A slave in form vs a slave in fact

When Douglass explains that he has recognized that he is not a “slave in fact”, but was only once a “slave in form”. This quote exemplifies Douglass’s change throughout his life, and how was able to get out of slavery and become educated. Symbolically, a “slave in form” refers to the societal form that was created that forced African-American people into slavery, but he has been able to come to realize that it is only a social concept, and not who he really is as a person.


Douglass and Whitman

Both Douglass and Whitman strive for freedom from society. Douglass explains that “[he] heard nothing without hearing [freedom], and felt nothing without feeling it. It looked from every star, it smiled in every calm, breathed in every wind, and moved in every storm”(Douglass, 41). His poetic description of his connection to his own freedom is very similar to the way Whitman feels about freedom in “Song of Myself”. Both authors have an appreciation for knowledge, as Whitman states “Have you practis’d so long to learn to read?  Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems? Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems, You shall possess the good of the earth and sun”. Douglass is very concerned about his ability to read, and goes to get lengths to make sure he learns. For both authors, knowledge is power, and power is freedom. They are both searching for an escape of some kind, whether it be literal or symbolic, from the restraints that society has forced upon them.

Leaves of Grass and the American Scholar

“The world, — this shadow of the soul, or other me, lies wide around. Its attractions are the keys which unlock my thoughts and make me acquainted with myself”

This quote from the American Scholar relates to the theme of being familiar with the self in “Leaves of Grass”. Both authors strive to find themselves in nature, and use the world as their mode of discovery. This theme is prevalent immediately in Whitman’s poem, even with the first line being “I celebrate myself”.




The movie that came to mind was Revenant, staring Leo DiCaprio. It starts off with a group of people who get attacked by a war party, and eventually Hugh Glass (the main character) ends up alone in the wild because his groups abandons him. I can’t remember the details exactly, but after a lot of self-realization and months alone in the wild, the main character meets up with the guy who chose to abandon him earlier in hopes to kill him. This was the climax of the film, and the moment the audience had been waiting for throughout the whole movie. Before this, though, while on his journey, he met a man who told him that seeking revenge is bad, and that eventually “the Creator” will take care of karma naturally. So once he finally found the guy he’s been searching for this whole time to kill, he has a flashback to what the guy on the journey told him and decides not to kill him after all.

After spending so much time fighting off bears and eating bison livers in the wild, Glass underwent a significant transformation in his morals. He came to peace with the universe and didn’t interfere with the natural path of events by acting on his revenge.