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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