Slavery was definitely one of the major causes that led to the Civil War, the most dramatic event in the American history. Numerous masterpieces were written to criticize slavery. Among them, we count Poe’s Hop-Frog, also known as Eight Chained Ourang-Outans. Written in 1849, Hop-Frog delivers the message to the Southern States about inevitable tragedy that awaits the Americans as a result of slavery & the slave trade. Each element of the Poe’s story, including character, settings & the plot is somehow related to the historical background of the United States before 1865.
In the first place, Poe connects his story to the notion of serfdom by careful selection of characters & the description of relation between them. In fact, from the first reading there is not much of abnormal to remark in the characters’ relation: a simple relation between a king & his “multi-functional” jester. But after an attentive analysis of the story, it becomes obvious that the characters are allegorical. They, in fact, represent the relation between a master & a slave, a possession. This kind of relation characterizes slavery, where one human being “possesses” another one & does with him whatever is desired. Poe gives us some hints to come to this given conclusion:” Our king, as a matter of cause, retained his own fool”. The author uses the word “retained” to describe king’s possession of the jester, which is the key element in bondage, rather than any form of employment. As we find out later, this kind of custody leaves Hop-Frog with practically no freedom, whether it is freedom to chose or freedom to act:” Come here Hop-Frog, … swallow this bumper…It happened to be poor dwarf’s birthday, and the command to drink… forced tears to his eye...
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...n the North & the South, which finally brought United States to the Civil War.
Finally, as we reach the end of the story, we witness Hop-Frog’s fierce revenge. In fact, there is something particular in the way how Hop-Frog takes revenge on king & his seven ministers: he burnt them. It is closely related to the image that the Southern States had after the loss in the Civil War. Everything from plantations to natural resources were put to fire by the Northern armies, as they were making their way to the Confederate’s capital, Richmond. Hop-frog’s escape symbolizes the massive migration of slaves from the South after the end of the war. Although the serfdom was officially abolished in 1863 in the North & by the end of the war in the South, it took many more years before an Afro-American could be treated the same way as every citizen in the United States of America.
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