What is the theme of the poem "The Slave's Dream" by HW Longfellow?

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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The theme of the poem "The Slave's Dream", by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, is one of escape.

Slaves did not have a very easy life. The toils and tribulations that they faced on a daily basis were horrendous. It took a very strong person to survive the life of a slave.

The slave in Longfellow's poem has found a way to survive: escape. But, this is not the type of escape that would justify (wrongly) beatings. Instead, this type of escape was one that existed solely in the mind of the slave. A place an owner could not see and punish for.

In the end, the slave was able to escape the his life of slavery- through his dream and his death. One can tell that the slave had a very hard life:

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

His life ended, though, in a way in which he was finally able to find peace:

A worn-out fetter, that the soul
Had broken and thrown away!

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