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Piano Player

One thing that is truly disappointing in a novel is when a character does not grow as a person. In the novels The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, Daisy Miller by Henry James, and The Weary Blues by Langston Hughes there is no disappointment from the protagonists. Huck Finn, Winterbourne, and the piano player are all characters who come to a greater understanding about themselves and the world around them. They grow in huge ways as human beings. The novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain is a story where the protagonist, Huck Finn, grows in a huge way.

Huck, based on a boy from Twain’s youth, is a young boy who is coming of age in the novel . He learns as much about himself and the world around him in the few short months of the novel’s story, than many people do in a lifetime. First, he is a foster child who has been badly abused by his alcoholic father. His mother has died and Twain insinuates that she died from improper care from the father. He learns that one cannot always depend on a parent. Ultimately it is that individual’s responsibility to pull himself up from his circumstances and do for himself. That is exactly what Huck does.

Even when his father finds him and tries to steal his inheritance, Huck does not give in, but runs away. It might not have been the best decision that he could have made, but it was the only one that would come to mind. He comes to the conclusion that even if he has to leave his father, he still has to accept that he was his father and was a part o him. Huck Finn has grown in such a way as a young boy that he is enlightened about his family issues that many adults find hard to grasp. Another way that Huck grows as a person is that he realizes that the institution of slavery is wrong. Huck has to run away to get away from his father.

When he does this, he runs into Miss Watson’s slave Jim. He was also running away. Huck has a problem with helping Jim because he is a runaway slave even though Jim has been a better friend and father to him than his own father. After he has spent time with Jim during their fugitive time together, Huck decides that even though it is illegal to harbor a runaway slave then the laws were wrong. He also questions the moral stance on slavery. He decides, “All right, then, I’ll go to hell”- and tore it up. It was awful thoughts, and awful words, but they was said. And I let them stay said; and never thought no more about reforming.

I shoved the whole thing out of my head; and said I would take up wickedness again, which was in my line, being brung up to it, and the other warn’t. And for a starter, I would go to work and steal Jim out of slavery again; and if I could think up anything worse, I would do that, too; because as long as I was in, and in for good, I might as well go the whole hog. (Twain) Huck has grown to the point that he is willing to sacrifice his very soul to do the right thing. Winterbourne, the co protagonist in the novella Daisy Miller by Henry James, goes through changes as well, but they are much more subtle.

He is an American who has spent most of his life in Europe. The culture is different on the two continents, but since he has lived in Europe so long, he has forgotten the rules of American culture and become engrossed with the rules of society in Europe. When the novella opens, Winterbourne is living in Vevey, Switzerland. It is there that he meets the lovely American girl and her family from upstate New York. She is not from a poor family, but her actions are not complimentary with the upper class of Europe’s group of Americans who spend their time in Europe.

Winterbourne is closely connected with his aunt, Mrs. Costello, and she is not accepting of Daisy because she feels that the way that she acts is not respectable. I haven’t the least idea what such young ladies expect a man to do. But I really think that you had better not meddle with little American girls that are uncultivated, as you call them. You have lived too long out of the country. You will be sure to make some great mistake. (James) Winterbourne does not like his aunt’s judgment of Daisy, but even though he is a grown man, he allows his aunt to influence him.

He has a good time with Daisy that summer and even goes to the Castle Chillon to tour the structure. It is obvious that he has feelings for Daisy, but because of his aunt, he does not allow the relationship to go any further. He will eventually grows to gain courage because he will realize that what others think can cost him his own happiness. Winterbourne’s character has grown a little by the next summer because he has decided to go to where Daisy said that she would be which is a small act of defiance. The next summer Winterbourne and his aunt are in Rome and so are the Millers.

He befriends Daisy again, but another man, Giovanelli, has entered the picture. Daisy is not going to resume a relationship with Winterbourne. He tells himself that he must help her save her reputation for the way that she behaves with Giovanelli. He defends her with the upper class Americans in Rome, and he constantly rebukes and advises Daisy about her behavior. One night he goes to the Coliseum and discovers the couple alone together. This is a place where it is extremely easy to catch malaria, and Winterbourne is the only one who is concerned for Daisy’s safety.

Within days Daisy is very ill and she dies. Before she dies, she leaves a message for him that she did have feelings for him and that she wished that he had said something to her at Chillon. Winterbourne then knows that he must grow to be an adult and take control of the situations that are in front of him. Winterbourne realizes that if he had listened to his own feelings instead of to his aunt, he would have been with Daisy instead of Giovanelli which is a sign of growth. If that had happened, she would not have been in the Coliseum, she would not have gotten sick, and she would still be alive.

He grows to realize that he should not allow others to control his fate. The piano player in The Weary Blues is the last example of a character who must grow and gain insight as a person. The brilliant poet of the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes, wrote poetry that goes straight to the heart of Americans, not just those of his race. Weary Blues is an excellent example of Hughes’ genius. The unnamed speaker of the poem, has gone to listen to an African American musician play. The musician is a piano player that plays the blues, and the rhythm of the poem supports this.

He did a lazy sway …. He did a lazy sway …. To the tune o’ those Weary Blues. With his ebony hands on each ivory key He made that poor piano moan with melody. O Blues! Swaying to and fro on his rickety stool He played that sad raggy tune like a musical fool. Sweet Blues! (Hughes) Now the blues of the music is taken the form of the musician’s life. The piano player realizes that his life is not a happy one and he wishes that he was dead. Many would see that this means that the man did not grow as a character, but when looked at closely, it shows that he does grow as a person.

The last five lines of the poem follow the piano player into the night and a time where he can reflect on his growth. The speaker says that the stars and the moon both loose their light. This symbolizes that the piano player was right about the words that he sang. The Harlem Renaissance had brought fame to many African Americans, but they were still not treated as equal. Therefore, the piano grew as a character because he realized that society was not where it should be. He was not satisfied with the few scraps of fame that were thrown to him.

He wanted it all. He wanted and deserved equality and now he has learned that. These three literary works, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Daisy Miller, and The Weary Blues, are perfect examples of how a character and an individual grow through the experiences that he/she lives through. There are many opportunities for growth, and the three protagonists in these works do just that. That is one reason that the novel, novella, and poem have stood the test of time and remain classics today.

Works Cited

Henry James. The Literature Network. 30, July 2007, http://www.online-literature.com/henry_james/

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