I sort of had a hard time trying to find a song that really connects with the quotes I chose or even these chapters in general. But I ended up deciding on “Shock to Your System” by Tegan and Sara. I chose it to be in relation to Tom finding out the truth about being a slave. I felt that some of the lyrics fit the context. For example, “You got a shock to your system. Pull yourself out of it. I know that shock to your system. Knocked your heart right out of sync.”
The first quote I chose on that subject is right at the start of chapter 10.
“Every now and then, after Tom went to bed, he had sudden wakings out of his sleep, and his first thought was, ‘Oh, joy, it was all a dream!’ Then he laid himself heavily down again, with a groan and the muttered words, ‘A nigger! I am a nigger! Oh, I wish I was dead,” (117).
I found it extremely fascinating that Tom is so disturbed not by the fact that he’s been lied to about his true identity, but about the fact that he is black and Chambers isn’t. His main concern is about being treated as a slave because he was so content to act as a white man would without fear of what could potentially happen to him. He even goes as far as to take out his anger on Chambers when Chambers doesn’t know anything and hasn’t even done anything. These examples reinforce the idea that society has forced him to act in this way because of what he was taught to believe growing up. All of a sudden, he can’t even shake hands with his white friend without thinking about how strange it is that his friend would want to shake his hand. This also proves how influenced Tom is by society because he looks white, but that didn’t matter to people of the time if it meant he also had black blood in him.
One would think that after gaining this new information, Tom would have changed his behavior, but he only even thinks about it for a few weeks before going back to his old ways, which I found strange but intriguing.
“Under the influence of great mental and moral upheaval his character and habits had taken on the appearance of complete change, but after a while, with the subsidence of the storm both began to settle toward their former places. He dropped gradually back into his old frivolous and easygoing ways and conditions of feeling and manner of speech, and no familiar of his could have detected anything in him that differentiated him from the weak and careless Tom of other days,” (119-120).
It was surprising to me that Tom only took about three pages to revert back to his old ways. Perhaps it was just simpler for Tom to ignore what Roxy tells him or perhaps he doesn’t care and wants everyone to continue believing he is not a slave so that he doesn’t have to act like one. Though it’s interesting that Twain mentions the way he slips up sometimes and acts more black than white. It’s like the constant reminder to him that he is just like Roxy.
I think all of that too shows that society of the time has constructed ideals, and Tom doesn’t want to stray from these ideals for fear of how he would have to change his life. The fact that Tom goes back to his regular self is proof that it is ingrained in him how to act white. It relates to the nature vs. nurture debate, except here it’s pretty obvious that Tom was conditioned to believe certain things about slavery and what it means.