“I now resolved that, however long I might remain a slave in form, the day had passed forever when I could be a slave in fact.” -Frederick Douglass
Douglass distinguished “a slave in form” and “a slave in fact” by his personal standing and outlook on the terms. A “slave in form” was how he was perceived by others because he was owned by a master and those around him had always seen him as a slave due to his skin color. Therefore, due to his race and as a physical person, he was “a slave in form.” Eventually, he worked hard to reach the freedom he had always wanted. Against the odds for slaves, Douglass educated himself and became aware of the social works of the country. He therefore gained what most southern white Americans tried neglecting the slaves of, and that is education. Douglass knows he will never be “a slave in fact” anymore because there is no way he can lose that education and freedom anymore. He will not go back to being deprived of knowledge and being forced to follow other’s beliefs. Douglass did not identify as being a slave anymore and he decides what he wants to be because he gained and earned that freedom the moment he decided to teach himself. His education and escape from being confined as a slave separated him from being “a slave in form” and “a slave in fact.”
Frederick Douglass’ autobiography discusses his road to freedom after being born into slavery in the south during the 19th century. He relays experiences of his time as a slave and recounts how slaves were treated no differently than animals. Douglass was able to see how truly cruel the white slave owners were and was able to see past their deceptions that made the slaves believe freedom was a bad thing. With some trouble, Douglass gained access to books and decided to educate himself. He sought out to gain knowledge, his first step towards freedom, and was able to eventually reach his dream. He used his knowledge to educate others and be a part of abolitionists groups fighting for the freedom of many slaves. Douglass conveys his readers an underlying message of the importance of gaining personal freedom. Not just physically free, but mentally free from someone else’s beliefs they may have tried to ensue. In comparison, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s The American Scholar also has an underlying message to encourage his listeners to be independent and gain knowledge to their best ability. Emerson encourages people to go beyond text books go gain knowledge and instead let life or nature educate them as well. Although Douglass did so oppositely, both American authors encouraged their listeners to reach beyond what they are told and become independent thinkers. In a way, they both encouraged freedom, Douglass from slavery and Emerson from society’s standards.
“Far, too, as her splendors shine, system on system shooting like rays, upward, downward, without centre, without circumference, — in the mass and in the particle, nature hastens to render account of herself to the mind.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
This piece of Emerson’s essay connects to Whitman’s poem, Leaves of Grass, specifically to the part where Whitman writes about grass. Whitman questions what really is grass and he went off on a tangent about how far grass can go to signify many aspects of life we do not realize. He writes about grass from being like a child and “babe of the vegetation” to it being the tongues of the dead buried beneath us. It is similar to the way that Emerson went off about how nature is “like rays, upward, downward…” etc. These two writers are passionate about how essential nature is to the soul and they describe it with so much power. They strongly feel that to be in touch with nature and being able to find peace within it, breaking away from societal rules, is vital to living a morally correct life.
In the movie Soul Surfer, the protagonist Bethany Hamilton, who lives in Hawaii, is on a mission to become a professional surfer. Having lived in Hawaii for her entire life, she grew up surfing along with her family and best friend, Alana Blanchard. Laying on her surfboard, out in the open water is where Bethany is the happiest and at peace. Only weeks from a surfing competition, Bethany and Alana are out more in the water training and preparing. Unfortunately, on a surfing trip with Alana and her family, Bethany is attacked by a shark during their surf. Surprisingly, she survives the attack, but loses an arm. During the time spent recuperating, Bethany shocks everyone by deciding she still wants to continue surfing, even with one arm. She is soon discouraged after being unable to balance on her board long enough to catch a wave, so she decides to give up surfing for good. She then decides to join a mission trip to help survivors of Thailand after being struck by a tsunami. While aiding those in need, she observes that the people are afraid of getting near the water since they are still traumatized at what ultimately destroyed their homes. When she spots a little boy alone along the sand, she tries to encourage him to join her down at the beach. As predicted, he refuses, but after seeing her grab the nearest board and enter the water, he soon relents. Bethany teaches the little boy to surf for a short while as a crowd starts to gather and witness the moment. A few minutes later, other boys and girls decide they want to join in too, and their families are seen cheering them on with a content expression. I believe the moral of the scene is that although it may seem like the ocean ruined their lives, they can choose to live in fear of it, or accept and move on from that. It is just how Bethany accepted her accident and decided not to live in fear of sharks, but rather she decided to continue to do what she is passionate about. In this case, nature transformed her into being an accepting person of bad circumstances and being able to focus on the other aspects of it. She gained a way to inspire others and help them see that they could overcome any bad situation starting with their outlooks on life. In the end, Bethany returned to surfing and is now, in real life, a professional surfer.