Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
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.
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.
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.
More than Just a Story: First Person Narration
For Frederick Douglass, his Narrative was more than just a powerful story that would go on to be incredibly famous and influential. Telling his story was a major contribution to the abolitionist campaign, therefore, conveying the disgusting realities of slavery was hugely important. Douglass needed to evoke the sort of emotions that would help the cause that was most important to him. As a fantastically eloquent writer with a heart-wrenching story of unbelievable tragedy, he was in just the position to have this effect. The way Douglass mindfully used language is impressive and it is obvious that every description within the Narrative was designed to have a specific effect. His deliberately nonchalant statements regarding tragedies and progressively more evocative descriptions of violence all contributed to his effort to win over the reader and communicate, to their full extent, the horrors of slavery.
The way Douglass opened the Narrative, communicating the slave’s acceptance of horrible facts with his subdued language, is perfectly followed by bold proclamations challenging other truths of slavery. The actual words he used were powerful ones that not only showed his own intellect as a slave but persuaded his audience. These methods and many others achieved a desired effect on the reader. This is how Douglass was able to guide the reader to realize the horrific truths of slavery. Frederick Douglass began his Narrative matter-of-factly. If it were not for the weight of his words, chapter one would be a slow start. The first sentences describe depressing realities presented specifically to evoke particular emotions from the reader.
Douglass states that it was a “common custom… to part children from their mothers at a very early age” (18) in such a way that the reader realizes how much slaves, as children, accepted as fact. Douglass realized the value of slowly winning over the reader. His enormous range as a writer enabled him to evoke a wide variety of emotions, starting with sympathy. At the beginning of the Narrative Douglass simply provides the reader with information to form his or her own conclusions. He was aware of the shocking realization the reader would be having, seeing that all of the things he describes were normal. He knows how the reader will react but he does not act on that reaction until he was confident with his relationship with the reader.
Once that relationship gets established, Douglass aggressively challenges the treatment of slaves. For example, Douglass questions the religiousness of his former Master Thomas who let his slaves “nearly perish… with hunger” (58) and then would “pray that God would bless [him] in basket and store!” (58) the next morning. Although effective, Douglass saved these opinions for later, when he is convinced the reader sympathizes with him. Douglass sticks to writing matter-of-factly when informing the reader that he has “no accurate knowledge of [his] age” (21). Frederick Douglass, at the time of writing his Narrative, was aware of the inhumanity of not knowing one’s age but specifically presents it as a simple fact, anticipating the reaction of the reader.
For example, Douglass compared the chance of a slave knowing there own age to a “[horse] know[ing]… theirs” (19). By drawing this comparison between slaves and animals, Douglass shows the reader how slave masters regarded their slaves as subhuman. This comparison forced the reader to see the animalistic treatment of the slaves whom Douglass humanized, making this realization unbearable. Douglass designed this paragraph to achieve this emotional response without spelling it out, because at this point in the Narrative he has allowed the reader see his point of view on their own so that he can build off of that understanding later.
When he wrote his Narrative, Douglass knew that he needed to connect with the reader. It was necessary to break down the walls between a free man and a slave to truly further the abolitionist movement. By communicating his own personal experiences and those of other slaves, Douglass established this connection between himself and the reader as the Narrative progresses. He was already confident that the reader was on his side, so he expanded on that by sharing emotion with the reader. He wanted the reader to recognize his consciousness of slavery, to know how he felt, and to feel the same way. When introducing Mr. Gore, the “cruel, obdurate” (33) overseer of the Great House Farm, Douglass provided a sickening example of his cruelty. He told the story of Mr. Gore “raising his musket to [the face of a slave]” (34) and killing him for disobeying orders.
In this example of Douglass’ writing, his language is chillingly descriptive. He vividly described the “mangled body [of the slave sinking] out of sight [and the] blood and brains [marking] the water where he stood” (35). Douglass clearly realized the reaction the reader would have to this story and by introducing Mr. Gore as cruel he made it nearly impossible for any reader to disagree with his position, solidifying a bond between himself and the reader that he would maintain for the rest of the Narrative with his language and purposeful descriptions.
Later in the novel, Douglass described the treatment of his grandmother after submissively serving her master for her entire life. He detailed her sentencing of a life alone in the woods, after she had become useless to her master, “thus virtually turning her out to die!” (54). Douglass had taken another step here, he became more forthright and powerful, and fully acknowledged the firm grasp he had obtained on the reader. Instead of simply stating the truth, Douglass challenged his grandmother’s treatment and in doing so he asked the reader to join him. He asked the reader if a system that allowed his grandmother to suffer such a lonely, tragic fate was one that is worth fighting against.
Up until this point he had been stingy with his emotions, but as his story continued, Douglass gained more and more confidence with his relationship with the reader and he began to express his true feelings. His exclamatory remarks are followed by a poem by abolitionist John Whittier. The placement of such a poem is representative of Douglass’ lingual progression throughout the Narrative as it draws the reader’s attention to his knowledge and makes the reader associate himself more with Frederick Douglass. Douglass utilized many other aspects of language to establish this connection with the reader. Douglass’ use of first person narration is a seemingly obvious decision but it is also extremely effective.
The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is the first book he ever wrote. Douglass realized how influential an autobiographical, first person, depiction of slavery could be in terms of the abolitionist movement. He put a face to slaves across America, the most important challenge for abolitionists. He did so not only by narrating in first person, but also by telling relatable stories. For example, by talking about his grandmother and how her master saw “she was of but little value” (53) and decided to send her into the wood, Douglass utilized the common threads between him and every other human. Douglass found the most relatable atrocities of slavery and presented them to the reader to ensure that the conditions of slavery were thoroughly understood.
The suffering of one’s family members is not only dreadful, but relatable, for urban workers, house wives, slaves, and even plantation owners. The emotional effect first person narration has in the Narrative is best seen when Douglass is contemplating his condition and escape. When concluding that he as to escape Douglass says “I am left in the hottest hell of unending slavery… I will run away. I will not stand it.” (68). Nothing compares to the emotional weight of Douglass’ words. The first person narration of his Narrative allows for the cries of slaves to be heard honestly, from the source.
In the 1800’s reading Frederick Douglass’ Narrative was eye opening to many people because of how well written it was, given the author was a slave. This is another reason why first person narration was hugely important to the effect of Douglass’ Narrative. Douglass could have written a fictional, third person Narrative about the life of a slave with autobiographical elements, Douglass even went on to do just that, but he knew for his first book, nothing would be more effective than the full reality of his life, narrated in first person. Frederick Douglass’ effective use of language to connect with his readers and contribute to his cause is an example of how valuing the experiences of others is immeasurably important to society.
Frequently throughout history, humans have failed to understand one another, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass gives insight into how, in an extreme example, that can have a terrible effect. His Narrative is an example how how we can better understand one another. By breaking down the barriers between himself and his opposition, Frederick Douglass was able to create an understanding that had a huge contribution to the abolishment of slavery. Few are unaffected by stories of mistreated grandparents, or unbearable violence. Douglass was capable of understanding human emotion and how his reader would react to his words. That is how he is able to communicate his powerful message so effectively.
Rhetorical Figures Used for Murdered Girl’s Humanization
In Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave,Douglass tells many anecdotes to illustrate the horrors of slavery. One of these recounts the murder of his wife’s cousin. Douglass uses several strategies to gain our sympathy when describing the incident.
First, Douglass does not hesitate to voice his disapproval of the whole affair with a very emotionally-charged report. Douglass starts the paragraph by calling Mrs. Hicks’ action “murder.” He then attracts our pity with the phrase “poor girl.” These words clearly distinguish the villain from the victim. Douglass further highlights Mrs. Hicks’ ferocity, saying that the victim was “mangled” in a “horrible” manner. He also uses the words “breaking” and “broke” to emphasize that the slave was shattered brutally. This diction urges us to, like Douglass, become enraged by Mrs. Hicks’ action.
When telling the event, Douglass humbles the girl by leaving her nameless. He refers to her as “my wife’s cousin” and “this girl,” thus emphasizing her lower status as a slave. Another interpretation of her anonymity is that it allows her to represent other nameless slaves who suffered similar fates. The girl transcends the individual. She died an untimely death just as other black slaves die before and after her.
Since Douglass tells a dead girl’s tale, he is her voice. As such, he graphically enhances the coroner’s report. The coroner simply decided that the girl “had come to her death by severe beating.” Douglass tells the story with exact details. He explains how the girl was tired because she had lost her rest for the previous few nights. Since being tired is a very human flaw, this detail humanizes the girl. As the girl is taking care of the baby, she is shown in a caring and maternal light. On the other hand, the real mother, Mrs. Hicks, is shown to have completely forgotten her baby’s distress as she attacks the girl without delay. Douglass tells how Mrs. Hicks grew angry at the tired girl’s slow reaction to the baby’s crying and “jumped from her bed, seized an oak stick of wood by the fireplace, and with it broke the girl’s nose and breastbone, and thus ended her life.” His parallel structuring of the verbs “jumped,” “seized,” “broke,” and “ended” adds an uncanny rhythm to the story that echoes the sounds of a cruel beating. These verbs also emphasize the monstrosity of Mrs. Hicks’ actions. By linking the girl’s mistake, a normal reaction of a common human symptom, with Mrs. Hick’s over-the-top reaction to a baby’s cry, another common occurrence, Douglass humanizes the victim and dehumanizes Mrs. Hicks. He therefore cleverly bends our sympathies toward the girl.
The specific details that Douglass incorporates into the story make the incident more visual and believable. However, I wonder about their validity. Since the girl died a few hours after she was beaten, she probably did not get a chance to spread her story. The coroner only deciphered the reason of the girl’s death, not the reason of her beating. As such, how did Douglass obtain all the specifics, down to the material and location of the stick that Mrs. Hicks used?
Yet if Douglass does mix fact with fiction, then this paragraph further attests to his intelligence and ability to influence his audience. Despite Douglass’ incorporation of fictitious details, his narrative possesses an honest ring. In fact, his writing strikes us as more believable as a result of these made-up but extremely probable accounts. A possible reason of this paradox could be just as the girl in the paragraph represents not only herself but all the other victimized slaves, this graphic tale of Mrs. Hicks’ atrocity depicts not just Mrs. Hicks’ cruelty but also the cruelty of all the other slave owners. Douglass could very well be using this girl’s situation as a template for a particular beating that he witnessed in a different setting.
While Douglass uses emotionally charged diction and anecdotes, he does not use them frivolously. He carefully masks his own emotions behind his logic during the story-telling. Douglass uses only a few negatively charged simply to guide us toward the victim’s side. By not flooding his account with an excessive amount of his own indignations, he allows the horror of his stories to speak for themselves. Following the tale of the girl’s murder, Douglass simply mentions that Mrs. Hicks was not punished. Douglass does not write out his anger; instead, he leaves us to interpret the situation for ourselves. This way, when we admit the unfairness of the situation, we feel that we arrived at the conclusion through our own reasoning and not because we were told to get angry by Douglass.
Douglass discretely incorporates emotions into his logic so that we would not feel manipulated into agreeing with him. Yet at the same time, he cleverly humanizes the victim so that we cannot help but sympathize with her. Douglass’s vivid telling of this particular incident serves as a fine example of how Douglass uses a few incidences to represent the countless atrocities that he has seen and to protest against the horrors of slavery.
The Philosophy of Life’s Destiny in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass implied in his Narrative, that humans must create their own destiny. He expressed this philosophy in his writing and understood this assumption very well, as he himself was a s. Douglass expresses his belief on destiny by using examples from his former life in slavery and by stressing the fact that he solely created his life’s destiny.
Frederick Douglass was born a slave and under his slave masters he was predestined to die a slave. He had absolutely no say in his future while in the ownership of his masters. He came to a point in his life where he decided he did not want to be a slave for life, so he gradually took control of his own destiny. Douglass describes the dire situation of a slave held for life by saying, “how heavy was the midnight of woe which shrouded in blackness the last ray of hope, and filled the future with terror and gloom” (Douglass xi). This sentence shows that slaves bound in the chains of slavery have almost no prospect on what is to become of them. They are robbed of the right to be their own master and live their life to the fullest.
As Douglass left for Baltimore he said a few last words about his departure from “The Great House”. He states, “ So strong was my desire, that I thought a gratification of it would fully compensate for whatever loss of comforts I should sustain by the exchange. I left without a regret, and with the highest hopes of future happiness”
(Douglass 25). This quote is evidence that Douglass was becoming the captain of his own destiny. He accepted the opportunity to go to Baltimore and experience life in the city. This life changing choice led to him become educated and gain the tools necessary to eventually be freed from the bondage of slavery. He was actively taking steps towards his freedom and his own free will.
Douglass’ determination to experience free will and freedom was not unchallenged though. Along his journey out of slavery, he met many people who discouraged or even threatened him to stop his plans for the future and accept the fact that he is someone’s property. An example of this is seen in a conversation between Douglass and Master Thomas Auld. “He exhorted me to content myself, and be obedient. He told me, if I would be happy, I must lay out no plans for the future. He said, if I behaved myself properly, he would take care of me. Indeed, he advised me to complete thoughtlessness of the future, and taught me to depend solely upon him for happiness” (Douglass 88). Douglass’ masters tried to instruct him that he need not be mindful of the future but expect his master will provide for him and control his destiny. His masters would take any measure to ensure that he would not escape the custody of their hands. This illustrates the fact that the path to controlling your own destiny is not easy and is often problematic.
Frederick Douglass was fortunate enough to escape the nightmare that is slavery and lay the path of his future. It was this life changing action that allowed him to take ownership of his destiny. He avoided a toilsome and miserable life in slavery and sought to save others from it too. He wanted all slaves to be free and experience the joy of being your own master. Douglass’ philosophy on destiny saved himself from bondage and taught others to save themselves by looking forward and having hope.
This philosophy was a necessary step towards completely freeing the slaves.
Reading Response to ‘Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave’
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself has been broadcasted as the greatest slave tale to come from the pen of a freed black man. Douglass chronicles his life from his earliest recollections onward. Considering the manner in which Douglass learned reading and writing, or rather how he taught himself, the story is an incredible first-hand account of his experiences. However it falls short in some regards.
The narrative highlights how despite cruel injustices brought upon an individual based off race, one must find the strength within oneself to fight for justice and obtain equality. Douglass, an African- American born into slavery, shares one distinctive period, in his memoir, of his enslaved life in which he gained insight on the brutal reality of slavery. Constantly “worked in all weathers” and always whipped, the narrator simply desires the excruciating suffering to end and to acquire freedom. Instead of living freely, the fear-stricken slave “transformed into a brute” and all traces of hope vanished. Often, the narrator’s barbaric condition led him to the point where he desired death to secure true peace. Ultimately, he gains courage to stand up for himself as a human and disobeys his master’s demands for his own wellbeing, consequently altering his remaining slave years in which he was never whipped.
Douglass uses tone to convey the narrator’s fluctuating feelings throughout his stay as a field slave in an unjust and inhumane household. He no longer was able to adapt as he could before and his intellect vanished, for “the cheerful spark that lingered” around his eyes died. Continuously mourning over his condition, the narrator often considered death the only escape to slavery. Furthermore, as Douglass’ stay at Mr. Covey’s progresses, the narrator now uses a hopeful tone to acknowledge that his tolerance for the beatings has ended. For the first time, he “resolved to visit his master and request for his security,” which was considered uncanny for a slave at the time. Through a tough, painful journey the narrator humbly arrives at his master’s house, only to be disregarded and forced to return to Mr. Covey’s. After going back, Douglass soon provokes a fight with Mr. Covey, which was considered extremely abnormal. There is now a sudden shift as the narrator now uses a more optimistic and courageous tone because this fight “revived the few lapsing coals of his opportunity” and revived his manhood. Feeling quite satisfied, the narrator experienced a burst of freedom, displaying a positive change that remained with him during his final slave years.
There are many examples of physical and psychological enslavement in the Frederick Douglass’s narrative. One of the most compelling was the use of religion and Christianity. Religion and Christianity served as a means to further exploit slaves and continue the practice of slavery. On the one hand, religion is an oasis to many of the slaves and serves as an emotional refuge as they take part in religious activities, songs, and other forms of worship (Douglass Frederick, 846). On the other hand, there is a false form of Christianity depicted in the novel, one that is practiced by the slave owners. The latter is a form of Christianity that says one thing, yet in practice does another. Solely as a narrative, Douglass lacks depth in his characterization, such that they adhere to his reader. One of the five aforementioned men was expanded upon and not in more details than another line or so. Douglass continued only enough to say that the slaves “loved Mr. Cookman” due to speculation that he was favorable to African American slaves and had had a hand in the emancipation of a one Mr. Samuel Harrison’s slaves. This favorable characterization of Mr. Cookman does not however nullify Douglass’ complete passing over of the other four men. It is such indiscretions, slights of characters scattered through Douglass’ text that weaken its effectiveness as a narrative that was designed portray the interactions between people as they pertained to the life of a slave.
Fluidness between locations is arguable as to if it is a weak point or strength, either way it remains one that must be addressed. Whether he wished to stress more the turbulent life of a slave or just had a general disregard for continuity in his epic, is up in the air. Our in-class discussion further muddled Douglass’ true aim. By assessing the rate at which Douglass changes the setting for his memoir, conclusions can be drawn that both are true. With no formal education, what would Douglass know about building logical connections between locations? Nothing! This disregard however, reinforces the chaotic and swirling life slaves lived. It is not a textbook “narrative” written to follow any guideline. In the end it stands out as a neutral point. A bitter outcrop of injustice and turmoil endured by Douglass and countless others.
Viewed entirely from the persuasive stance as an indictment of slavery as an institution in America, Douglass falls short as well. It is true that a firsthand account is the best way to awaken masses to such demons an evil establishment like slavery. Douglass accomplishes his goal of telling his story. But to declare it more persuasive than another slaves account should be met with hesitation. True rhetorical persuasion and a deployment of Ethos, Pathos and Logos effectively are mollified by Douglass’ placation to white audiences. While his text still contains formidable tales of brutality and mistreatment, such instances where his personal commentary doesn’t match the horrors he describes, confuses and weakens the persuasiveness of the piece. This rather passive response follows a gut-wrenching summary of his appraisal. An affair in which he details all property, men, women, horses and other livestock being appraised for monetary as if they were one in the same.
Reflection On The Book Narrative Of The Life Of Frederick Douglass
The book “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave” is written by Frederick Douglass himself. In this very book, Frederick Douglass has discussed the manner in which the society behaved in that period when going through a slavery phase. This book caters the years of 1817 or 1818 and the main purpose of the writer was to express the time of slavery that he had faced during that particular phase. The author wants to bring awareness about the act of slavery that occurred during that phase and the manner in which the white slave holders treated their slaves. The writer wants to show the manner in which the slaves were oppressed by the rule of the white people and how ignorant they were left in the society. The author accomplished his goal and motive of bringing awareness in the readers regarding the manner in which the society of America was influenced by the concept of slavery and the hardships that the slaves had to face in order to earn a living in those times.
Frederick Douglass was able to change his destiny by having self-determination for educating himself. Though the conditions around him were not ideal and he was taken as a slave but still he did not give up hope and therefore proved himself different from the rest of the slaves. Also, because Frederick Douglass was an African-American social reformer, orator, writer and statesman, therefore his work has gained immense importance as well has been taken as a source of motivation for many black Americans. The depiction of Douglass’s ethical character is done by showing that despite of all the hardships and sufferings he has faced, he never ever took over the wrong side to attain his objectives. He has always been destined in his actions to attain what was right through right moral path.
This book is definitely a piece of motivation for the black Americans who still take pride in Frederick Douglass for showing them a strong will power and determination. Frederick Douglass’s examples are still quoted in today’s world that showed that there is no such thing as impossible and even a slave can stand up for his own rights. The writer has very well explained his experience and the trauma that he went through but not even once does he show to seek sympathy from the reader, instead he remained steadfast towards attaining his goals and proving his capabilities. His strong will power and determination has been seen throughout the reading which helps to give courage and motivation to the black people who still face ill treatment in the American society.
This book states a tale about a black slave and this tale is being told by the slave himself, therefore this very book holds a lot of importance and significance in the U.S history. Even today the African Americans are struggling for gaining their rights and recognition in the American society, therefore this story of Frederick Douglass provides them with a sense of hope and aspirations which is required to boost their courage and self-esteem. This very book shows the hardships and the struggles that Frederick Douglass went through being a slave and the accomplishments that he made in his life. He showed to set an example for all the people around and showed it to the world that the slaves can also learn and write if they have a strong determination and will power.
His character has been a life changer for me because through his ethical character I have learned the importance of being ethical in nature and through the use of moral ways; it is possible for us to attain the success and fundamental objectives that we have defined for ourselves. He was humiliated, tortured, arrested and subjected to mental and physical violence, but he never ever took over the wrong side in his life which shows us an example that it is possible to attain the positive goals in life through dedication, hardship, struggle and being on the right side no matter how hard the situation might get and no matter how hard the people might get on you.
The lessons of morality I gained from his life could help me to change my perspective into hardships as well. I am able to face challenges through dedication and not being subjected to turmoil and depression no matter how hard the situation might get. I also think that Douglass has been one of those heroic examples who have shown the heroic traits in their everyday life which has been a lifelong process because the position which he has gained in front of the modern people is because of his moral values and the ethical ways to help his black fellow members achieve the required goals in their lives. He has influenced me in many positive ways because through his life, I have learned that people can become successful in their goals and objectives if they remain dedicated and destined to achieve their set goals.
I personally believe that there are many people out there, who leave the right moral path in order to achieve their goals and objectives. Even if they are oppressed and their achievement of goals is needed but this does not means that it allows a person to become unethical or immoral in terms of the means adopted to achieve the end goals. Douglass has shown the right character of morality where his peaceful nature, patience, strong character and high moral values he was able to set an example for others that how one could achieve the due legal rights through peaceful moral ways as well. I have considered him to be a guiding star for me in order to become successful in life and never take on the unethical ways to achieve the end goals.
Frederick Douglas biography study Essay (Critical Writing)
According to Frederick Douglas, slaves did not get a chance to know much about own mothers and their birthdays, such unawareness considerably influenced their mental well being – they could not be fully alive and were a kind of property of their masters. Frederick Douglas compared slaves to horses, who neither knew their age (Douglas, 25).
In fact, slavery was one of the most horrible tools, which served to destroy people’s identity, ethnicity, and humanity. Slaves were treated as animals and working tools, this is why their diminished humanity meant nothing for their masters, and slaves themselves even forgot about such a significant issue as human rights.
However, many slaves were happy to work at the Great House Farm, as it was considered to be a privilege. Slaves’ songs were some kind of evidence that slaves were happy to live and work, however, Douglas found such songs as slaves’ greatest anguish.
But still, songs were the only ones opportunities, which helped to develop slaves’ language and skills to communicate properly. It was known that many southern slaveholders preferred to keep their slaves illiterate, because they believed that if the latter could not write, they could not share their troubles with the others, describe how poor the conditions to work were, and how cruel their owners were.
According to Douglas, education and slavery were two incompatible things. Slaves did want to become educative, however, their holders deprived them from such opportunities in order to be sure that slaves did not get a chance to tell about their owners’ treatment and punishment.
In spite of the fact that many slaves were uneducated, they still could distinguish the profit from the work, be able to choose better working conditions, and even argue between themselves whose owners is the richest. To prove such assumption, Mr. Douglas used such a phrase, full of irony and sarcasm: “To be a poor man’s slave was deemed a disgrace” (Douglas, 40).
By means of numerous quotations, Douglas also wanted to underline how terrible the treatment of slaveholders was. “It was worth a halfcent to kill a ‘nigger,’ and a half-cent to bury one” (Douglas, 45) is one of such quote that proves that slave’s life did not mean anything for the owners. Slaves’ deaths were not about pity or some emotions. It was all about more money and owners’ costs, which had to be spent to bury a person.
Colonel Lloyd was the brightest example of wealth and terrible owners; he had so many slaves that “he did not know them when he saw them” (Douglas, 39). He demanded too much subservience from all his slaves and very often, his punishment was too cruel. Such wealth corrupted owners’ self of justice, because owners kept slaves ignorant and gained the necessary power, and all the play was not fair, because slaves could not resist such treatment and did obey.
Austin Gore was a proud and cruel slaveholder, whose maxim was “it is better that a dozen slaves should suffer under the lash, than that the overseer should be convicted, in the presence of the slaves, of having been at fault” (Douglas, 41). Gore killed poor Demby because the latter did not response to the calls of the former – such punishment is cruel and even inhuman.
Of course, there were people, slave-owners, who demonstrated their understanding and compassion to their slaves. Mr. and Mrs. Auld were slaveholders, where the narrator spent some time. The peculiar feature of these people was that sincere Sophia was eager to help Douglass to become more educative; however, her husband forbade her provide any assistance, because if to “give a nigger an inch, he will take an ell” (Douglas, 52).
However, the slaves of the Aulds were not the only ones, where slaves felt themselves in safe. A city slave had much more privileges in comparison to a country one. He had better clothes, food, and living conditions. City slaveholders did not want to disturb their neighbors with slaves’ cries and suffering, this is why city slave’s life was similar to a free one.
“Death of a master all too often meant that debts had to be paid and that slave families had to be divided or something sold” (Miller and Smith, 447). Mr. Douglas admits that some kind of fear and uncertainty is inherent to a slave after his/her master’s death. Slaves did not care about the death as a loss but considered it as one more factor to be bothered about.
Douglass supported that less religion and piety was something really important. It was not that important to build churches and other places to pray and ask for forgiveness. Slaves had a need of fresh air and observing sunshine in order to be ready to work better.
Frederick Douglas was a religion man, because during his work, he always admitted that his religious experience played a significant role in his education.
Due to religion, Douglas got a chance to control own emotions and choose the best way to improve his life of a slave. He considered religion as something that helped to look beyond and be ready for further challenges: “O God, save me! God, deliver me! Let me be free! Is there any God? Why am I a slave?” (Douglas, 77).
Due to such unbelievable devotion to religion, Mr. Douglas created a wonderful speech in favor of July, 4th. This speech is considered to be the brightest words in regards to civil rights, slave freedom, and a kind of reborn of slaves and their families.
Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas. BiblioBazaar, LLC, 2008.
Miller, Randal, M. and Smith, John, D. Dictionary of Afro-American Slavery. Greenwood Publishing Group, 1997.