The Middle Passage, by Charles Johnson is a log of events form a slave ship authored by the main character, Rutherford Calhoun. Our narrator, Calhoun, recalls the tale of a voyage half way around the world, a six-month transitional period which thoroughly reconstructs his previous life-style. His life-style of survival, crime and ill-sincerity transforms him into a domesticated man who has discovered, and can now express, genuine feelings of love. Examining and comparing his initial and final states of thought, one can speculate what events or experiences contributed to the change of his character.
As entry, Calhoun hadea “taste for the excessive, exotic fringes of life”(1). He constantly searched for new, quick, and unwholsome experiences, a truly un-gratifying way of life. If, and when, he achieved the ‘quick’ experiences, the happiness was short-lived, an adrenaline rush caused by the fear and excitement of nearly being caught in the act. Utilizing the attitide as self described by Calhoun on page 3, “cityfolks lived by cheating and crime,” he had thus limited his ability to expand as a righteous, law-abiding citizen, trapping himself in a life of foolishness. Agreeing with a concept of that sort was even considered “smart” by Calhoun, as he claims directly before that, “I’m not stupid”(7); Indeed he is not, considering he attended private schooling through college, yet his life and future are misdirected.
The first sign of Calhoun comes from the description, and introduction, of a woman who strove his companionship, Isadora Bailey, on page 5, “she was, as I *Calhoun* soon learned, a woman grounded, physically and metaphysically,?I was ambushed by the innocence – the alarming trust – in her eyes” The qualities observed by Calhoun were ones he himself, did not currently contain. Although he was unsure of his feelings for her, he mentions a foreshadowing idea (7) which would indicate that they have a future of love together. Isadora is a strong influence on Calhoun, however it is not a direct influence. Her qualities and intentions ‘rub off’ onto Calhoun and are a significant part of his reform
“Then aren’t you obliged, given these gifts, to settle down and start a family so you can give to others in even greater measure?” Her eyes went quiet, closing as if on a vision of her and me at the altar. “My father, you know, was a little like you, Rutherford, or at least my aunties say he was. He stayed in Scolley Square or in the pubs, looking for himself in rum and loose women until he met a woman of character – I mean my mother – who brought out his better instincts.” (8)
This paragraph alone cont