Explain how does the things the slave sees in his dream in the poem "The Slave's Dream" represent freedom?"The Slave's Dream" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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missy575's profile pic

missy575 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Again, in the mist and shadow of sleep,
   He saw his Native Land.

Wide through the landscape of his dreams
   The lordly Niger flowed;
Beneath the palm-trees on the plain

Where do people go to be free from their jobs and stress? Out into nature, whether it be a tropical island or camping in the forest. These references to the landscape, the Niger River, the palm-trees and the plain give one the imagery of an oasis.

His bridle-reins were golden chains,
   And, with a martial clank,

I love the reference here to golden chains because only a king or wealthy man would have them, not a slave. And they clank with a martial sound, a reference to military. This guy has the ability to fight, not to be bound.

The forests, with their myriad tongues,
   Shouted of liberty;
And the Blast of the Desert cried aloud,
   With a voice so wild and free,
That he started in his sleep and smiled
   At their tempestuous glee.

Here you get direct references to freedom and liberty which result in happiness.

He did not feel the driver's whip,
   Nor the burning heat of day;

Finally, you have a direct escape from the punishing effects of slave life both human and circumstancially given.

Good luck.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Just about everything that the slave sees in his dream represents freedom.  Let's look at the things one by one.

  • The first thing he sees is a river.  This can be a symbol of freedom since the river flows on its own, going where it wants to.
  • Then he sees the king.  Kings are, obviously, free to do what they want.
  • Then he sees himself riding on a horse.  This is partly a power image, but it also symbolizes the freedom to go anywhere he wants.
  • Even more so is the image of the birds.  Birds are an image of freedom because they can soar up in the air where we humans cannot go.
  • I think that the Blast of the Desert is the wind.  The wind, like birds and rivers, can go where it wants to and nothing can stop it.

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