What do you see as the theme of "The Slave Dancer?"

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ladyvols1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jessie is a 13 year-old boy that has been imprisoned on a slave ship.  The theme of this novel is imprisonment and the fight for freedom.  Jessie is taken from his home against his will and put aboard the Moonlight.  The Moonlight is a slave ship and he is expected to play a fife to keep the slaves dancing.  Jessie hates being a prisoner and he hates being aboard a prison ship.  When the opportunity arrises for Jessie to escape during a battle with the Spanish traders he takes a young slave boy with him and they find freedom. 

"He feels pity for the slaves, realizing he is in the same position as they: all of them are on the ship against their will. He says, "I hated what I did [playing the fife]. I tried to comfort myself with the thought that, at least, it gave them time out of the hold. But what was the point of that or anything else?"

Another theme is the Hypocrisy of the people in Jessie's life.  His upbringing is very religious and the captain of the slave ship claims to be "God fearing" and religious, yet, he is in the business of selling human beings and responsible for the spread of slavery.

"Captain Cawthorne, who is in charge of the slave ship, mentions in the same breath that the slave trade is both "lucrative and God-given," and the sailors justify it by saying that everyone else is doing it."