What is Ishmael Reed's main point in Flight to Canada?

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belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Flight to Canada is a 1976 satirical novel by American poet and writer Ishmael Reed.

The main focus of the novel is a deconstruction and parody of Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin: both works contain slaves who escape their slavery and intend to flee to Canada, but Reed's work is broadly satirical and intended to poke fun at both the established view of slavery and the history of the American Civil War. Reed's opening poem, attributed to Raven Quickskill (the protagonist) shows both Reed's irony and deliberate anachronisms:

I flew in non-stop
Jumbo jet this A.M. Had
Compliments of the Cap'n
Who announced that a
Runaway Negro was on the
Plane. Passengers came up
And shook my hand
& within 10 min. I had
Signed up for 3 anti-slavery
Lectures. Remind me to get an
(Reed, A Flight to Canada, Google Books)

There were no Jumbo Jets until the late 1950s, making Raven's escape implausible at best; Reed also shows him as being "complimented" by the captain and passengers, who view his escape through modern eyes as something to be praised. Therefore, the main point of this novel could be seen as a condemnation of the Uncle Tom-type marginalizing of slavery, and of modern views that the history of slavery no longer matters.

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Flight to Canada

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