Slavery in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass Term Paper
Douglass was one of the slaves who managed to put together his views in a memoir that was later published at around 1845. Many slaves moved condemned slavery and its associated injustices at the time, but the works of Douglass were valued because he employed various tactics in dealing with the problem. Later on, the abolitionists borrowed his ideas heavily in the 19th century after it was realized that slavery was the greatest challenge that faced the blacks. Throughout the text, Douglass criticized slavery, something that proved he was against the use of other people’s labor without adequate compensation. In the first chapter to the fourth, the author introduces the reader to the poor conditions in which slaves lived, as children were never allowed to interact with their parents. It was unfortunate that he never knew his date of birth since his mother died when he was a young boy of seven years.
He claims that he could not memorize anything because his mother visited him only at night while the father was most likely the slave owner meaning bosses mistreated slave women to the extent of forcing them to carry their babies. His analysis showed that the relationship between slaves and their owners was poor, implying the interaction was cruel. Slaves had no right because they were given specific instructions that would guide their behavior. For instance, he explains in the introductory chapters that his aunt Hester was whipped for going contrary to what was expected of any slave. In other words, slaves were supposed to behave in a certain manner when interacting with their bosses. In chapter four, Douglass claimed that fear maintained the system of slavery in the sense that slaves were punished for telling the truth or giving contradictory information.
In the fifth to the seventh chapters, Douglass explains some of the reasons that forced him to oppose the existing production system that was sustained through slavery. In the fifth chapter, for instance, the author notes that he was moved to Baltimore, Maryland, something that played a critical role in transforming his life since he faced the realities of slavery. For the first time in his life, he thought of escaping, as he envisaged a brighter future (Douglass 68).
His new boss, Mrs. Sophia Auld, was a kindhearted boss in the beginning but ended up being cruel just like any other slave owner. The new mistress wanted to empower Douglass by teaching him how to read and write, but her husband was against this move since it would make slaves unmanageable. This was the time when Douglass noticed reading and writing was the first step towards eliminating slavery in the country. In the eighth and ninth chapters, the author reports that his master died when he was aged eleven leaving behind a son and a daughter who were expected to divide the wealth equally, including slaves. On hearing this, the Douglass developed hatred towards slavery because he was considered property and not a human being.
The young Auld was cruel as well despite the fact he had received specific skills on how to handle other people at the Methodist camp. This meant that slave owners could always treat their servants badly, irrespective of whether they were Christians. Since conditions were unfavorable, Douglass was loaned out to a new slave owner, Covey.
In the tenth chapter, the author went through a difficult time with the new boss, Covey, who whipped him on a weekly basis because he was considered awkward. He was given several responsibilities that exhausted him, apart from being beaten for being lazy. He decided to report the incident to his master Auld, but he was surprised to be returned back to the brutal master. Covey decided to tie him on the tree one day to facilitate his death, but he fought back successfully. Because he was out of control, he was sent to a different agricultural estate to live with other captives, whereby he taught them how to read and write. He encouraged other slaves to escape, but the plan failed to lead to his arrest and a few more. He was sent to Baltimore to continue with his normal duties two years later after being released from prison.
His master refused to take him back, preferring to rent him out to traders working in the seaports. While undertaking his duties, he was nearly killed when four whites assaulted him and injured his left eye badly (Douglass 97). He ends the narrative by promising to fight the injustices meted out on blacks and the less fortunate in society, especially women.
Douglass makes various arguments and appeals to readers regarding slavery and forced labor in the country. He criticizes an economic system that is maintained through slavery since it has a great effect on families. In his view, slavery inhibited family formation meaning establishing a stable and secure family was impossible under slavery, as the law prohibited slaves from marrying. In the first chapter of his narrative, he explained the reasons why his mother could not live with the father, as they belonged to different slave owners. In the subsequent chapters, he observed that slaves were considered personal properties that could be traded with other goods, sold, or loaned out to other willing merchants. As such, slaves had no right to entering into legal unions, as they were already other people’s properties.
He converted to Christianity together with his wife, but he was still discriminated against because of his color, given the fact the society was reluctant to appreciate the contributions of slaves. He was described as the best preacher in the town, but no church was willing to hire his services, as he was considered a slave. His appeal to the members of society was to embrace equality and keep off from unnecessary discriminations that were based on gender and skin color. He supported the views of women regarding voting rights since he always believed each person had something special to contribute.
The arguments and appeals of Douglass would be effective in convincing readers in antebellum America, because slavery impeded the chances of success for many people, including slaves and their masters. The south was never developed because conflicts and tension were the order of the day while the north achieved its desired interests because it employed a different production system. Currently, states in the north are more developed as compared to those in the south because they abolished slavery a long time ago and adopted a more productive system that facilitated economic development. Since slaves were considered private properties, chances of growth were minimal, given the fact a community could only achieve its interests when it incorporated each person in the developmental program.
Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Whitefish: Kessinger Publications, 2004. Print.
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