Studies in Modern Drama
This is where your blog posts for English 312 will go.
The Harsh System of Colonialism
This genre clearly resembles the sentimental era as feelings and emotions are evoked in the audience through the discussion of the separation of the slaves Glenda and Melinda. As Brown discusses the feelings that both slaves have for one another, the sentimental aspect is displayed as the audience feels a sense of anger toward the institution of slavery for its cruel actions of forbidden true young black love. When Brown speaks of the white slave master’s reason for forbidding black marriages, the cruel system of colonialism is highlighted through this act. This is shown by the masters’ representation and re-presentation of the slaves as their property which justifies their inhumane treatment of the slaves.
In close lines with the “Escape Or A Leap for Freedom,” Brown vividly highlights the power of the discourse which the white slave owners use to define blacks through their view to benefit their own interests. This is performed in this way because it gives agency and voice to subaltern blacks who were silenced for a very long time through the cruel system of slavery.
Brown’s play gives many subtle messages about the society in that the play tackles issues of racism. The white slave master Dr.Gaines views slaves like Cato, Melinda, Glen as property and chooses not to associate closely with blacks because they are seen as inferior. Brown suggests that society is constructed in terms of race ( white, black), seen evidently in the scene when “Massa” leaves Cato in charge of the office procedures. The white slave owners represent the slaves as property and inferior, subhuman which is also perpetuated by other black slaves. In the case of Cato, a young, black slave this is seen when he turns against another black slave by informing Dr.Gaines that Hannah had stolen a goose for a meal. Brown is showcasing the power of the divide and conquer strategy that the white slave masters use to continuously segregate blacks which helped to maintain power and control.
Additionally, “The Escape”, highlights the role of religious discourse as long as it benefitted the slave owners. In the scene with Mrs.Gaines and Rev. Pinchen, religion is discussed and all the positive aspects of religion are used by the white slave masters to disenfranchise and marginalize slaves through Rev. Pinchen’s “religious experience”. Brown chose to represent this in that way because he wants to highlight the hypocritical nature of slave masters through his play.
Brown tackles ideas about art by structuring the play in an informal style which is seen throughout the dialogue between the characters. The white slave masters are speaking in Standard English while blacks are speaking in creole. In some instances, Cato is represented as vacuous in the dialogue as he often spells words incorrectly. For example, “intment”. The play reveals many social and cultural comments that are concealed through a humorous tone which is criticizing the institution of slavery in a subtle yet straightforward way.
William Wells Brown’s text The Escape depicts the subject of slavery as its focal point. The play utilizes the genre of sentimentalism to appeal to the audience’s emotion and compel them to relate to the characters within the story. For example, individuals can relate to the difficulties faced by Glen and Melinda who are in love with each other, but are forbidden to marry. Thus, the relationship between the subject matter and the genre in this text is that they build upon one another to produce a sense of emotion for the audience, where they are given an inside view of the characters’ lives and through their own experience can feel exactly what the characters are encountering. This play contains are few of the characteristics of a sentimentalism genre in terms of emotion of romance, over understanding in emotion, goodness in humans. For example, romance is displayed through characters such as Glen and Melinda and Sam and Hannah. On the other hand, you can also view the aspect of “goodness in humans” when white elites like the masters seek Christianity or label themselves as Christians even though they mistreat their slaves and split husband and wives up. Then following such actions, they blame their behavior on the slave rather than taking full responsibility for their doings. In this sense one can observe that although the master commit wrong doings they still strive to see good in themselves by placing the label of Christianity upon them. Therefore, the relationship between the two is that they depict similar aspects because the subject matter is composed utilizing the characteristics of this genre and so the text contains everything that coincides with sentimentalism. Meaning that the play will hold some sort of relatable relationship with this genre since it involves characters that exhibit or perform actions that categorizes as sentimentalism. For many of the characters within this play as far as Act 1-3 exhibit emotion towards a particular person or situation whether it be anger, love, obsessiveness, control, values etc. For example, when Mrs. Gaines whip Hannah, she blames her for the lashing by stating that Hannah provokes her into doing so. Yet, it is quite obvious that her anger stems from other aspects within the play.
The Escape Or, a Leap for Freedom is a melodrama. In 1861 in the mist of Slavery, this emotional love story takes place.The Escape Or, a Leap for Freedom addresses questions dealing with religion, manipulation, Physical and Mental Exploitation of human beings because of their color.
I am plunged into Brown’s introduction from the first sentence. He describe Dr. Gaines as a medical Doctor with religious views, but he is also a slave owner. Married to Mrs.Gaines a well rounded lady who claims to be very religious but she physically and mental manipulates her slaves. Cato a very loyal and talented slave work along side Dr.Gaines and help with procedures when he wasn’t in the office, but one day he made a mistake which made his master very upset. The use of phrases such as “I’ll whip you for this” shows the of punishment Cato or any slave would endure if they did something wrong or something the slave master didn’t approve of. It also foreshadows the future events of what we eventually happen to the slaves.
In scene three act one we can see it was a love to die for between Melinda and Glen. Melinda was a slave of Dr.Gaines and Mrs.Gaines, while Glen was the slave of Mr. Hamilton. Glen was told to give up Melinda or die and he told them that he would not give up Melinda, even though he loved life better than death even life its self could not tempt him to consent to a separation that would make life an unchanging curse. Glen then tells Melinda that he is planning on escaping and he wants her to go with him but he is afraid that her master would pay him and sell him outside of the neighborhood.
Scene two act two showed how slaves were traded Dr.Gaines sold Sam and big Sally for 100 and 900, this scene evoke emotions to its readers because how can someone place a price tag on someone, the phrase ” That’s all they are worth” speaks volume of how less of human beings they see their slaves.
These scenes leaves the reader with rhetoric questions, it exaggerates the plot and characters in order to appeal to the emotions
The Escape – A Leap for Freedom. Why Drama?
The titular play is a slave narrative. It focuses on the complications and frustrations of American culture between Blacks and Whites during slavery and the sort of life that means for persons who belong to either skin color and those who are Mulatto (biracial). It is the first known play by an American black and is important because most dramas at the time were minstrel shows that mocked Blacks (their appearance, the way they spoke and their culture). As a drama, this play illustrated that Blacks were not merely for the consumption and entertainment of White persons. Another reasons why this story was more than likely told as a drama as opposed to another form is that drama is usually straight dialogue. This means there are no additional details aside from very setting details that may or may not be lengthy. Generally, there are no long diatribes about characters and thus one must read the entire play and pay attention to the things they say (to themselves and others) in order to learn and make conclusions about them. This hopefully results in a reader becoming more engaged with the material and during such a racially charged time, this was more than likely the goal of Wells-Brown. Realistically, the majority of his audience may have been Whites since most Blacks did not know how to read or did not read that well and those that did, did not have access to literature. However, it is important to remember that plays are meant to be performed and being a play rather than a novel, then made the material more accessible to Blacks. They did not know how to read but they certainly understood language and thus were more likely to benefit from a play rather than a novel or some other genre. White Americans (especially those from the North) had their moral injustices highlighted in regards to slavery, something many from the region tend to overlook, basing it on the fact that they were not as bad as their Southern counterparts. Black American slaves have their injustices highlighted through Cato who is complicit in the harm of his brown counterparts under the guise of self-preservation and his disdain for slaves from South (his own people). The play focuses on problematic aspects of not just White American culture but also Black American culture, so every American could gain something from it.
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