Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave Essay

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave Essay

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Slavery had been established in American history from the time of European settlement in the colonies (1619) until the Thirteenth Amendment officially ended the practice. During that time, a slave was bound to endure hard labor and often led a life in constant fear of his master. Frederick Douglass, in his autobiography, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave, rises against the injustices done to his people by presenting insight into the power imbalance between slaves and their holders. Douglass asserts throughout his account that the “poison of irresponsible power” the masters maintain has a detrimental and dehumanizing effect on their moral behavior (39). Douglass addresses the barbarity that overcomes the slaveholder in a testimony against slavery and discusses the negative results through deep characterization, emotional scenes, and plausible evidence.
With the use of character development, Douglass retains an important component in his argument by illustrating the alteration of Sophia Auld whose “kindest heart turned…into that of a demon”(39). He states that a human being having control of another has a soul-killing effect on his moral righteousness and results in the loss of innocence. At first Douglass writes, “The meanest slave was put fully at ease in her presence, and none left without feeling better for not having seen her. Her face was made of heavenly smiles, and her voice of tranquil music”(39). Douglass’s initial description fixes his argument that the slaveholder is not necessarily evil. His choice of words reveals his complete astonishment of her gentleness that he had never experienced before. However, Douglass’s tone appears to be disturbed of her behavior for she is “unlike any oth...


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...essence of his reasoning. Douglass’s example of Aunt Hester’s whipping moves the audience to tears and persuades them to sympathize with the character. He accomplishes his goal when describing his own abuses during the practice in which he enlightens the reader on the subjects of freedom and justice. As a result, Douglass is successful in persuading readers who are ignorant of slavery’s injustice and savage barbarity. Even after this narrative, Douglass continued to refine the ideologies of many people. He became a lecturer in abolitionist meetings such as the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. After the Civil War, Douglass fought for both women and African American rights. His autobiography is a small step for a greater result.



Works Cited

Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass an American Slave. New York: Signet Classics, 2005. Print.

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