The Use of Rhetorical Devices in The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass written by Frederick Douglass

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The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass written by Frederick Douglass himself is a brutally honest portrayal of slavery's dehumanizing capabilities. The style of this famous autobiography can be best described as personal, emotional, and compelling. By writing this narrative, Douglass wants his audience to understand him. He does this by speaking informally like a person would when writing a letter or telling a story to a friend. By clearly establishing his credibility and connecting with his audience, Douglass uses numerous rhetorical devices to argue for the immorality of slavery. Douglass' narrative was groundbreaking because had never been able to speak about their own horrific experiences. Douglass begins building his ethos in the opening of chapter one when he claims of not knowing his birthday, unlike white citizens, who know every basic facts about themselves. Beginning with this fact makes Douglass credible because the reader now knows his experiences to be true. His complex word choices and advanced sentence structures could have lead one to believe that his writing was intended to be read from the upper-middle class. It was necessary for Douglass to establish himself on a level playing field as his audience in order for his intelligence to be taken seriously. He is able to be successful in establishing both ethos and pathos. By establishing himself equal to his audience, he is able to evoke emotion and influence their feelings of a need for change. The narrative enables Douglass to flaunt his hard-earned education. As stated before, his diction brings pathos to his work. He describes his experiences in a way that lets his audience feel the indignity of being owned by another person. For example, D... ... middle of paper ... ... himself, many slaves were mulattoes, making them no longer descendants of Ham. This realization shapes the idea that human freedom and equal rights may somebody be possible. One day, Douglass eavesdrops on him and Mrs. Auld’s conversation. Mr. Auld persuades her that reading “could do him (Douglass) no good, but a great deal of harm.” (page 39) This antithesis along with the rest of his statement makes Douglass come to the realization that literacy is equated with not only individual consciousness but also freedom. From that day on, Douglass makes it his goal to learn as much as he can, eventually learning how to write, 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.

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