The characters in Gem of the Ocean are all living in freedom, but are they truly free? How do you define freedom? Is it as much a state of mind as anything? Consider the characters one by one, and discuss how free you think each is. How does each person deal with his or her freedom? How does each character's freedom change throughout the play?

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The central question of freedom is contrasted to enslavement in August Wilson's play. The author presents the idea of one character who embodies all enslaved persons: Aunt Ester Tyler. The paradox that Wilson offers is that—because she was enslaved for so long—once Emancipation arrives, Aunt Ester cannot be truly free. She is at liberty to live her life according to her own decisions, but...

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