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Analysis of the Narrative: The Life of Frederick Douglass

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“The white children could tell their ages. I could not tell why I ought to be deprived of the same privilege” (1). At a young age, Frederick Douglass, a slave, often wonders about the world outside his plantations. Douglass’s ability to see slavery from a different angle, gained through his experiences, also allows him to also see past his bondage. Throughout The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (2002, Glencoe/McGraw Hill), Douglass conveys the horrors associated with captivity, reflecting on how it dehumanizes both slave and owner.
Slavery directly degrades the people held as slaves. Separated from him at birth, Douglass’s mother walks miles from her plantation to lie down with him at night for comfort. Yet, when he is seven and his mother passes away, he hardly cares, as stated on page 2. “Never having enjoyed…her tender and watchful care, I received the tidings of [my mother’s] death with much the same emotions…of a stranger.” He feels no emotion at all over the person who brought him into the world, which can be a result of his slave life. Soon, Douglass witnesses his first whipping, when his aunt Hester is whipped until she bleeds. Meanwhile, Douglass hides, not wanting to be next. Normally, humans would feel sympathy towards others in suffering, especially family, but Douglass already has the “survival of the fittest” mentality. Soon, Douglass moves to the affluent master’s main plantation, known as the “Great House Farm.” “Being selected to do errands at the Great House Farm…was associated in their minds with greatness” (7). In the slaves’ ignorant minds, advancing up ranks is most important, and so Great House Farm seems to be divine despite its cruel nature. For example, Douglass’s senescent grandmother is left...

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...es to inhumane extremes, just in order to dissimulate the inexperienced fool inside him. Furthermore, he uses artful religion to mask the evils he commits, claiming it is “God’s way” to deprecate the weaker, putting a pure religion as his reason for sin.
The interesting theme of slavery dehumanizing both slave and master resonates clearly throughout Frederick Douglass’s narrative. I rate this work of literature a five out of five stars, since it puts the horrors of slavery in a more personal light, making it all the more repulsive. However, since the book followed themes and not chronological order, reading some portions was a challenge. Nevertheless, Douglass accomplished what his mission for the narrative was—to show that slaves are not inferior; ignorance is only a temporary result of slavery. Those, like Douglass, who wish to be free, cannot be held back by it.
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