The Animalistic Effects Of Slavery In Narrative Of The Life Of Frederick Douglass

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In his autobiography “Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass”, Frederick Douglass shares his transformation from slave to freedman. The purpose of the work, as with many slave narratives, was “to enlighten white readers about both the realities of slavery as an institution” (Andrews). Throughout his journey, Douglass attempts to accomplish this through the description of daily conditions and horrifying experiences he faced while enslaved. He proves that through the institution of slavery, African-Americans were kept ignorant and forced into a subhuman existence while still longing to be treated fairly. White slave owners, as a result of slavery’s authoritarian manner, became animalistic tyrants. Frederick Douglass begins his narrative …show more content…

“I WAS born,” Douglass begins “in Tuckahoe, near Hillsborough, and about twelve miles from Easton, in Talbot county, Maryland (Douglass 1). Despite being aware of his birthplace, Douglass has “no accurate information” of his age. According to Douglass, his experience was typical of the slave. “By far the larger part of slaves know as little of their ages as horses know of theirs.” Slaves had no true concept of time aside from “planting-time, harvest-time, cherry-time, spring-time, [and] fall-time” (Douglass 1). Douglass is able to contrast the slave experience with the white children who knew their ages. “I could not tell why,” Douglass states, “I ought to be deprived of the same privilege” (Douglass 1).Douglass continues to demonstrate the dehumanizing effects of slavery through the interactions he had with his own mother. “My mother and I were separated when I was but an infant¬¬—before I knew her as my mother” (Douglass 1). Douglass refers to the separation as a “common custom” and the separation makes it difficult for a mother and her child to develop any relationship. “I received the tidings of her death,” Douglass states, “with much the same emotions I should have probably felt at the death of a …show more content…

Douglass begins chapter 5 by characterizing the conditions of his time at Colonel Lloyd’s plantation. Douglass was kept nearly naked with “nothing on but a coarse tow linen shirt” which reached only his knees. He had no bed and was forced to sleep “on the cold, damp, clay floor” with his feet sticking out of a stolen corn meal bag he used to sleep in. “My feet have been so cracked with the frost,” Douglass admits, “that the pen with which I am writing might be laid in the gashes” (Douglass 15). Douglass then divulges into the eating habits on the plantation. The food served, boiled and coarse corn meal, was referred to as mush. The substance was “put into a large wooden tray or trough” and set upon the ground. Douglass then describes the slave children using oyster-shells, pieces of shingle, and naked hands to devour the mush in a manner similar to pigs. Douglass juxtaposes this with the common eating practices of whites who were able to use utensils, such as spoons, while eating (Douglass 16). Unlike civilized white citizens, slave were denied proper food, bedding, and

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how douglass' autobiography, "narrative of the life of frederick douglas," enlightens white readers about the realities of slavery as an institution.
  • Analyzes how frederick douglass begins his narrative by attempting to establish his identity and signifying the animalistic effects of slavery.
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