The Escape; or, A Leap for Freedom: A Scolding of the Christian Church at the time

The kinds of social, political and cultural commentary that William Wells-Brown makes in his one-person show are many, however, his critique of those in the Christian Church is particularly compelling. Dr. and Mrs. Gaines, two of the main characters, open the play discussing their desire for disease to hit their land so that Dr. Gaines’ medical practice may be “blessed” with business. Mrs. Gaines states in act one, scene one, “We must trust in the Lord. Providence may possibly send some disease amongst us for our benefit.” Later on, Mrs. Gaines is in conversation with Reverend Pinchen and is telling him how much she loves the Lord and loves to hear good news from God’s people, but yet breaks away from direct conversation with the Rev. to scold Hannah, one of their domestic slaves, to insult her by labeling her a”lazy huzzy” in scene four of the same act. Surely, this is not how The Bible instructs Christians to behave. Instead of the characteristics that are expected from Christians such as love, patience, kindness, goodness, etc., the Christian behaviour that is exhibited from Dr. and Mrs. Gaines is replete with greed, hypocrisy, selfishness, infidelity and many other characteristics that The Bible specifically speaks out against. In this way, Wells-Brown is directly critiquing the church for their hypocritical behaviour, which does not reflect true Christian ideals in any way. In act one, scene four as well, even Rev. Pinchen uses The Bible to advance his own personal motives when he relates his story to Mrs. Gaines of how his pony is stolen and uses his message on Sunday to get the pony returned.

In act four, scene two as well, the behaviour of Dr. Gaines is disgustingly inhumane as he instructs Mr. Scragg to give Glenn five hundred lashes, and if after “he can bear more”, Glen should receive one or two hundred more. In characterizing Dr. and Mrs. Gaines and Rev. Pinchen in this light, Wells-Brown forces the audience to question if there is any Christian morals or beliefs existing within these people at all. And surely, the elephant in the room cannot be neglected. The major hypocrisy of all that the characters in the play are living out is the enslavement of other humans and their subsequent mistreatment, especially by Mrs. Gaines. Mr. White’s character is introduced in act four and is the one who advocates for the freeing of the slaves. One would expect that Christians be involved in advocating for the abolition of slavery, however, as it was in society at the time, so does Wells-Brown depict. They did not, and he directly critiques them for their paradoxical behaviour.



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