Irony In Narrative Of The Life Of Frederick Douglass

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The book Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Frederick Douglass can be interpreted in many ways. It is an autobiography that details Douglass’s experiences while he was enslaved. However, it is evident that he has been forced to censor the content of his narrative. Douglass mentions more than once that he is not able to say everything he desires. Moreover, on the surface the book is about the harshness of his life as a slave, but on a deeper level Douglass uses irony to give a compelling criticism of the institution of slavery. In his account he gives sarcastic descriptions of the privileges the slaves receive and what it looks like for slaves to be treated well. Nevertheless, both techniques of writing are effective …show more content…

There are a number of times when he talks about the things slaves perceived to be good, but the things he describes are far from good. For instance, Douglass states, “A representative could not be prouder of his election to a seat in the American Congress, than a slave on one of the out-farms would be of his election to do errands at the Great House Farm” (56). The plantation he lived on was very large and had one huge house in the center called the “Great House Farm” where the “mechanical operations” are performed (56). The out-farms that surrounded the Great House Farm was where the crop fields were located. Basically Douglass is saying that the highest honor a slave can get is running errands instead of working in the field. This statement can be interpreted as straightforward because obviously it would better to run errands at the “Great House Farm” than work in the field, but to a free person that statement sounds a bit ridiculous. Running errands does not really compare to winning an esteemed government position. So Douglass could be pointing out that the life of a slave was so bleak that running errands was the best they could hope for. However, if it is read with a mocking tone, then the absurdity comparing someone with no freewill to someone who is the representation of freewill becomes apparent. Also Douglass may have used the comparison of slaves and members of congress as an insult. The members of congress at this time were likely to be slaveholders. Therefore, they were probably extremely racist and saw slaves as less than human. So it is logical to assume that a member of congress would be offended by the notion that they could be compared to

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