The Rise Of The Middle Class Essay

The Rise Of The Middle Class Essay

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The rise of the middle-class at the turn of the 19th century in northern urban America induced a reevaluation of the proper way to rear a child. As children became of little economic value to middle-class families, families began to shelter their children from the world and openly consider them with greater affection (Mintz 76). Childhood became a romanticized, ideally labor free period of life (Mintz 76). Parents were expected to educate their children in the morals and values necessary to succeed in capitalistic economy, as evident by the values portrayed in books such as Rollo Learns to Read (Abbot 5). In stark contrast to middle-class children were the children born into slavery. Most children born into slavery lived brutal, often short lives (Mintz 96). In order to raise dependent, docile, and hard working slaves, slave owners resorted to religious teachings and copious amounts of corporal punishment (Schwartz 109). In the fight for abolition, many authors wrote slave narratives, which aimed to rouse northern middle-class sensibilities and provoke readers into joining the abolitionist movement. Frederick Douglass, an avid orator, abolitionist, and former slave, told his story through his book, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (Douglass 47, Mintz 95). In contrasting Douglass’s narrative to accounts of northern middle-class children, a chasm appears between middle-class values and the institution of slavery. The depth with which Douglass wrote about the psychological and physical abuses of slavery stimulated empathy in his readers, and his experiences growing up in slavery provided a shocking juxtaposition to the ideals of a northern middle-class childhood.
Douglass opens up his narrative demonst...

... middle of paper ...

...esires to nurture and empower children and the depravity and extensive barriers experienced by children born into slavery.
The childhood experienced by those born into slavery provided an antithesis to the conventions of a northern middle-class childhood. Frederick Douglass’s narrative articulated his life experiences as a child in slavery, and the psychological depth he displays by articulating not only what he experienced, but also glimpses into how these experiences shaped and scarred him would have been more than enough to rouse the consciences of many northerners. His descriptions of the expectations placed on him, the severe methods by which he witnessed others be disciplined, and the deliberate severance from his ancestry all serve to expose how incompatible middle-class values and slavery were and attempted to convert more people to cause of abolition.

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