Oppression In Literature

Great Essays
And Justice for All: How Do We Deal with Oppression? It may seem foolish and nonsensical to compare two texts coming from such wildly different contexts as Douglass’s and Shakespeare’s times. Values change along with the times, and a cross-examination of the two works can lead to nothing but “apple-to-orange” type claims. When taken separately, Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure and Douglass’s “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” may seem completely unrelated to each other. But perspective is key to this investigation. Taken in a more specific frame of reference, the two texts show similar ways societies deal with oppressive governments, and often those ways can shed some light on the rebellion process holistically. Friedrich Nietzsche …show more content…
“Fellow citizens” (1), he begins, as if he were utterly unaware of the societally-imposed restrictions that prevent him from truly being citizens alongside his audience. He then immediately sheds his introduced notion of community. Douglass adopts exclusive use of the pronoun “I”. “I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! [...] The Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn” (1). Douglass immediately groups himself with his audience only to then separate himself entirely from the scope of his dissertations. At a celebration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, a document symbolizing the freedoms on which America has built a society, Douglass boldly asserts “I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation has never looked blacker than on this Fourth of July” (2). It is clear Douglass does not consider himself a part of the nation, seeing as how he rejects America’s accepted ideals at a commemoration of the very ideals which shape its culture. A la The Duke, Douglass values the tactic of separation in inciting political change in favor of a grassroots style of catalyzing rectification. Despite the contexts, whether political turmoil in 16th-century Venice or slave controversies in the Civil War, both figures advocate and embody extra-governmental …show more content…
His address culminates with a fiery criticism of the oppressive nature of the Fourth of July. He begins, “To him [the slave] your celebration is sham; your boasted liberty an unholy license” (3) and rambles on with accusatory statements to further distance himself from the hypocrisy endorsed and accepted by society and its government. He ends with perhaps the most seething remark against the body to which he addresses: “There is not a nation of the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States at this very hour” (3). In his treatments of the oppression against the slaves, Douglass wants nothing to do with the practices of the United States. Instead, he wants to incite alarm and feeling among the nation (3). Like the Duke, his approach revolves around an emotional appeal, a method that transcends the celebrated patriotism inherent in conforming to government actions. Oppressed people cannot go to the government for aid when it is that very government cracking whips on their backs and enslaving them, both mentally and spiritually. In this way, governments will never relinquish power to their people willingly. They must circumvent these malpractices and instead use human emotion and appeals to their sympathies to derive the solidarity which can defeat the evils of

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