Throughout the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, written by Frederick Douglass himself, the reader is given thoughtful insight into the slave condition and the institution of slavery as a whole. One learns very soon of the authoritative and controlling nature of the slave master, who, using the overseer as his pawn, is able to maintain control over his slaves and his planation through an amalgamation of both physical and mental abuse. Slaves are lead to believe that they are innately inferior to whites and are kept ignorant, unable to read or write, and unaware of the world outside their plantation. They are indoctrinated from birth through fear, for if any slave deviates from this merciless power structure, they face brutal punishment and even the possibility of death. Despite this seemingly insurmountable reality, Frederick Douglass, a slave for over twenty years, was able to resist. He gradually became aware of the psychology of the slave owners, and the immense power that they wielded. Douglass was able to escape the oppressive, exploitative, and controlling power structure of slavery by resolving to overcome his forced ignorance, and to unite his fellow slaves, realizing, along the way, his sense of self and innate integrity. Slaveholders are able to perpetuate the existence of slavery through the ignorance of their slaves. Keeping a slave ignorant about their date of birth, their paternity, as well as their capability to read and write, enables slaveholders to retain unchallenged control over the slave. Douglass first learns of this troubling reality accidentally from his Master, Thomas Auld, when Auld says to his wife, “If you teach that nigger (speaking of Douglass) how to read, there would be no keeping him. I... ... middle of paper ... ...e power was derived from the fear of physical harm, from the mental darkness of ignorance, and from the moral degradation of perpetual servitude and unjust punishment, Frederick Douglass refused to fall prey to this immoral system, resolving instead to fight back against it, using the righteousness of his own moral compass, the strength of own his soul, and the ability of his own mind. In the Narrative, the reader sees a slave who has become a man; a once vulnerable being that has taken control of his own destiny, and in the process has overcome and exposed the morally bankrupt system that is slavery. He answered an institution whose foundation was rotted with the toxic poison of power and inhumane control, with the steadfast conviction that justness shall prevail over immorality, that education shall prevail over ignorance, and that love shall prevail over hatred.
In Douglass’ book, he narrates his earliest accounts of being a slave. At a young age, he acknowledges that it was a masters’ prerequisite to “keep their slaves thus ignorant”, reporting he had no true account of his age, and was groomed to believe, “a want of information concerning my own was a source of unhappiness to me even during childhood” (25). This mindset was inbreeded in slaves to use ignorance as control and power. As a child, Douglass is separated from his mother. Thus, he comprehends this is implemented in slavery to disengage any mental, physical, and emotional bond within families and to benefit slave owners concern of uprooting slaves for trade. He illustrates the “norm” action and response of a slave to the master. To describe the typical dialogue, he states, “To all these complaints, no matter how unjust, the slave must answer never a word”, and in response “a slave must stand, listen, and tremble” (38). In the course of his narrative, he describes several excruciating acts of abuse on slaves. His first memory of this exploitation, the lashing of his Aunt Hester, he depicts as, “the blood-stained gate, the entrance to the hell of slavery” (29). Also, he gives accounts of owners’ self-deception tactics, injustices, and in effect, shaping characteristics of prejudice, jealousy, and dishonesty of slaves towards slaves. Likewise, connecting to the reader, slave...
Douglass's Narrative brings an ugly era of American history to life as it weaves through his personal experiences with slavery, brutality, and escape. Most importantly Douglass reveals the real problem in slavery, which is the destructive nature of intolerance and the need for change. Douglass refers many times to the dehumanizing effects sla...
Society is formed into a hierarchical format demonstrated by the relationship between slaves and slave owners. Douglass refers to this concept of racial formation in the following statement, “my faculties and powers of body and soul, are not my own. But property of a fellow mortal” (199). This statement refers to the master who has power to compel his slaves in any format that he or she may desire to a point of controlling every single movement the slave makes. Douglass utilizes his knowledge of language to expose the psychology of the slave masters and the complex mechanisms that are created in order to systematically enslave African-Americans. Douglas refers to this idea as being “a slave for life” which underlies the issue that society is being organized hierarchically (157). Take for instance, when Douglass’ master Thomas chose not to protect him as a man or as property from the brutal treatment of Covey (171). This relationship demonstrates how masters willingly objectify their slaves as replaceable commodities. Many slave owners took advantage of the power they had over their property without any regards to the repercussions. Instead, African-Americans were belittled and coerced into being oppressed to a point where they accepted being a puppet in a master’s
In this narrative, Douglass, after very many obstacles are conquered, eventually overcomes the ultimate hardship of all time; slavery. At the time this narrative was written (1845), slavery was a common practice in the south, and it was nearly unheard of to escape its grueling jaws. One of Douglass’s first memories was seeing his aunt being tied up and beaten until the warmth of her own blood dripping down her back became pools of dried up blood at her feet. The screams he heard that day were unforgettable, and forever branded in his ears. This eventually led to his own beatings, in the same manner. At an early age, Douglass realized that he could no longer live this way, and decided to do something about it. His perseverance came in baby steps: first learning to read, next to acquire allies, and finally to make his move and never look back. If Douglass were to forget his end goal in any of this chaos, it is likely that he would have became swallowed up in adversity and let it consume him until he had completely lost his will to escape, or even live. However, keeping his end goal in mind, he was brilliant with his delicate moves to escape the sink hole that is
Frederick Douglass was one of the foremost leaders of the abolitionist movement, which fought to end slavery within the United States in the decades prior to the Civil War. A brilliant speaker, Douglass was asked by the American Anti-Slavery Society to engage in a tour of lectures, and so became recognized as one of America's first great black speakers. He won world fame when his autobiography was publicized in 1845. Two years later he bagan publishing an antislavery paper called the North Star. Douglass served as an adviser to President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War and fought for the adoption of constitutional amendments that guaranteed voting rights and other civil liberties for blacks. Douglass provided a powerful voice for human rights during this period of American history and is still revered today for his contributions against racial injustice. The Slave Years Frederick Baily was born a slave in February 1818 on Holmes Hill Farm, near the town of Easton on Maryland's Eastern Shore. The farm was part of an estate owned by Aaron Anthony, who also managed the plantations of Edward Lloyd V, one of the wealthiest men in Maryland. The main Lloyd Plantation was near the eastern side of Chesapeake Bay, 12 miles from Holmes Hill Farm, in a home Anthony had built near the Lloyd mansion, was where Frederick's first master lived. Frederick's mother, Harriet Baily, worked the cornfields surrounding Holmes Hill. He knew little of his father except that the man was white. As a child, he had heard rumors that the master, Aaron Anthony, had sired him. Because Harriet Baily was required to work long hours in the fields, Frederick had been sent to live with his grandmother, Betsey Baily. Betsy Baily lived in a cabin a short distance from Holmes Hill Farm. Her job was to look after Harriet's children until they were old enough to work. Frederick's mother visited him when she could, but he had only a hazy memory of her. He spent his childhood playing in the woods near his grandmother's cabin. He did not think of himself as a slave during these years. Only gradually did Frederick learn about a person his grandmother would refer to as Old Master and when she spoke of Old Master it was with certain fear.
The reader is first introduced to the idea of Douglass’s formation of identity outside the constraints of slavery before he or she even begins reading the narrative. By viewing the title page and reading the words “The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, written by himself” the reader sees the advancement Douglass made from a dependent slave to an independent author (Stone 134). As a slave, he was forbidden a voice with which he might speak out against slavery. Furthermore, the traditional roles of slavery would have had him uneducated—unable to read and incapable of writing. However, by examining the full meaning of the title page, the reader is introduced to Douglass’s refusal to adhere to the slave role of uneducated and voiceless. Thus, even before reading the work, the reader knows that Douglass will show “how a slave was made a man” through “speaking out—the symbolic act of self-definition” (Stone 135).
Frederick Douglass’s narrative shows how slaveholders perpetuate slavery by keeping their slaves ignorant. At the time Douglass was writing, many people believed that slavery was a natural state of being. They thought that black people were inherently unable to participate in civil society and thus should be kept as workers for white people. The Narrative explains the strategies and procedures used by whites to gain and keep power over blacks from their birth onward. Slave owners keep slaves ignorant of basic facts about themselves, such as their birth date or their parents. This imposed ignorance, which robs children of their natural sense of individuality. As these grew older, slave owners prevent them from learning how to read and write,
The first element of slavery that Frederick attacks is that slavery puts constraints on a slave’s individuality. In his narrative, he states that slaves were compared to animals by the way the slave owner treated them because slaves were considered as property and not as human beings. When slaves came into the new world, they were sold and given new names and over time were supposed to assimilate to the American culture. Since slave masters did not think slaves could assimilate to the American culture, slave masters kept them as workers; therefore, slaves were not given an education, leaving them illiterate, and thereby leaving them without any knowledge on how the American political system works. Slave owners thought that if slaves would become literate, that slaves would start to question the rights they have. Frederick argues that slaves l...
Frederick Douglass the most successful abolitionist who changed America’s views of slavery through his writings and actions. Frederick Douglass had many achievements throughout his life. His Life as a slave had a great impact on his writings. His great oratory skills left the largest impact on Civil War time period literature. All in all he was the best black speaker and writer ever.
Born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey on Maryland's Eastern Shore in 1818, he was the son of a slave woman and, her white master. Upon his escape from slavery at age 20, he adopted the name of the hero of Sir Walter Scott's The Lady of the Lake. Douglass immortalized his years as a slave in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845). This and two other autobiographies, My Bondage and My Freedom (1855) and The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1881), mark his greatest contributions to American culture. Written as antislavery propaganda and personal revelation, they are regarded as the finest examples of the slave narrative tradition and as classics of American autobiography.
In sum, all of these key arguments exist in “The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass” because of the institution of slavery and its resulting lack of freedom that was used to defend it. This text’s arguments could all be gathered together under the common element of inequality and how it affected the practical, social, and even spiritual lives of the slaves.
In Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, one of the major themes is how the institution of slavery has an effect on the moral health of the slaveholder. The power slaveholders have over their slaves is great, as well as corrupting. Douglass uses this theme to point out that the institution of slavery is bad for everyone involved, not just the slaves. Throughout the narrative, Douglass uses several of his former slaveholders as examples. Sophia Auld, once such a kind and caring woman, is transformed into a cruel and oppressive slave owner over the course of the narrative. Thomas Auld, also. Douglass ties this theme back to the main concern of authorial control. Although this is a personal account, it is also a tool of propaganda, and is used as such. Douglass’s intent is to convince readers that the system of slavery is horrible and damaging to all included, and thus should be abolished completely. Douglass makes it very clear in his examples how exactly the transformation occurs and how kind and moral people can become those who beat their slaves and pervert Christianity in an attempt to justify it.
The Narrative of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass is written to have people place their feet in the shoes of Frederick Douglass and try to understand the experience he went through as a slave. Douglass writes this piece of literature with strong wording to get his point across. He is not trying to point out the unpleasant parts of history, but to make people face the truth. He wants readers to realize that slavery is brutalizing and dehumanizing, that a slave is able to become a man, and that some slaves, like himself, have intellectual ability. These points are commonly presented through the words of Douglass because of his diction.
Convey. His intellect began to decline over time, and his own moral begin to get darker and darker. This is the process for slave owners on creating thoughtless slaves. Ideally the slaves will see slavery as life, because that’s what they’re accustomed to. They grew up as slaves so they live their lives as slaves. It’s a learned behavior for them. Early in Douglass’s narrative he states, “My mother and I were separated when I was but an infant-before I knew her as my mother.” (2) Showing how slaves were robbed from their own sense of identity, but Douglass has an ambitious mind-set. Even though the only piece of information he knows about himself is his name and what state he’s from, and growing up without the privilege to get an education he finds the path of self-education. After getting the idea from an owner who wouldn’t let his wife teach Frederick how to read and write. Douglass now figured out the key to his
Frederick Douglass’ landmark narrative describes the dehumanization of African-American slaves, while simultaneously humanizing them through his moving prose. Douglass shows the dehumanization of slaves through depictions of violence, deindividuation, and the broken justice system. However, Douglass’ pursuit of an education, moving rhetoric, and critique of his own masters demonstrates to the reader that African-Americans are just as intelligent as white people, thus proving their humanity.