Narrative Of The Life Of Frederick Douglass Essay

Narrative Of The Life Of Frederick Douglass Essay

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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 by attempting to establish his identity and signifying to the reader the animalistic effects of slavery. “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¬¬—befor...


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...“The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submissions on the other” (Jefferson). “Our children see this,” Jefferson continues, “and learn to imitate it; for man is an imitative animal” (Jefferson). In short, the vicious cycle turns slaveowners into petty tyrants.
Despite these characterizations of slaves and slave owners, a small majority remained that did not fall prey to slavery’s corrupting dehumanization. While subhuman treatment was fairly common, slaves retained certain measures of humanity that Douglass touches on briefly or doesn’t discuss at all. This lack of examination could stem from Douglass’ involvement in the American Anti-Slavery movement. Douglass, even while a slave, longed for his freedom and realized that he was not an animal.

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