The play “The Escape or Leap of Freedom” opens with the “holy” couple Dr. and Mrs Gaines discussing the doctor’s practice. Playwright William Wells Brown’s decision to name the couple “Gaines” proves to be a successful choice in propelling his ideas in the play as we see the discussion highlights the irony of their titles “Gaines”. And I believe Brown uses irony throughout the play. As they discuss patients health in terms of money and as Mrs. Gaines says “We must trust in the Lord. Providence may possibly send some disease amongst us for our benefit” wishing that their area would be touched a little by yellow fever their greed is truly evident in this opening conversation. It is also ironic that they are asking God for favour for sickness. They are only interested in their personal gain which is evident throughout the play whether by means of money of some other personal gratification. Brown’s portrayal of these two characters exposes the conflict which could have been seen as symbolic for the state of the country.
What is also very important to take note of is that Brown gives awareness, insight and great depth to the characters that in society at the time were thought to be aligned with mere cattle, property. A character such as Cato, initially seen being close to the slave owner with admiration for Dr. Gaines and even mimicking his master though pulling the wrong tooth of another slave, presents his original song that confronts several social issues of the time. Cato, the one that obeys his master and seems to idolizes him and trusts all he says in that song challenges what Dr. Gaines says about the “land of freedom.” Cato realizes that is a lie and the song addresses the social injustice of slavery. He attempts to expose the hypocrisy of this Christian religion they are to adhere to that condones them being treated as lesser beings, yet they are unable to see for themselves what this Christian book actually says.
Another instance with the slaves being aware of truths that the slave owner or the audience does not know is the conversation between Dolly and Susan who know that Mrs. Gaines is nothing but a phony who wasn’t born with a silver spoon in her mouth. Brown overall in these beginning acts clearly portrays for his audience through irony and other tools to expose the societal injustices of his time.