Author Intentions in The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass and DayStar

Author Intentions in The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass and DayStar

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In his autobiographical publication The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, Douglass takes an intentionalist approach, ensuring that the implied intentions of the author dictate the plot of the story. Douglass's voice echoes through his protagonist, reflecting the message he is trying to convey, asserting a strong sense of authority. As a leader in the abolitionist movement Douglass uses the power of prose to break free from the shackles of slavery, writing himself into existence, and voicing his thought after years of oppression. The power of being able to tell his story the way he wants it to be told is liberating in itself, symbolizing the freedom from oppression African Americans longed after for years. Douglass's use of an autobiographical narrative not only helps give readers insight into his experiences through a firsthand account, but it also helps an author struggling to retain an identity recollect his past and form a sense of self. Rita Dove uses a contrasting approach in her poem "DayStar", in which a third person narrative implicates the lessened value of the central figure, the author uses her authority to diminish the protagonists sense of self. The third person narrative strips the protagonist of any authority over being able to recount their own story, leaving the reader to make inferences based on an external perspective. The loss of narrative authority reflects the characterization of the protagonist and the tensions expressed with her caregiver role. Through the use of literary devices and narrative technique, Both, Frederick Douglass and Rita Dove are able to establish a sense of liberation or oppression within their protagonists.
As a writer Frederick Douglass uses the power of the pen to rais...


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...nes and gender expectations which has her feeling trapped and limited. By bringing up this issue of personal space, the idea of a room, Dove is alluding to Virginia Woolf argument regarding the participation of women in society outside of the private domestic sphere. Her protagonist is depicted as being so helpless that she does not even have a voice to express her own grievances, unable to speak up and express her misery. Her character was diminished to "nothing, pure nothing" (Dove 25-26) only being able to imagine and "think of a place that's hers." (Dove 24 ).
As authors both Douglass and Dove show that they have considerable influence over the meaning behind their work and how it may be interpreted. By choosing whether or not to incorporate authority within the speaker, both these texts display either liberation or oppression through their narratives.

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