Familial Structures In The Adventures Of Sawyer By Tom Sawyer

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As a young boy, Sawyer witnesses a posse of local white people hang his father, whip and rape his mother and sister, and bash in the brains of his two baby twin brothers. Sawyer escapes and is taken in by a black planter named Beaubean in the next township over. As Sawyer continues, inadvertently revealing Sappho’s mysterious past, the audience has a deep bodily response and “cries” and “groans” (257). “Sobs shook the women, while the men drank in the words of the speaker with darkening brows and hands which involuntarily clinched themselves in sympathy with his words” (257). He goes on to detail how Beaubean’s white half-brother kidnaps and rapes his young daughter Mabelle and forces her into prostitution. When Beaubean confronts his half-brother, …show more content…
Lewis, Sappho marries Will, and rather than political opponents, the two men become members of the same family and allied ambassadors of their race. Once again, the domestic ideology and marriage plot of the novel prove essential forms for the articulation of a successful racial politics. Like the contest at the fair, the meeting of the American Colored League sets out to redeem political disagreement by mediating them through the expression of alternative familial structures. While the marriages of Dora and Sappho narratively and politically reconcile the conflicts of the main plot, I argue that the union of two relatively minor characters represents the most promising elements of Hopkins’ alternative political and social vision. The marriage of Tommy and Ophelia serves to define and then unite seemingly disparate identity categories. The joining of Ophelia, an older, Southern-born ex-slave and present businesswoman, to Tommy, a divinity student just finishing college, marks an egalitarian movement towards a kind of gender and class equality that does not dismiss socioeconomic or generational differences but also does not allow these differences to result in disunity. Rather than seeking to exploit his future wife’s community ties and prosperity, as Langley does, Tommy reflects that everything about Ophelia puts him “at his ease,” admiring …show more content…
As Hazel V. Carby points out, for Hopkins, “organizing to fight meant also writing to organize” (97). Hopkins understood the rise of mob violence, lynching, rape, and economic exclusion to be deeply bound up in ongoing political terrorism designed to maintain capitalism, white supremacy, and patriarchy. Hopkins fiction, then, can be rightfully situated as part of her activism, which directed itself toward changing the social, political, and economic realities of black people in the Progressive Era. More specifically, through Contending Forces, Hopkins fuses her own revision of the New Negro Woman with a politically-engaged, cross-class black community to present a tangible activist approach to racial uplift. Thus, Contending Forces challenges readers to reshape their view of civilization and citizenship so that Americans might form a more equal, democratic nation. Throughout Hopkins’ work, individualism and the priority of profit—the personal manifestations of capitalism and patriarchy—epitomize moral danger and disassociate

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