Analysis of “Ethos in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave” by Fredrick Douglass Essay

September 29, 2020 by Essay Writer


During legal forced labor in America, which was from 1830s to 1865 when the Civil war was concluding, African American narrators intensified one of the country’s truly aboriginal kinds of published texts. The Douglass’s narrative examines North American slave story. This text realizes the most articulate expression in the works of Fredrick Douglass on Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass: an American slave.

Just like all other slave narratives, the narrator analyzes the tension between slaves and slave owners. There was a conflict between slaves and their masters during slavery. The narrator aimed at eliminating slavery by condemning it through written texts. He gave an account based on experiences and nature of slavery. This means that the narrator had a different account of slavery.

The slave owners tried to manipulate slaves to narrate only the benefits of slavery. The writers on the other hand tried to expose the injustices that had denied people their rights to equality and equal opportunities.

For this reason, narrators at the time had to be cautious because any sensitive literature could land them in trouble. Furthermore, readers of their works were mainly Whites, which forced them to use balanced language and to give accounts of their own personal lives.

Major Aspects

In chapter, the narrator gives some of the most astonishing revelations that determine his entire life. Therefore, in this part, the author wrote that he moved to the biggest city of Maryland and this act changed his life completely. The author stated that if he had no opportunity to move to another state, he would have remained a person legally owned by another. In other words, Douglass could not realize what freedom was.

Another important point the readers are to draw their attention to when reading is the appearance of hope in the author’s heart. Another important moment that is worth discussing is the meaning of reading. Consequently, when Douglass got an opportunity to understand how to read, he realized the possibilities he could receive and use. It happened when Mrs.

Auld’s husband said that the slave is not supposed to be educated. If the slave can read, he or she is not a slave anymore. That statement really impressed the author. He wanted to be a free man. He desired to feel freedom. It seems that the moment is one of the most important in the Narrative.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century and in our days, getting education is one of the key things, which gives an individual an opportunity and desire to achieve more goals he or she sets in life. Douglass still experienced cruelty. However, at the time, his descriptions were not as hopeless as they were in the first chapters.

When the author started to read, he understood the meaning and importance of abolition. He realized what the act of abolishing meant. When reading the part, some readers can notice that Douglass’s new skill brought him not only pleasure but also mental anguish. That happened because the author realized the pain in the world. At that time, Douglass wanted to understand the principles of good writing and reading.

At a time when Douglas authored his works on Narrative of the Life of Douglass, the blacks had started demanding for their rights and freedoms. The writings of Douglass had a major influence to society because he was both a leader and a writer. Douglas’ works was met with criticism from the owners of the means of production, which forced him to seek refuge.

The last chapters encourage scholars to think about a person’s strong will. Accordingly, when Mr. Covey controlled the author, he was always beaten. Usually, under such control, people are made to adopt wreckage behavior. However, one day Douglass started to fight back. That was a new man. That was the birth of the new man. The last straw that ruined the camel’s back was Mr. Covey’s attack.

It was a physical battle that made the author to think about his inward nature. Nobody can be beaten without fighting back. People are to fight for their dignity by showing others that they have their own self-esteem and self-respect. A great day, a new Frederick Douglass was born.

While analyzing this aspect, it is established that nobody feels humiliated until he or she recognizes the dangers of misery. In other words, a person can feel his or her slavish nature but if a person does not, this changes everything.

It is true that the findings of Douglass were based on his narrative on the sermon. He could influence church members to reject any form of slavery because it was against God’s will. He was hired to lecture at Massachusetts Antislavery organization, whereby he developed some styles that could enable him attack slave owners.

He came up with rhetorical devices that were similar to sermons and proclamations and took them over to his narrative. Such strategies included reverberation, contrast and many classical credible tactics. His findings were made up of compilation of various speeches given in churches.

This means that he used biblical quotes to condemn slavery because he cited some of the famous writings in the holy book to prove that slavery was indeed inhuman Furthermore, Douglass borrowed the ideas of Emerson, which were popular in 1840s. He combined various ideas to encourage his supporters to fight slavery, which had caused anguish to people.

He gave a narration in which he likened slavery to the life of a man, who undergoes initiation from childhood to adulthood. Initiation signifies transformation from boyhood to mature commitments. In the same way, fight for freedom was like transformation from human chattel to a free citizen. The following text gives his displeasure of slavery:

“Slaves sing most when they are most unhappy. The songs of the salves represent the sorrows of his hear, and are relieved of them, only as its tears relive an aching heart (Douglass 20)”.

The sermons provided Douglas with a good opportunity to attack slavery. He could use quotations from the bible that contradicted with the activities of slave owners to challenge slavery. It is surprising to note that Christian slave owners neglected the provisions of the bible.

Douglas used the sermons in church to remind slave owners that it was against God’s wish to use another human being. It is noted that Christianity played a big role in abolishing slavery in the US. Douglass focused on the struggle to achieve manhood and freedom while

Douglas was well off academically since he was offered employment as a tutor. He worked as a tutor in one of the colleges that supported liberation. Educational backgrounds affected the narratives of the speakers since the more learned narrator can use tact to present his/her ideas.

Douglas was able to influence other slaves to rise up and fight for their rights because he understood the importance of liberty. Douglas used his level of education to inform members of the public the evils of slavery. He went a notch high to teach people how they could rise up against slavery.

Douglas urges people to reject slavery and advocates for equality in society. He wanted a society that treated everybody honorably. This means that he wanted people to be allowed to participate in political processes such as voting.

Whites had to grant independence to the blacks by allowing them to earn a wage on whatever they produced. He wanted each person to access socio-economic resources such as capital, social status and prestige. This means that the society should not try to demoralize an individual.


On a personal perspective, the author’s narrative is considered to be one of the greatest productions in American literature. Douglass’s work is full of pain and fear. However, he created the masterpiece to help other people to understand the nature of a human being. The narrative reflects the voice and sufferings of all slaves. Slaves underwent hard times both socio-culturally and economically.

Nicole Schubert is of the opinion that the author’s voice “acts as a platform for social justice and change that is echoed in the power of speeches from the Civil Rights Movement and the presidential election of 2008” (1). Another interesting moment is people’s appreciation of education.

Douglass’s work is to be studied in Universities as it can influence students’ deeper comprehension of education. When analyzing the story, one is to keep in mind time. The fact, which can impress almost all students, is Douglass’s style of writing. It is difficult to neglect his manner in setting out thoughts and ideas regarding writing.

Works Cited

Douglass, Fredrick. Narrative of the life of Fredrick Douglass, an American slave. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. Print.

Schubert, Nicole. The Role of Rhetoric in the Abolition Movement: A Study of Voice and Power in Narrative, Speech, and Letters, 2003. Web. <>.

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