The Test of Abraham in American Literature

Test of Abraham

The Test of Abraham

There is no plot to a story without a conflict and a test of character, and in a Biblical story there is always a test by God. In this particular test, Abraham was asked to kill his son in a declaration of faith and fear of God: “…God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you” (Genesis 22.2). There is no plot or story without a conflict, for a protagonist must be tested in order to prove his or her heroism. As touched upon in Foster’s How to Read Literature like a Professor, the hero must battle the dragon to save the princess. Many trials appear throughout different eras of American literature, from Romanticism to Realism and Modernism.


Mark Twain incorporates a satirical test of character into The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in order to create conflict between Huck and Jim and to press the reader with society’s morals of the early 19th century. Huck is pressured constantly by the decision whether to turn Jim in or to keep their friendship and alliance in order to escape from the people of their past; this is God’s test of Huck’s moral character in which Huck succeeds.


Peter and Pavel’s Dire Situation

In Willa Cather’s My Ántonia, the Russian brothers Peter and Pavel are tested when their wedding party is chased by a pack of wolves, resulting in the “failing” of their trial when they sacrifice the newlyweds in order to save themselves. This results in a “curse”, for the brothers are shunned by society as well as God and are sent to America, where they face nothing but a series of unfortunate events.


The Sun Also Rises 1957 Movie

Ernest Hemingway creates the conflict of two young men vying for a girl in The Sun Also Rises in order to represent a trial of character. As Pedro and Cohn battle over Brett, Cohn physically wins the fight, but Pedro “succeeds” morally in standing up and taking it and not over-reacting. God tests these two young men, around the same age as Jesus Christ, in order to reveal the characters’ intentions. Every character, real and figurative, must go through a test or their plot never unfolds; without conflict, people would never become who they are.

Source: The Test of Abraham         Huck and Jim        Peter and Pavel’s Mistake               Brett’s Men

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