Who Are We? Identity Crisis in a Socially Constructed Society

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Carefully examine the picture above. What do you see? Do you see a slave master beating his slave? If you answered yes, you are correct, but if you look closely, you will see two men performing roles, roles that were forced upon them by society, due to their racial identity.

In William Wells Brown’s The Escape, also known as, A Leap for Freedom, Brown shows how the cultural identity of whites and blacks is merely a social construct that is profoundly unstable. Throughout the play, both the white and black characters reveal their inability to fulfill or maintain their socially constructed roles, by acting on their desires towards the end of the play. A few of those characters are Glen and Melinda, two slaves who are forbidden lovers, Dr. Gaines, Melinda’s master and a man of high status, Cato, Dr. Gaines’ servant and Mrs. Gaines, Dr. Gaines’ wife.


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