Whats the theme of "The Heroic Slave" from Frederick Douglass?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Douglass' short story reveals the theme that those who are enslaved do have power and can exercise some level of autonomy over their condition.  Madison, the protagonist in the story, is not one who acquiesces to the condition of slavery.  He actively partakes in resistance, and seeks to broaden his own sense of fulfillment to others.  Once escaped, he goes back for his family, and then he leads the rebellion aboard the slave ship.  Douglass makes the critical decision of ensuring that his story about slavery will be one that voices activism, resistance, and solidarity.  These three elements are not normally associated with the idea of slavery and are ones that Douglass understood can help bring about the end of slavery.  This theme of abolitionism is something that drives the short story.

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