Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
The Oppressive System of Slavery in The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass’s narrative was an epitome of what was the order of the day during the slave era. He shows different aspects eliciting white oppressive mechanism targeting reliable means and power over the slaves. Various issues are eminent in the narrative that depicts the stances in which the whites had in place to put the slaves under control and also for purposes of enduring that there was a guaranteed supremacy on their part. The big question is whether the slaveholders’ there was different use mechanism that is considerably oppressive particularly on those who resisted. Therefore is the suggestion correct that slavery depicts an oppressive system?
Therefore it is sufficient to state that there exists reason to suggest that slaveholders were oppressive in that ways in which they treated their slaves. There are various ways in which slave-holders had put in place to ensure that there was total control over their slaves. As a depiction of the first issues in which Frederic Douglas had to undergo in his early life, there is an indication of a platform in which slaves were undergoing a taming process. The act of being separated from his mother at a tender age shows the inhumane nature in which they were exposed (Douglass 2).
Unawareness of age due to lack of paternity is a show of the oppressive life in which a young child was living. Further, he writes that he was occasionally witnessing a lot of whipping among other children, and also he was no different from them (26). The situation is a show of the brutal nature in which slaveholders mistreated slaves. Other instances which show the issues of oppression is the fact that the kind of livelihood in which slaves were living was adamantly low and its demonstration is the place, which they were living. The issue is confirmed by the act of being mixed in one room to sleep on damp floors while using miserable beddings (27).
Violation of Human Rights
One can portend that slaveholders were significant violators of human rights. The first example is the instance whereby a child aged seven is sent to work (34). Child labor was dominant during this era. However, there are those who felt that slaves had some right in the society they were in at that time. The city was a depiction of a sense of freedom to a slave and getting an opportunity to work was an indication of almost being at liberty (34). Denial of education was another issue that is portrayed through an attempt by his master’s wife to teach him. The warnings by his master to the wife that knowledge will make the slave unfit to be a slave is an indication of strategized criteria by the masters to keep slaves under their control (34).
Breaking out of the Chains
As a result, slaves were not happy by the in which their masters were treating them. It is evident that the taste of education was the key changing fact in which the slave community had to come across for them to realize their leeway to freedom and in the enhancement of their determination to be free. In the narrative, there is the determination by Douglass to get more education even through giving bread to white children for purposes of getting to learn (34). Other issues that emanate to have been the main cause of slaves trying to resist the problematic issues is imminent through the many beatings in which they had to undergo under the hands of different masters (57).
Other problems include being forced to work and without being given food (56). In this regard, it is justifiable that slaves had to break out of the chains in which they were hanging. Slaves who were undergoing mistreatment like Douglas had to fight their way out of their oppression. Their masters would beat them and would run away but could be recaptured again (57). The only last resort for many was the use of force to free them. The narrative states a fistfight between Douglass and one of his many masters where he later was hired out as a result. Such instances portray how slaves were bolder to fight for their freedom at all cost (65). Escaping by some of the first slaves was a leeway in which to bring slavery to an end (107). The issue that came following such escapes includes the insightful encouragement of fellow slaves to stand for their rights as free people and by giving them hope of developing themselves (117).
Therefore, it’s arguable that slaveholders used oppressive methods against slaves. Additionally, slavery depicts a system full of oppression.
Dehumanization in the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
The Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass was written by Frederick Douglass during the peak of slavery in the south. The many views of the slaveholders did not allow slaves to become free and instead were dehumanized and mistreated. Douglass’ use of personal anecdotes helps detail the dehumanization of slaves.
The value that slave owners placed on the enslaved population were based purely on an economic standpoint. At the beginning of the novel, Colonel Llyod discovers that Aunt Hester ‘[disobeys] his orders in going out’ and finds her with Ned, leading to a ‘bloody transaction’ (6) with her master. Her disobedience generates anger with her master causing the transaction to occur. The transaction reveals the economic concept as she pays for her defiance through a whipping. An old slave of Colonel Lloyd was killed by Mr. Bondly, who comes over to see, “whether to pay for his property” but their “whole fiendish transaction was hushed” and believes that it is “worth a half-cent to kill a n****r, and a half-cent to bury one” (22). The slaveholders show no regard for the human life of slaves and only view the death or a slave as damaged goods. Slaves are regarded as products meant to be sold, showing the degradation of their status as living things to commercial assets. Douglass captures the degradation of humans through the Slaveholder’s economic beliefs.
The author utilizes the comparison to animals to show the demeaning of slaves. A plantation was valued based on men, women, and children being ranked together with “horses, sheep, and swine” (39) and “holding the same rank in the scale of being” (39). This shows the “brutalizing effects of slavery upon both slave and slaveholder” (40). The ranking system shows the demeaning of slaves as they are ranked among animals and not humans. The author uses ‘brutalize’ to emphasize the humanity taken away by slaveholders as they transform them into mindless beasts. Similarly, Douglass has his ‘body, soul, and spirit’ broken as Mr. Covey’s ‘discipline tamed him,’ transforming him into a ‘brute’ (55). The author uses ‘tamed’ to show the animalistic views that were held against slaves, comparing them to a wild animal. Douglass’ human characteristics were stripped away from him, showing the dehumanization through his alteration into an unintelligent animal working in the field. The author displays his past experiences to demonstrate the slaveholders’ inhuman abuse.
The Unrelenting Treatment
The harsh treatment the author received helps create the image of the degradation of slaves. Douglass feels weak from the strenuous fieldwork causing him to fall; Mr. Covey orders him to stand and gives him ‘a savage kick in the side’ and deals ‘a heavy blow upon [his] head, making a large wound’ (58). Douglass receives a barrage of kicks, and each blow represents the slow breaking of his human spirit. The breaking of his spirit addresses all the slaves who face the same humiliating trial. The author faces an overseer that was ready ‘to whip anyone who was so unfortunate’ and took ‘pleasure in manifesting his fiendish barbarity.’ (9) His own experience allows the readers to realize the severe conditions he and many slaves faced throughout the South. Having an owner that took pleasure in beating slaves not only shows the cruelty but the degrading mentality they held upon slaves. The unrelenting treatment Douglass experiences expose the dehumanization of slaves.
Slavery was built upon the dehumanization of slaves. Douglass gives graphic details to help get his point across. The economic value, comparison to animals, and the harsh treatment displays the true nature of slaveholders to break slaves down into obedient animals. His own experiences allow the readers to understand the grim reality of the slaves.
The Significance of Knowledge and Education in The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
People appear to be scared of things they don’t have knowledge of. Knowledge is what contributes to liberation. So once people understand their fears, they’re going to set them free in life. Freedom is the life slaves would like to experience. Living without anyone’s threat. Knowing yourself is the first step towards freedom. People are able to achieve physical, mental and spiritual independence. Knowledge will lead people to control which is what slave masters tend to avoid. Of course, slaves escape to freedom physically, but their education allows them the power of will to do it. When Fedrick Douglass was born he didn’t see freedom as anything, since their masters would keep them ignorant from the rest of the world.
The Slaves’ Lack of Knowledge
Slave masters will prevent slaves to know anything outside their labor work. They wanted it to stay this way so that their slaves would be obedient and they would stay content. Douglass states as he wrote that his age is approximate and not accurate since his owners did not want to let slaves hold some sort of information. That’s the first indication of the slaves ‘ lack of knowledge. The only form he learned was what Douglass saw and experienced. As he saw slaves singing songs, he began to understand that the life of a slave is awful. He says that because he knows how miserable they sound when they sing.
The Masters’ Technique
Douglass became more conscious of how slavery impacts not only the slaves but also the masters. Douglass heard across the age of six or seven that he’ll have to be taken to a new plantation house in Baltimore. His new mistress had never once owned a slave, therefore Mrs. Auld didn’t know how to act towards him. Mrs. Auld started teaching Frederick the alphabet, but once Mr. Auld knew, he scolded her. After Mrs. Auld lost sight of slaves as human beings, since it was believed that slaves would rebel and enslave the Whites if they were ever taught. From the result that they would become dissatisfied with their way of life. By scolding her Mr. Auld unintentionally exposed the technique by which slave masters would manage blacks as slaves and by which they can free themselves. When Douglass heard this, he realized what he had to do in order to escape to liberty.
Learning to Read, Write and Think
In short, education helps him to understand slavery inequality. Until Frederick learns how to read, write, and think for himself about what truly is slavery, then he won’t be able to escape.He was touched by a book called The Columbian Orator, which included many articles about anti-slavery. The article allowed Douglass to fully comprehend the slavery issue, but it also makes Douglass profoundly despise his owners. Douglass ‘ frustration has now become deeply intense, as Mr. Auld had expected, as he recognizes the cruelty of his circumstance. Throughout this time, Douglass listens actively to anyone who speaks about slavery. He also encounters the term ‘ abolitionist.’ Douglass finally discovered that the word means’ anti-slavery’ in a local journal’s report of an abolitionist’s appeal.
Once he had knowledge, Douglass was finally able to engage in abolitionism. He was also awake and aware of the truth of slavery. Frederick would help in teaching other slaves who would then willingly escape with him. Learning to read also permitted Frederick to create false documentation. With the knowledge, Frederick was mentally prepared to escape, and he did. In his personal narrative, it didn’t exacly state how he ecasped as slavery was still legal; he didn’t want slavesholders to know as the way the escaped was still being operated. The significance of education is part of human potential development, equality advancement, and liberty achievement. Frederick felt education and knowledge was crucial to empowerment.
The Interesting Narrative and Narrative of the Life: Comparing the lives of Olaudah Equiano and Frederick Douglas
In 1759 Olaudah Equiano published his self-narrative The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equaino, Or Gustavus Vassa, The African. Nearly 100 years later in 1845 Frederick Douglass published his self narrative The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Both self-written memoirs were revolutionary first hand accounts of their experiences with slavery which went influenced governing bodies of the time and impacted generations to come. Though the two memoirs are both self-written slave narratives they tell varying accounts of their personal experiences as slaves. The different stories they tell highlights the complexities of slavery and how all those enslaved held varying definitions of what it meant to be a slave.
The Different Childhood of Equiano and Douglas
Olaudah Equiano was born in 1745 in the village of Essaka, near modern day eastern Nigeria (Onyeoziri). He describes his childhood with strong endearment, he speaks of his village as a community, explaining the celebrations, daily routines, and governing body with a strong positive tone. He explains that they never went without, “As we live in a country where nature is prodigal of her favours, our wants are few and easily supplied” (Equiano 14). They lived a life of few luxuries, but never went without the essentials. Equiano explains the lack of diversity in his community stating “I had never heard of a white men or Europeans, nor of the sea” (Equiano 12), and that his father was “one of those elders or chiefs” (Equiano 12) highlighting the life of privilege he held before he was kidnapped from him home country and put into slavery.
Frederick Douglass was born into slavery. He was born in Talbot county, Maryland, with no strong idea on what year he was born, but gives his best estimate to be about 1818. He describes his parentage as such “My mother and I were separated when I was but an infant…I never saw my mother, to know her as such, more than four or five times in my life” (Douglass 30). Douglass states that his father was a white man, but “by law established, that the children of slave women shall in all cases follow the condition of their mothers” (Douglass 31). Douglass describes the remainder of his childhood, until he was old enough to work in the fields, as miserable. He was always cold and hungry, never being given enough food or water, and constantly surrounded by the abuse of the older slaves around him, showing him what his future would look like when he was old enough to move to the fields.
The differences between Frederick Douglass’s and Olaudah Equiano’s childhoods are striking. Frederick Douglass had been born into slavery, he was separated from his parents very early on, and put to work from the second he could hold his own. His childhood was clouded by the abuse of his elders by their masters, foreshadowing what his fate would be when he became old enough to do hard labor. Equiano was born with the promise of one day being a leader of his community. He was surrounded by the rich culture of his people “We are almost a nation of dancers, musicians, and poets” (Equiano 12). He knew of slavery, but the slavery in his country was very different than that which Douglass was to experience in North America. Douglass knew what was to come of his future from the second he was born, Equiano lost his future when he was kidnapped and put into the slave trade.
The Similar Faith in Religion
There are many differences between Douglass and Equiano in terms of experience, outlook on life, and path to freedom, but one similarity they share is their faith in religion. Equiano had been aware of religion since a young age, but began to really have faith after his first experience at a church “After this I went to church; and having never been at such a place before, I was again amazed at seeing and hearing this service” (Equiano 27). Equiano came to the conclusion “After this I was resolved to win Heaven if possible; and if I perished I thought it should be at the feet of Jesus, in praying to him for salvation” (Equiano 73), deciding his life goal was to end in salvation at the feet of Jesus Christ. Only once did Equiano state that he saw the dark side of religion “This Christian master immediately pinned the wretch down to the ground at each wrist and ankle, and then took some sticks of sealing wax, and lighted them, and dropped it all over his back” (Equiano 43) here he acknowledges the downfalls of some religious followers, but never once did his faith waver.
Douglass had a similar personal relationship with religion, but saw a much stronger dark side to faith as well. “I have said my master found religious sanction for his cruelty” (Douglass 93). Douglass saw religious masters as using their religion to be more abusive towards slaves, using verses and scriptures to support their cruelty towards their slaves. “The religion of the south is a mere covering for the most horrid crimes…For of all slaveholders with whom I have ever met, religious slaveholders are the worst” (Douglass 118). Douglass began to question his religion due to the cruel treatment of his brothers and sisters around him “I am almost ready to ask; Does a righteous God govern the universe?’” (Douglass 122). Donald B. Gibson, a Professor of English at Rutgers University, cites ” Douglass’s response to the question raised by theodicy, the recognition of the problem raised by the co-existence of a just God and evil, had a profound effect on Douglass’s thinking.” (Gibson 591). One moment struck Douglass deeply, he was attempting to teach a group of slaves about religion when the group was attacked by white men “Rushed upon us with sticks and stone, and broke up our virtuous little Sabbath school, at St. Michael’s – all calling themselves Christians!” (Douglass 122). Though Douglass never abandoned his religion, he had plenty of reason to question his God throughout his life, but his faith maintained his hope.
Different Paths to Freedom
The most extreme difference between the life of the two men is their path to freedom. For Equiano the means to freedom was saving enough money to buy his way. “The captain then said he knew I got the money very honestly and with much industry, and that I was particularly careful” (Equiano 55).In order to obtain enough money to buy his freedom Equiano had been buying goods from countries they travelled to with his allowances and selling them for a greater cost at their next stop on their voyage. His master had previous promised that if he could make the money, Equiano would be allowed to buy his freedom “My master then said, he would not be worse than his promise; and, taking the money, told me to go to the secretary at the register office and get my manumission drawn up” (Equiano 55). Equiano went to the secretary and had his manumission written as his master had asked, and by the end of the day he was a free man. After his freedom he remained working for his old master, “and from that day I was entered on board as an able-bodied sailor, at thirty-six shillings per month” (Equiano 56) he was making the same as his white coworkers and enjoyed all the privileges of being a freeman. Equiano remained with his former master until the day he died “every man on board loved this man, and regretted his death; but I was exceedingly affected at it” (Equiano 58). After his death he realized how much this man meant to him, thanked him in death endlessly, and moved on with his life as a free man.
Douglass disclaims in the beginning of his last chapter that he will not disclose the exact means by which he escaped slavery. He gives his first reason as stating the minute details would be impossible, and it would put those that assisted him along his journey in a dangerous position. Douglass then states his second and main reason “Secondly, such a statement would most undoubtedly induce greater vigilance on the part of slaveholders than has existed heretofore among them; which would, of course, be the means of guarding a door whereby some dear brother bondman might escape his galling chains” (Douglass 143). Douglass didn’t want to make it any more difficult for his fellows in slavery to escape than it already was by publishing his story in detail. Three years after his original declaration to escape slavery, Douglass escaped “on the third day of September, 1838, I left my chains, and succeeded in reaching New York” (Douglass 151). At first it was very difficult for Douglass “I saw in every white man an enemy, and in almost ever colored man cause for distrust” (Douglass 152). He was incredibly lonely and he couldn’t trust anyone for every stranger could be a slavecatcher trying to send him back to his master. Due to the help of a man named Mr. Ruggles, Frederick Douglass was finally able to obtain full freedom in New Bedford, where he began his activism efforts.
The Similar Fight with Slavery
Once obtaining freedom and settling down each man turned their efforts towards abolition. In England, Equiano began writing his memoir to be a first hand account of what slaves truly went through. His memoir is considered to be the first self written slave narrative and had a huge impact on the legislature, one of the last lines in his book is directly for the lawmaker “As the inhuman traffic of slavery is to be taken into consideration of the British legislature” (Equiano 94). Equiano did not live to see the abolition of slavery in England but his legacy lived on as the freeman who wrote the memoir that inspired millions. Douglass wrote his memoir and began touring to share his experience in hopes to aid the abolition movement. Once on a book signing tour Douglass was advised not to sound too educated and civilized because his advisors believed it would cause listeners to find doubt in his story (Williams). Douglass was instrumental in abolition in the United States, which occurred in 1833. Douglass continued to fight for Black rights until his death in 1895. These two men left legacies with their memoirs, ones that were powerful enough to still be written about, thought about, and acknowledged nearly 200 years later.
- Onyeoziri, Friday. “Olaudah Equiano: Facts about His People and Place of Birth.” Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self Knowledge, vol. 6, no. 4, 2008.
- Douglass, Frederick. The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Arcturus Holdings Limited, 2018.
- Equiano, Olaudah. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa the African Written by Himself. The Project Gutenburg, 2005,
- Project Gutenburg, www.gutenberg.org/files/15399/15399-h/15399-h.htm.
- Gibson, Donald B. “Christianity and Individualism: (Re-)Creation and Reality in Frederick Douglass’s Representation of Self.” African American Review, vol. 26, no. 4, 1992, p. 591., doi:10.2307/3041873.
- Williams, Bayo. “Of Human Bondage and Literary Triumphs: Hannah Crafts and the Morphology of the Slave Narrative.” Research in African Literatures, vol. 34, no. 1, 2003, pp. 137–150., doi:10.1353/ral.2003.0018.
- Potkay, Adam. “Olaudah Equiano and the Art of Spiritual Autobiography.” Eighteenth-Century Studies, vol. 27, no. 4, 1994, p. 677., doi:10.2307/2739447.
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A Journey From Slavery to Freedom in “Narrative Of The Life” By Frederick Douglass
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is an 1845 memoir and treatise on abolition written by famous orator and former slave Frederick Douglass during his time in Lynn, Massachusetts. It is generally held to be the most famous of a number of narratives written by former slaves during the same period. In factual detail, the text describes the events of his life and is considered to be one of the most influential pieces of literature to fuel the abolitionist movement of the early 19th century in the United States.
In Frederick Douglass’s “Narrative of the Life” he maps out his entire journey from slavery to freedom. As the book begins, he is an enslaved man mentally and physically. By the end of the book, Frederick is free within his mind and legally his body is free also. The book is a path of Frederick Douglass’s life from being held and enslaved during the time of slavery, to be free after the abolition of slavery.
Throughout this book, since it is a narrative about his life, it relates exceptionally to the time period when all the events were taking place during the 1800’s. There were many things that Frederick realized along with his journey and people he met that influenced his life. He experiences many different things along this path to freedom that leads to the man he is when writing the book.
During this time period, women were treated like trash, no matter their race. However, women slaves were treated just as male slaves were, like property. They were beaten so badly that sometimes they couldn’t move. It was scary and unhealthy to be exposed to as a young man, but Douglass was. He watched his aunt be beaten, barely knows his parents before they die, and isn’t given permission to go to his mother’s funeral.
This time period was years on end where African Americans were treated with no respect, as pieces of property, because with slavery, in fact, they were property. Thankfully after the Civil War, the African Americans were able to be their own people, but they didn’t have money or jobs to do so. Leading them to have to keep the jobs they had as slaves, just with little to no pay in order to survive.
Douglass shares his amazing story of a slave to a free man in a telling tale. His life is in a book for all to look back on and read over and over again. His narrative not only shares his life, the things he endured while becoming a free man, and the terrible things that slaves had to go through, but it also showed the time period and the things that went on during the 1800’s. This book shows a great deal of information regarding the time period it is written in.
Slavery Issue in Uncle Toms Cabin And The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
Men or Martyrs
When Harriet Beecher Stowe’s book Uncle Tom’s Cabin debuted in 1853, slavery remained a heated political concern and a day-to-day reality for millions. The novel all but promises an honest and unflinching look at slavery. It doubles as an abolitionist piece, aiming to expose the injustice of said institution. That same intent lay behind many of the novel’s contemporaries, including the autobiographical slave narrative Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, published a few years earlier by a fellow abolitionist. Both of these novels depict horrific consequences of slavery, but differ greatly in the telling, and analyzing their respective protagonists – docile Tom and tenacious Douglass – exposes much of the divide.
Stowe finds an exceedingly pious and pliant main character in Uncle Tom, creating a tragic figure whose circumstances aim to rouse pity and avoid criticism from a predominantly white, Christian readership. Readers first meet Tom as he sits with his bible, his children, and his cabin, which one might easily take to represent three major facets of his character – piety, innocence, and domestic docility. “Nothing could exceed…the childlike earnestness of his prayer, enriched with the language of Scripture, which seemed so entirely to have wrought itself into his being,” the narration asserts as he prays before fellow slaves. His prayer not only shows his dedication to the holy book of much of his audience, which he sustains throughout the novel, but also that “childlike” quality associated with Jesus, often called “the Christ-child.” Perhaps most vitally, the docility described in Tom’s introduction counters the stereotype common in his day of the black man as a brute, a softening with special appeal to white readers who may well have feared overthrow by slaves of their own. Tom may be “large” and “powerfully-made,” but also lacks the dull ruthlessness of the character type with his “steady good sense, united with much kindliness and benevolence.” Stowe turns an unsympathetic threat into a contented serve as likely to be “Mr. Shelby’s most faithful slave” as, one assumes, the most faithful slave of any reader. Even before Tom’s master sells him downriver, separating him from all that he cherished and ultimately dooming him to an unjust death, the narrative has primed readers to harbor pity for him as a character too “good” for this world.
If Uncle Tom takes strength from obedience and childlike innocence, Douglass’ springs from self-reliance and “manhood.” These qualities come to light in his fight with the “slave breaker” Mr. Covey, a pivotal moment in the narrative which, he writes, “revived within me a sense of my own manhood. When Douglass feels too sick to continue field-work, he riles Mr. Covey, who, as punishment, “[gives Douglass] a heavy blow upon the head.” He then orders him to stand, but, as Douglass recalls, “I made no effort to comply, having made up my mind to let him do his worst.” Here he shows a willful defiance toward the man who at that time was his master, a defiance foreign to Uncle Tom and problematic to contemporary white readers, many of whom believed that even mistreated slaves should show reverence toward their masters. Still, this daring comes to propel him on his quest to become a freeman. The trial of endurance that follows – a two-day trek “through bogs and briars, barefooted and bareheaded” on little food, water, or strength – shows the sort of strength calmed by Tom and feared by the stereotypical brute. However, Douglass’ self-portrayal neither falls into the stereotype nor softens it, with muddled effects on reader sympathy. Douglass makes no attempt to hide his fury when he meets Mr. Covey for their final confrontation, and his move to fight comes almost out of the blue; he writes, “[A]t this moment – from whence came the spirit I don’t know – I resolved to fight…” Despite a bloody and furious fight, Douglass still depicts himself as a person motivated by a sense of reason far beyond unbridled passion. “[Mr. Covey] asked if I meant to persist in my resistance. I told him I did…that he had used me like a brute…and that I was determined to be used no longer,” declares Douglass. Both Tom and Douglass, as characters, refute threatening stereotypes of the day in part, but precisely which part changes their audience appeal significantly. Douglass paints a more complicated picture in this regard. While white audiences could find appeal in his nobility, he does not “know his place” like Uncle Tom. However, his struggles and yearning for freedom, expressed in these scenes and continued throughout his narrative, paint Douglass as more relatable and human, if less easy to pity, than Tom.
Each author writes with clear sympathy for slaves, but whether or not each author experienced their struggles informs their protagonists. The fact that Stowe, a white woman, could only write from an outsider’s perspective colors her depiction of Uncle Tom, as well as of slaves on the whole. She sees no way of allowing readers to “appreciate the suffering of the negroes sold south” except by revealing an essential difference that she sees between black and white people. As she explains, “all the instinctive affections of that race are peculiarly strong… They are not naturally daring and enterprising, but home-loving and affectionate.” In struggling to decipher the feelings of a slave sold downriver – which describes Uncle Tom’s fate succinctly – Stowe creates a fundamental “natural” divide which suggests that a white reader can never truly comprehend how Tom feels. If Stove cannot use reader empathy as a reliable tool, she can instead use sympathy to the utmost, even if the price is relatability. Douglass relies more on what commonality he can find. He acknowledges that most cannot fully grasp his circumstances, as shown when, for instance, after the battle with Mr. Covey, he claims that “[h]e only can understand the deep satisfaction which I experienced who has himself repelled by force the bloody arm of slavery.” However, he also, by using his own grit to attain freedom, strives for an American value in an American way, relying in part on an assumption that most readers hold similar heroes and ideals dear. By being so “daring and enterprising,” Douglass becomes a sort of “self-made man” not out of place in the myth of the American dream. While in execution Douglass may fall below straightforward heroism to contemporary audiences, the relatability inherent in the myth that in America “anyone can become someone,” even someone as low as a slave, the text suggests, has as much a chance as anyone.
Uncle Tom and Douglass’ self-depiction arise from markedly different people, though with similar goals. Though both strove to stir change in their era, the power of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, at least as intended to proclaim the rights of black people, wanes with time. American values have changed, and while the “unruly black” in many cases still finds less leeway than white counterparts, few would wish to be likened to the pathetic, white-ingratiating Uncle Tom. Douglass’ autobiographical account remains critical, his character strong, as Tom becomes an impossible cartoon.
A Topic Of The Importance Of Education In The Narrative Of The Life Of Frederick Douglass
Since the beginning of time, the opportunity and the ability to learn has divided the rich from the poor and the elite from the ordinary. In today’s world, for many the higher the education the more likely the better life. As in the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, learning can reveal things that are unpleasant or troublesome, but for the most part, having an education is a blessing. Though it was not always the case during the story, by the end, Douglass would contend that learning was not a curse.
Frederick Douglass tends to lapse into assertions that the condition he is in as a slave and obtaining an education are incompatible. From the beginning of the book all the way to the end, Douglass struggles with both the desire to learn and completely giving up on life. For instance, in Chapter Seven he says,” I would at times feel that learning to read had been a curse rather than a blessing. It had given me a view of my wretched condition, without the remedy. It opened my eyes to the horrible pit, but no ladder upon which to get out.” In the case of Frederick Douglass, learning how to read and write, and becoming more intelligent tormented him and for a time had a negative impact on his mental state. As a result of his learning, he was more susceptible to the hopeless situation that he and the other slaves were in, which made him absolutely miserable. When he had accomplished his goal to become literate, he had opened a whole new world and a new perspective in which he saw the world. However, this made the world in which he lived in, as a slave, so much more difficult in which to survive. Multiple times Douglass pondered suicide in order to release himself from the pain he was forced to endure on a day-to-day basis. He felt as if he was trapped in a world of servitude with no escape. Later in the book Douglass states after his time with Covey, “My natural elasticity was crushed, my intellect languished, the disposition to read departed, the cheerful spark that lingered about my eye died: the dark night of slavery closed in upon me; and behold a man transformed into a brute’. Douglass was beaten not only physically, but also mentally. He realized everything he went through to learn to read and write was possibly for nothing. As a slave, he knew literacy would likely never be put to use, and this knowledge made him angrier and more frustrated with the conditions and treatment than ever before. In spite of this, by the end of the narrative when Douglass escapes slavery, he realized that learning was critical to his becoming free. As a slave his intellect seemed to be a curse, but ultimately it was the greatest gift.
In today’s world, the opportunity and ability to learn is almost never a curse. Obtaining an education can often be the difference in earning more, living better and finding happiness. Education plays a critical role in life as it expands our skills and expertise. Currently, there are movements around the world to give everyone the chance to become educated, regardless of race, gender or income level. Thousands of people have effortly pushed for education for all because of its importance in today’s society. If it were true that learning was a curse rather than a blessing, people would not be fighting for causes like affordable schooling and even free education. There is an overwhelming amount of evidence that proves the importance of education, but it does not mean there are no negative aspects that go along with it. Similar to Frederick Douglass, learning new things can open one’s eyes to the horrors of human suffering around the world. Furthermore, slaves who learned to read and write and were in a place of understanding their situation without the ability to escape it for a better life. It was rare for slaves to become free due to their intellect, however, in Frederick Douglass’s case it did.
Douglass knew that having an education would be critical in his path to freedom and thereby a positive not a negative force. That said, he faced many challenges associated with having knowledge along with the prospect of never being free. This theme is outlined in The Narrative of Frederick Douglass. For the better part of Douglass’s life he fought slavery through self-education and would ultimately go on to understand the power that it gave him and how he used that to gain his freedom.
Depiction Of The Life Of Slaves In The 1800s In The Narrative Of The Life Of Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass was fortunate enough to escape slavery. In this novel, he explains his life as a slave. Although he went through a lot of traumatic moments as a slave, he was one of the lucky ones to escape slavery. Today, people still read this narrative to remember how cruel this time period was and to make them feel sorry for how they were treated.
In the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Douglass discusses his life as a slave and how he became a free man. He transforms from a child who thinks that it is normal for him to be a slave to a man who became aware of the horrible treatment slaves received and wanted to escape the slave life. It first takes place in Maryland in the 1800s. Douglass was born into slavery since his mom was an African American slave. When he lived with his master, Captain Anthony, he was lucky to be young because he was not able to do much and he would help in the household. But while he lived with Captain Anthony as a child, he saw many scarring moments of slaves being punished by getting whipped. Douglass was then given away to Hugh Auld in Baltimore. While in Baltimore, Hugh’s wife, Sophie taught him to read and the alphabet. But once the husband finds this out, he makes her stop teaching Douglass. Fortunately, the neighborhood kids finished teaching Douglass to read. Although, after he learns how to read, Douglass became aware of how badly slaves are treated. He is then taken to Thomas Auld after Captain Anthony dies. Once Douglass is with his new Master, Thomas thinks that he is unmanageable and rents him to another owner, named Edward Convey. This master was one of the cruelest master he has ever had. Douglass was forced to work more than ever before and he was whipped constantly. He becomes a different man and starts to lose interest in reading. But on the last straw, Douglass fights Convey, which makes Convey reluctant to touch him again. Douglass is then given to another master named William Freeland. This was where he starts educating other slaves to read. He also starts planning an escape plan with a few other slaves. But, then, someone tells Freeland their plan and is taken to jail. Once he is released from jail, he sent back to Baltimore to Hugh Auld, one of his previous. Douglass then decided to get a job at a trade industry and turns in all of his cash to his slave owner. Later on, Hugh lets Douglass keep the money he made. He saved his money so he is able to move to New York. He marries a woman named Anna, who happens to also be a former slave, and becomes a writer.
The Narrative Life of the Life of Frederick Douglass was released to the public in 1845. A reason why he wrote this book was to give slave owners a way to understand how it feels to be a slave and give them insight on the life of a slave. He might have also written about his life as a slave to give knowledge to future readers on how life was a slave was in the 1800s. Douglass paints an illustration to the reader’s mind a vivid and cruel imagery of how slaves were whipped and treated unfairly compared to privilege, white Americans. Another possible reason why he wrote this was to give future readers a way to prevent their generation from becoming as cruel as this time period was for African Americans. One of these reasons may have been one of the reasons why Fredrick Douglass shared his life story, but no matter what, his narrative taught readers, including me, about how slaves were treated.
When reading the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, I felt sorry for Douglass and for the scarring moments from his life as a slave that traumatized him. His gaudy and descriptive writing about his terrifying moments as a slave easily helped me visualize these harsh instances as a slave. For example, when slaves were forced fed food, I was able to see the pain they had from this experience. I also thought that the book ultimately had a positive ending since Douglass escaped from slavery and ended up happy with his new wife and his new career as a writer. After reading about Douglass’s life, I learned about how hard it was to be a slave and how they unfortunately had to go through the pain of being a slave. Before reading this, I knew that slaves were not treated the best during the 1800s, but I did not know how terrifying it actually was until after I read the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. I was not aware of how bad both the physical and the mental abuse was for African American slaves. I am now able to compare that treatment that African Americans have received during the 1800s is not as bad as the treatment today.
The Narrative of Fredrick Douglass gives readers insight on how slaves were treated in the 1800s. With his graphic and horrifying descriptions of slave treatment, it makes readers feel sorry for Douglass. Fortunately, Douglass was able to become free from slavery and wrote his story to let readers be aware of this horrible treatment. Reading this has made me aware of the slaves’ treatment back then, but also thankful that African Americans do not go through this kind of treatment anymore.
A Major Theme Of Slavery In The Narrative Of The Life Of Frederick Douglass
The narrative on the Life of Frederick Douglass is all about the harassment Frederick experiences before he escapes to freedom. In the book, Douglass informs the reader of the information about brutality pain and humiliation during the slavery period. He reveals the cruelty of both victims and perpetrators. As one of the slaves, Douglass witnessed all forms of brutality the black people faced due to their color. He is keen to narrate on the discomfort and suffering, and he fought back for freedom by attaining education. However, the form of education offered by their masters was not of help. The masters feared that if slaves were educated, it would become hard to be managed. The paper acknowledges the nature of enslavement, negative of slavery, difference’s experiences of slaves in Baltimore and Maryland, and surprises made by Frederick Douglass.
Violence and Preservation of Slavery
Douglass, in the book, believed that although he was as a slave, his entire mind was not enslaved. He reveals that slavery created a lot of violence between the masters and slaves. The white people did not only physically dominate the slaves but also controlled slaves by creating fear and refusing to provide an appropriate education. The battle he experienced with Mr. Convey regenerate freedom and recuperated the sense of his manhood. Douglass planned his first escape together with other four colleagues in 1836. He explained how they were allowed to travel to Chesapeake Bay, although one of the slave people betrayed them, and they were arrested for two years. Notably, Douglass explains the abuse and violent treatment of slaves as some of the difficulties faced by slaves. He witnessed even to his family members’ violence. For instance, his aunt was beaten by Captain Antony without and reservation.” I have often been awakened at the dawn of the day by the most heart-rending ahreks of my aunt”. Their masters used violence as a way of pleasure without considering the mental and physical suffering experienced by the slaves. The harassment of the slaves did not only affect the affected individual but the surrounding environment. During the slavery period, labor was carried out without any rewards, followed by corporal punishment that resulted from mistakes done by the slaves. Nonetheless, Douglass believed that instead of being fearful, he tried to overcome the minds of their master by the use of his knowledge that was unexpected and condemned.
Douglass, in his book, has depicted many memorable events that resulted in opposition to the slave master. According to the American history on slavery, “White masters had virtually unlimited powers both physical and legal, over the slaves”. The master treated slaves as being animals who worked their plantations farms. Young children faced difficulties since their mothers were sold to other neighborhood slaveholders. Also, women were treated as concubines, and the masters had no respect for them and forced to live in quarters in ordinary beds and on damp floors. According to Fredrick, slaves were treated as part of properties owned by the masters, and this notion made Fredrick hate slavery. The majority of them were denied food in some instances by the masters despite the hard work in the farm plantations.
In the book, Douglass reveals that slavery had a different perception in various locations. For instance, he was surprised by what he found in New Bedford. In his expectations, he thought that people in the North have no difference in his original homeland. He assumed that people who own slaves were comfortable and rich. However, in New Bedford, things were different in that they were large and crowded warehouses of commodities and clean houses. Individuals here behaved in proper manners, hardworking, and intelligent. Residents were happy and healthy compared to their counterparts in Maryland. The place where Douglass resided in the Northern part, the owner, was not a slave owner or wealthy, but was religious, moral, and politically informed. However, things in the North part were not also perfect since he experienced prejudice in his calking business, and he finds difficulties in landing into a new job. It was clear that the North part was not free from discrimination, but it stands out as a more pleasant place to dwell. Douglass was among the chosen slave children to go and lives in Baltimore, and here he lived with Hugh Auld. The place was one of the densely populated, and residents worked in the shipbuilding and maritime. Slaves were treated differently here in Baltimore, and slavery was close to freedom. He had enough food, clothing, and more other privileges that were rare to find in rural areas. The masters also never wanted the reputation of being termed as being cruel, and therefore they did not involve in any form of cruelty due fear of public shame. The majority of the slaves were treated well as compared to those in plantations.
Douglass lived in Hugh’s place for seven years, and it’s from here he learned how to write. He learned it without having a regular teacher since his mistress was not allowed to give more instructions. In his first meeting, with the mistress, Douglass viewed her transformation by use of a heavy heart. Also, she treated him as a human being and provided all the required basic needs. Notably, in Hugh’s place was not able to access newspaper, but his desire to read and write triumphed him. His plan to get an education was centered when he started making friends with poor white children of Baltimore, and with time, he could little. He could complete his chores and hurriedly go to meet with his new friends. In most cases, he could give them bread since he was better off than the majority of them. The idea of him being a slave attracted the young new friends. Douglass learned how to read and writes through friendship bribery and cunning. He learned how to write by critically observing letters of the young Thomas Aulds copybooks. Columbian Orator was one of the influential early texts that Fredrick used to perfect his reading and writing skills. Also, he started to have a deep understanding of abolition, and the concept had earlier affected his consciousness.
Negative Impacts of Slavery
Douglass, throughout the book, has elaborated slavery was associated with a lot of difficulties. According to him, slavery hardens people’s lives, taught them to hate and even harms instead of embracing respect and love for other people. For instance, he explained how Mr. Plummer was a miserable drunkard and a savage monster. “I saw more clearly than ever the brutalizing effects of slavery upon both slaveholders and slaves.” People typically think about the positive impacts of slavery on the slaveholder, such as getting cheap labor but forget on the adverse effects of slave people such as living in harsh conditions. In the book, Fredrick is concerned with Thomas Auld, Edward Covey, and Sophia Auld as some of the Masters in explaining the negative impacts of slavery. For instance, Thomas Auld was a poor man, and with time he possessed all the slaves by marriage. He was a cruel and coward slaveholder and did not have the capability of managing all his slaves. Nonetheless, he concentrated on power and even wished to identify as the master by his slaves.
In the book, slavery was a system that was termed to be detestable and disgusting. Slavery destroyed people’s fate of individuals and persecuted them both mentally and physically. Slaves experience rape cases from their masters and also did not allow slaves to marry in peace. Also, they were obliged to cheat about their situations, and this makes them unhappy and unsatisfied. Moreover, slavery intoxicated the system used in Maryland. Fredrick heavily criticized the slaveholders who came from the South, who used Christianity to justify the bondage of slave people. In his statement, Fredrick referred Mr. Covey, “professor of religious class leader, the pious soul in the Methodist church”. Slavery did not have negative impacts on the slaves only but also to the slaveholders whereby soon after people become enlightened, being educated, they were economically affected.” Thus is slavery the enemy of both the slave and the slaveholder”. The slaveholders were affected by the so-called peculiar institution and eventually fell prey to vices of humanity.
Douglass was keen to indicate in his book that the slaveholder used religion as a way of exploiting the slaves. The slave’s songs were referred to as the prayers, and they represented part of communion with God. In the book, Douglass indicated that he decided to move to Baltimore as a result of divine intervention. Also, the majority of slaves embraced the biblical stories on the struggles the Israel people faced. Douglass’s book is a man of surprises, and throughout his narrative, he was so determined and dedicated to the issue of slavery. What surprises most is how he learned to read and write by bribing poor white children with bread. Also, on his planned escaped where they were sentenced for two years because of one slave who revealed their hidden agenda. It is clear that some of the slaves were not able to move out of slavery.
In summing up, Fredrick Douglass can be termed as self-educated individual and his book expose the atrocities of slavery. He elaborated on the violence associated with slavery, such as physical beatings, where he explained how his master beat his aunt. Also, on the negative impacts of slavery whereby both slave and slaveholders experiences difficulties. Moreover, Douglass revealed the nature of slaves both in rural and urban areas. Slaves who worked in the plantation faced a lot of challenges in terms of housing, food, and corporal punishment. However, in the urban slaves were treated like human beings and provided with the basic needs, lastly, through personal experience, how education helped him to move out of slavery. Also, the book shows how he lived a complete honesty life intending to help other people to become enlightened and understand the concept of slavery and its consequences.
The Theme of Social Inequality in A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass and A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
Social inequality occurs when certain resources such as wealth, privileges, and social justice from societies are distributed unevenly affecting more people than we realize. Frederick Douglass and Virginia Woolf are two very influential writers who suffered from these inequalities and used their talent in literacy to relay information and reality to their readers in order to make a change in the way people are viewed. Specifically Douglass wrote an autobiography, A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, with the hope of gaining more rights for African-Americans, and in A Room of One’s Own, Woolf focused on bringing the unequal treatment of women to the public eye. Aiming to help two different groups of individuals these two writers still share so many characteristics and tactics; as well as differences when reading their writings. Later in this essay these similarities and differences will be expressed in more depth, and the ways these two writers were able to help shape the way people are perceived in today’s day and age.
Douglass and Woolf both came from entirely different backgrounds, but still found a way to fight for the similar causes during the changing years of the world’s past. Douglass was born during the 19th century directly into slavery. This allowed Douglass to base his narrative off of his past and his personal encounters that he faced while being held within the boundaries of slavery. Douglass was highly criticized for exaggerating the truth, saying that slaves didn’t really have it as bad as he wrote they did. This is made possible by him being a slave in Maryland, where slavery tended to be less extreme, and he was actually secretly able to learn how to read and write from the plantation owners wife. Nonetheless he was still a slave and treated poorly, and faced the same degrading psychological trauma the other slaves would have faced. In fact, “White lecturers on his circuit and patronized him, urging him to focus only on telling the story of his own life because, Garrison suggested a black man was not capable of analyzing slavery as a large-scale social problem” (232). Douglass breaking the boundaries of the Garrison organization (an antislavery organization) by not sugar coating the true reality he faced while being a slave, then he wouldn’t have started his own antislavery newspaper, and may not have had as much success during the campaign to end school segregation. He didn’t let slavery hold him back from striving to help create a better life for African-Americans and continued to break many boundaries that many African-Americans would attempt to do. For example, “When the civil war broke out in 1861, Douglass led efforts to persuade Congress to allow African-American men to enlist in the union Army” (233), this would mean he was willing to fight side by side with white men in order to help fight for black suffrage against the south.
Virginia Woolf was a feminist writer during the 20th century that broke many boundaries of society as well. She went against many social rules that women were to obey by, which was very impressive to her readers since she too was oppressed by the boundaries that men and society created. She seen how much of an inferior gender women were seen as from men and built her whole stance off of the idea that women will struggle to break the restraints that hold them back from being on the same economic level as men. Specifically she was highly interested in expressing the difficulties that a woman writer would face. “A woman must have money and a room of her own is she is to write fiction, and that as you will see, leaves the great problem of the true nature of woman and the true nature fiction unsolved” (339). She even writes about an incident about being stopped at the library. “A deprecating, silvery, kindly gentleman, who regretted in a low voice as he waved me back that ladies are only admitted to the library if accompanied by a Fellow of the College or furnished with a letter of introduction” (342). She believed women couldn’t reach the same impact that other successful men writers were able to do, due to the power men held in society. She wrote about that if woman had the same resources that men did then there would be female versions of people such as Shakespeare. For instance, Woolf creates a fictional character, Judith Shakespeare. She imagines Judith as the sister who never got the same opportunity as Shakespeare himself. “That woman, then, who was born with a gift of poetry in the sixteenth century, was an unhappy woman…..All the conditions in her life, all her own instincts, were hostile to the state of mind which is needed to set free whatever is in the brain” (367). Like Douglass she too was willing to break boundaries in order to expresses the limitations of African-Americans and women in the world. As one may see both of these writers are determined to make a difference in social power even know they’re both focused on two different specific groups, but both can help both causes. For example Douglass was also a supporter of gender suffrage not just racial suffrage, which can be seen in Frederick Douglass’s biography, “In 1848 he attended the women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, and he emerged as a stalwart champion of Women’s suffrage,” (233). [ER1]
They also share differences in their textual tactics as well. For example, Virginia Woolf uses her extended essay in a way that is constructed as a partly-fictionalized narrative of the events she was going through while developing her thesis. While Douglass on the other hand seems to resort to more nonfiction when describing personal past events, because it is made aware that he is angered by the powerful voice of that white writers had telling Douglass that he shouldn’t exaggerate his past in slavery, which could entail that he was angered by the people believing the true evils slaves face. “The motto which I adopted when I started from slavery was this– “Trust no man!” I saw in every white man an enemy, and in almost every colored man cause for distrust” (284). Even with that being said if both writers used some fiction or exaggeration in their writings then it helped gain the reader’s eye, which allows for their expression of belief to be seen by others. Their capability of encasing personal issues from a first person point of view helps the reader perceive the writer’s purpose and ideology from the personal perspective they share. With that being said a somewhat fictionalized tonality at times when either Douglass or Woolf possibly withhold information that would lead readers to perceive their words into a different perspective, but on the other hand this aspect allows for a more in depth insight into their lives.
If it wasn’t for these literary idols being discussed then today may not be what it is. For example, without their publications the horrors of society wouldn’t be brought to the public eye. The idea of only certain problems being put in the spotlight can be seen still today, even know modern society has so many more tools of communication then in Virginia Woolf and Frederick Douglass’s time. In today’s society with the media only showing certain problems in the U.S. due to ratings, rather than showing the horrific important acts of cruel barbarism seen in our nation or world. Instead of all viewers of a television network being seen as one there still is the issue of seeing the viewers in categories determined by race and gender. Instead of a network broadcasting news for everyone to hear they put the one on that will gain the most views from specific communities. Examples would be the Black Lives Matter Movement and the Indian Pipeline Protest. There is so many examples, but these two specifically can be used in multiple ways. For instants, both are huge problems, but one gets way more air time then the other. At one point in time as soon as you turned on the tv or social media all a person would see was Black Lives Matter updates; which is great. Even know a lot of social media was taking it out of context and starting way more problems, but the issues were still getting out there. With the Native American Pipeline protests many people surely never heard about the problem, or the extremity of it for that matter. How come they don’t get as much air time as the Black Lives Matter Movement? Only the news networks could say the truth behind that, however the assumption of population numbers being the reason behind that.
Douglass and Woolf were both two very influential writers who used their literacy to relay information and reality to their readers in order to make a change in the way people are viewed, by breaking down the structure of social and economic power. Douglass wrote, A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, with the hope of gaining more rights for African-Americans, while also showing his readers what he was remarkable for. On the other hand, Woolf in A Room of One’s Own, focused on bringing more attention to the unequal treatment of women and their prevention of economic justices. These two writers used similar and different tactics and were successful in helping to shape the way people are perceived in today’s society. Although there is still inequality and discrimination in today’s day and age the modern world has continued to progress in the direction that the two discussed literary authors were aiming to reach, and it is interesting enough to see the multiple techniques people use just like how Douglass and Woolf distinguished themselves with the way they expressed both of their ideologies.