; he would not be treating Jim as an equal. In addition, Huck wouldn't have freed Jim from slavery if he didn't have respect for him. Huck "would go to work and steal Jim out of slavery again" (Twain 75) from of the goodness in his heart that is there from the positive influences of Jim.

In conclusion, Jim from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was quite the quality influence on Huck and was able to change his beliefs for the good. This is evident because Jim formed a strong, brotherly bond with Huck and showed him the ways of being a quality person. However, Dana from Kindred was unsuccessful in her many efforts to change the evil ways of Rufus. This is due to the fact that Rufus's surroundings were more impactful on him that Dana's teachings.


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