Frederick Douglass’ autobiography, “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave” reveals the immorality and lack of human dignity of slavery. His writings give the reader an in-depth look at the animal-like treatment the slaves received. He revealed that not just the victims of slavery but also the people who have to participate in it. Not many slaves got to tell their stories of the horrors of slavery in America. Frederick Douglass’ brilliant and insightful writings put many 19th century Americans in perspective but also become the voice of African Americans against the greatest injustice in America.
In The Narrative of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass, an African American male describes his day as a slave and what he has become from the experience. Douglass writes this story to make readers understand that slavery is brutalizing and dehumanizing, that a slave is able to become a man, and that he still has intellectual ability even though he is a slave. In the story, these messages are shown frequently through the diction of Frederick Douglass.
a skill that would provide him with his passport to freedom. The narrative itself acts as a form of protest literature against slavery and also persuades the reader that Douglass has been transformed and is no longer a slave, but a free man.
When first introduced to Douglass and his story, we find him to be a young slave boy filled with information about those around him. Not only does he speak from the view point of an observer, but he speaks of many typical stereotypes in the slave life. At this point in his life, Frederick is inexperienced and knows nothing of the pleasures of things such as reading, writing, or even the rights everyone should be entitled to. Douglass knowing hardly anything of his family, their whereabouts, or his background, seems to be equivalent to the many other slaves at the time. As a child Frederick Douglass sees the injustices around him and observes them, yet as the story continues we begin to see a change.
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an 1845 autobiography by the eponymous author, is rife with conflict and contradiction. The wealth and cruelty of slave owners is contrasted with the poverty and helplessness of slaves; the ideal of freedom is set against the looming dread of its consequences; but some of the most polarizing and intense conflicts are internal and paradoxical in nature. Among these is the idea of hope, to which the slaves cling and the masters try to crush. Hope almost always carries a positive connotation, but Frederick Douglass’ narrative exposes its paradox in relation to slavery and freedom, how it was used as a tool to both help and harm.
Overcoming a Life of Brutality
In, “The Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass”, readers get a first person perspective on slavery in the South before the Civil War. The author, Frederick Douglass, taught himself how to read and write, and was able to share his story to show the evils of slavery, not only in regard to the slaves, but with regard to masters, as well. Throughout Douglass’ autobiography, he shares his disgust with how slavery would corrupt people and change their whole entire persona. He uses ethos, logos, and pathos to help establish his credibility, and enlighten his readers about what changes needed to be made.
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself is controversial anti-slavery literatures of the mid-nineteenth century. Douglass narrates other slaves’ lives while grabbing the attention of residents in the North and many other places throughout the world. Douglass draws much attention to devastating reality and the inconceiva-ble cruelty of enslavement. The purpose of Narrative of the Life is not to introduce Frederick Douglass’s life, but to expose the evil underside of slavery to its readers.
In the passage of the Narrative of Fredrick Douglass, the author masterfully conveys two complimentary tones of liberation and fear. The tones transition by the use of diction and detail. The passage is written entirely in first person, since we are witnessing the struggles of Fredrick Douglass through his eyes. Through his diction, we are able to feel the triumph that comes with freedom along with the hardships. Similarly, detail brings a picturesque view of his adversities. Since the point of view is first person, the reader is able to be a part of the Douglass’ struggles with his new freedom. With diction, detail, and point of view, the reader is able to get a rare glimpse into the past of Fredrick Douglass.Fredrick Douglass’ diction is powerful as he describes his life as a slave and with his new freedom. Fredrick Douglass calls being enslaved an act of “wretchedness,” yet he was able to remain “firm” and eventually left the “chains” of slavery. Fredrick Douglass expresses that being enslaved is a wretched act and that no man should ever deserve such treatment. Despite being a slave, he kept strong and eventually broke the chain of society. However, Fredrick Douglass experienced great “insecurity” and “loneliness” with his new freedom, and was upon a new “hunting-ground.” His new freedom brought other devastating factors, being a new state without any friends, which caused his loneliness. In this new state, he grew insecure for he was in a new danger zone where at any time his freedom could be rejected. With new freedom come new obstacles, which are described in the diction of Fredrick Douglass.
Douglass's descriptions of the severity of slave life are filled with horrific details able to reach even the coldest hearts. The beginning of the narrative tells of how Douglass lacks one of the most celebrated identities of humans - the knowledge of ones own age. "I have no accurate knowledge of my age, never having seen any authentic record containing it. By far the larger part of the slaves know as little of their ages as horses know of theirs, and it is the wish of most masters within my knowledge to keep their slaves thus ignorant." (12) In saying this Douglass is showing how low the life of a slave is compared to other humans. The idea of slaves being seen as merely work animals is placed into the minds of the reader to set an idea for the rest of the book.
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, brings to light many of the social injustices that colored men, women, and children all were forced to endure throughout the nineteenth century under Southern slavery laws. Douglass's life-story is presented in a way that creates a compelling argument against the justification of slavery. His argument is reinforced though a variety of anecdotes, many of which detailed strikingly bloody, horrific scenes and inhumane cruelty on the part of the slaveholders. Yet, while Douglas’s narrative describes in vivid detail his experiences of life as a slave, what Douglass intends for his readers to grasp after reading his narrative is something much more profound. Aside from all the physical burdens of slavery that he faced on a daily basis, it was the psychological effects that caused him the greatest amount of detriment during his twenty-year enslavement. In the same regard, Douglass is able to profess that it was not only the slaves who incurred the damaging effects of slavery, but also the slaveholders. Slavery, in essence, is a destructive force that collectively corrupts the minds of slaveholders and weakens slaves’ intellects.