Elijah of Buxton: Developing into a Man
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear” (Nelson Mandela). These words perfectly describe Elijah Freeman’s character development in the novel Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis, as Elijah takes part in extreme acts of courage to free a baby from slavery. As a free baby, Elijah did not experience slavery and oftentimes he does not understand the importance and significance of the freedom. However as the story goes on, he realizes the struggles that black Americans went through as slaves to rich white people. His journey portrays character development from a fragile, naïve and fearful little boy to a courageous and mature man. Elijah’s character is developed while attempting to balance his ideals with the reality of 1800 slavery. This is shown through his actions, his opinions, and his interaction with other characters. On quoting the famous saying of “actions speak louder than words,” Elijah illustrates character development through his activities and his reactions in different situations. Elijah shows that he is developing into a fearless man when he reads the letter to Mrs. Holton addressed from America. The people of the settlement are aware that the mail from America symbolizes bad news especially because Mrs. Holton was in Buxton without her husband. Elijah is scared of death and immediately cringes on the talk of death; however he becomes aware of the reality that death occurs in American slavery. Elijah is realizing that slaves are constantly going through physical torture and sometimes the body is not able to endure that torture, “I hadn’t cried nor let my voice get shake-ity nor even sniffled whilst I was reading the letter to Mrs. Holton” (pg. 199). It shows character development as Elijah is aware that he had to become more mature and calm to complete this letter reading. In another situation Elijah acts to show that he has become brave as he agrees with Mr. Leroy to go on the dangerous journey with him to America in search of the preacher and the gold he stole. This incident suggests character development because Elijah is fully aware of the dangers that involve the journey to slave infested America. Despite white men who may kill him, Elijah agrees and commits to the journey to America. Furthermore, Elijah comes across the slaves and realizes that he may be able to take the baby back to freedom in Buxton. Elijah was never a slave and was born as a free baby so he did not directly experience the struggles and hate of slavery. However, once he sees the way his people are treated in America he makes the fearless judgement to take that baby. The fact that he did not experience slavery but was able to understand the struggles of slavery as he took the child shows that his character has fully developed into a daring and strong man. In conclusion his actions showed that he had matured a lot from the beginning of the novel. Elijah Freeman’s opinions about adults, gossip, murder and slavery throughout the novel shows that he is growing as a person. Although he is raised to respect the words of his elders, there are times when adults use their words to trick or take advantage but he starts to not fall for them. This is seen when the preacher boasts about Elijah’s ability to catch fish with stones. At first Elijah is pleasantly surprised by the preacher’s comment but then he starts to reflect on the preacher’s sweet talking. “… sweet-talking is like a rattling-snake’s rattle, it’s like you’re getting a warning that you’re ‘bout to get bit.” (pg. 48)Elijah’s change in opinion about the sweet-talking is evident as he does not fall for the preacher’s boasting whcih shoes great maturity. In any community, there is bound to be gossip being spread about people and the things they have done. Elijah had gossip spread about...
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