29th January 2018
Reed’s novel Flight
to Canada is a read that gave me that illuminated insight into story of
slavery and struggles within the Civil Rights Movement; mixed with the poignant
and humor both slaves (as subjects) and their masters underwent in the
nineteenth century. Enduring hard work amid torrents of assured punishment and low
wages to sustain livelihood was perhaps a portion inherited by the oppressed.
Amid despair and zeal to continue living the masters had their laugh; and
whenever Negroes (subjects) escaped due to overwhelming brutality, they coined
a word for such as a disease- Dysaethesia Aethipica.
Despite all the undoing that almost detached me from reading, Reed as a
writer uses his character Raven Quickskill that blends well with his own story.
Encouraged by his writing skills that he uses to escape the reality of being a
slave too, Quickskill in his poem titled “Flight to Canada” bears suspense in
fancies and witty events later evident in the novel. Ironically popular before the start of the
novel, that same poem helps men from his former employer trace him to his
current residence. To which they confess having enjoyed reading at college only
to mock him later after finding out it was not truly autobiographical; “They
have poetic abilities, just like us. They are not literal minded” (63).
Quickskill purpose to writing as revealed in the
novel was to unshackle self from both realms (real and figurative) of slavery.
This he did not achieve easily for a major drawback was how different others
saw slavery: institutionalized racism was another log in the eye. In his own
words, “There was much avian imagery in the poetry of slaves. Poetry about
dreams and flight. They wanted to cross that Black Rock Ferry to freedom even
though they had different notions as to what freedom was” (88). Therefore, when
news came of possibilities of his “popular” poem being published in a magazine
with a royalty of two hundred dollars, his being got the grip of freedom, lucky
for him he understands what lies beyond bondage. Thoughts of paying off his
master and moving on to Canada established his mind, this was indeed my best
excerpt because for once am happy for him. Quickskill is a true freedom writer
and this had me thinking of how literal freedom could spark a fire in slaves
hot enough to bring revolutions and reforms to historic injustices.
(Quickskill) belief in literal freedom finally paying off is very different
from events in a character (woman) of Simpson’s short story Arizona.
Quickskill’s yoke of slavery is suppressed by bigger hopes for better future
and when the royalty for his poem’s publication comes, the narration seems to
compliment him and we see him happy as expected. Contrary to a woman in Arizona
whom upon approaching menopause rejoices her terminated childbearing
capability. She actually tells the acupuncturist that it is freedom, a form of
promotion to a status “lit and level and filled with dependable sunshine” (Day,
2015). From Reed’s novel it is true to argue that the character (Quickskill) is
an idealistic being because unlike his circumstance in time he is filled with
thoughts of salvation and dreams that eventually come to pass. Simpson’s
character is on the other hand a realistic being in that she reveals what
Simpson seems to point out as a woman’s real confession pertaining giving birth