How would one explain Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "The Slave's Dream?"What is the motive of the slave's dream?

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literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, "The Slave's Dream," is a poem which reflects upon the moment a slave collecting rice has given up his life of hardship.

Lying next to the "ungathered rice," the slave is able to find the one place where he no longer must suffer from the "driver's whip" or the "burning heat of the day." Dreaming, the slave is able to visit his home, his wife and his family. No longer aware of the brutal heat beating down upon his back, the slave's last moments are spent with him smiling at his dream. 

Essentially, the poem is speaking to both the harsh reality of slavery and the escape dreams can bring. Although the slave is seen lying on the rice he should be gathering, his dreams are allowing him to travel to a place where he can be certain to find eternal rest. No longer a slave, the man possesses "golden chains" for his horse. This imagery shows the slave to no longer be a slave; instead, he is a king (a far cry from the reality of his life). In death, brought on by the dream, the slave is able to have all he had hoped for: his family, his land, and recognition as being more than a slave. Although this was all in his mind, it was exactly what the slave needed to find comfort in his death.

ayeshahashmi | Student
  • Theme: It is clear that this impressive poem discusses the true nature of freedom and slavery through its content.It depicts the intense longing for freedom that cannot be suppressed. Everybody wants freedom, even the slave in fetters cannot give up the longing for freedom. The poem is also a plea against the inhuman practice of slavery, which was prevalent at the time when the poem was composed. The slave was sent away from his country and home to do drudgery for his masters. His longing for freedom remained intact. But as he was helpless, death came to liberate him.
kritish | Student


the poem reflects the miserable condition of an african slave who conjureS up images of his familylife from his earlier life and sees the majesti landscape of  his native land.the slave in his dream longs fr freedom and wants to break away from his chains of slavery.he imagines himself as a king or replays his past .