Initially, Douglass’s slave owner, Mrs. Auld thinks there is nothing wrong with Douglass reading and of her own free will teaches him herself. The author writes “My mistress- who had begun to teach me-” (Douglass 521). Douglass states that Mrs. Auld, due to “the humanity in her heart, and the simplicity of her mind” set out, when he first went to live with her, to treat Douglass “as she supposed one human ought to treat another” (522). Later, Mrs. Auld becomes “violent in her opposition” to Douglass’s reading due to the strong advice of her husband. Douglass tells the reader, “ My mistress--was suddenly checked in her benevolent design, by the strong advice of her husband” (521). In these words, Douglass is
The words he is told by Mr. Auld are the ultimate proof as to how slavery works, and once Douglass understands this, he realizes that the only hope of freedom is through education. The concept of slavery is made a “dark mysterious thing” to slaves, with no explanation as to why they are subordinate to white men, so they never understand the real workings of how it is perpetuated, and therefore never revolt. Douglass’s claim to have tried to understand it before in “vain”, and only now having an idea of how to achieve freedom proves the futility of escaping slavery when slaves are deprived of knowledge. This piece of information Hugh Auld unknowingly discloses to Douglass reveals that the only separation between a white man and a black man is the power of knowledge; the only reason white men are in control over black men is because white men deprive them of any form of education or knowledge from the moment they are born,
Douglass lived in the slave times. It was illegal to a slave to read and write. Any slave caught reading or writing would be severely punished or even killed. Slave owners felt that if they learn they will soon rebel and start to fight back. Douglass even grew up not even knowing his own age. His master’s wife is what
Reading opened his eyes to his “wretched condition” (2057) and he longed for independence and freedom. He did not desire this for himself alone, but also for his fellow slaves. He “imbue[d] their minds with thoughts of freedom” and sought to “impress them with the gross fraud and inhumanity of slavery” (2077). Douglass took the lead in devising the plans of escape; his skill in reading and writing was instrumental in his plans. While at Master Hugh’s, Douglass acquired the copy-books of his master’s son, Thomas. He taught himself to write and soon “could write a hand very similar to that of Master Thomas” (2059). This ability helped Douglass to formulate the plan of escape from Mr. Hamilton. He wrote several “protections” for himself and the other runaways under the name of Mr. Hamilton’s. Though this escape attempt was unsuccessful, it is a testimony to the Douglass’ genius which would not have existed without his education. His ability to read and write planted the desire for freedom and enabled him to attempt to achieve it.
Douglass decides to continue learning to read even after Mrs. Auld is forbidden from teaching him. At one point Douglass states that “The more I read, the more I was led to abhor and detest my enslavers. [...] As I read and contemplated the subject, behold! That very
As soon as Douglass pieces together what Mr. Auld was saying he recognizes that “What he most dreaded, that I most desired. What he most loved, that I most hated. That which to him was a great evil, to be carefully shunned, was to me a great good, to be diligently sought; and the argument which he so warmly urged, against my learning to read, only served to inspire me with a desire and determination to learn.” (Douglass 38). This instant illustrates one of the first climaxes of the narrative. One statement made by Mr. Auld so greatly impacted Douglass by giving him a new sense of hope and will to succeed in obtaining his freedom. Douglass pulls out the positive in this experience, that Mr. Auld accidentally shared with him the power that comes with education. “In learning to read, I owe almost as much to the bitter opposition of my master, as to the kindly aid of my mistress. I acknowledge the benefit of both” (Douglass 39). Douglass learned to read not only in thanks to his kind mistress, who willingly taught him to read, but also to his cruel master whose rage towards Douglass learning to read and write generated him to give Douglass the knowledge he wanted to keep from him to begin with. The lesson given to him by his master about education was far more important than even the lesson’s on learning to read. Douglass’s use of chiasmi takes this climax to the
Initially, Sophia Auld ordained to teach Douglass the very basics of literacy – his ABCs and how to spell a few short words (Douglass 45) – but not long after, Hugh Auld, enraged, puts a stop to his progress. Auld claims that were Douglass to learn to how to read “there would be no keeping him. It would forever unfit him to be a slave” (Douglass 45), and his lessons cease promptly; however, the seed of doubt for his master’s power is already planted. Though hardly more than a child, Douglass reaches the conclusion that with literacy comes agency, and subsequently, the ability to gain freedom – something his master feared most vehemently (Douglass 45). The white man’s ability to keep his slaves in the dark about the truths of scripture and rhetoric were the crux of his power, and equipped with new found knowledge of this apparent flaw in the system of slavery, Douglass grows determined to learn how to read by any means available. He resolves to befriend any and all young white boys he encounters on the streets and, in exchange for a bit of bread, asks them to help him on his way to literacy, and through this act of defiance, by the end of his seven years with the Aulds, he is entirely literate (Douglass 50). This emphasis on gaining the ability to read and write is a common theme in male
1. Douglass taught himself how to read and write. At first, Douglass’s mistress taught him how to read the alphabet before her husband prohibited her from doing this. After that he started to teach himself how to read by reading books and newspapers, and how to write by copying his little Master Thomas’s written in the spaces left in the copy-book when his mistress goes to the class meeting every monday afternoon. However his most successfully way of teaching himself how to read was to make friends with the white boys whom he met in the street. He bribes them with food to get them to teach him. He also learned how to read and understand the meaning of the name on the timber.
Douglass is disappointed by his master when he prevents his mistress from teaching him, a slave, how to read when he deeply enjoyed being educated and literate. It become harder for him to be able to learn to read and write, but he learned the power of education and how people can be fearful of it at this time if you teach a slave to read and write. When his master tells his wife to quit teaching him, that only motivates and encourages him to continue because he knows that education is valuable or Mr. Auld wouldn’t be telling his wife to stop.
Frederick Douglass, an African American slave, searches for liberation against the shackles of slavery through education; as told in Frederick Douglass’ Narrative in a Life of Frederick Douglass. Douglass portrays education as a paradox; knowledge brings him both great joy and great pain. Learning opens up new worlds for Douglass, and he becomes obsessed with the possibility of freedom. At the same time, he envies his fellow slaves for their ignorance. They do not understand what their enslavers have stolen from them. Douglass grapples with the hopelessness of his plight, but knowledge empowers him enough to set himself free from a life of benightedness, and to share that knowledge with others.
Fredrick Douglas was born a slave. In his narrative, Mr. Douglass explains how his mistress took an interest in him. Mrs. Auld would teach Mr. Douglass how to read, but was forbidden to continue by her husband, Mr. Auld. Mr. Auld explained to his wife, teaching a slave to read and write would make him unmanageable and unfit to be a slave. It was at this very moment Frederick Douglas learned whites held slaves back by depriving them of an education and literacy.
Hugh Auld discussed with his wife that teaching a slave to read a write is dangerous " If you give a nigger an inch, he will take an ell "(Douglas 20) meaning if you teach a slave to read and write he will be more knowledgeable and more curious. Learning would make the slaves more aware of the injustice happening to them and they may potentially challenge the masters. Keeping the slaves ignorant would prevent them from forming ideas. Hugh believed that since it would spoil the slave it would leave the slave to no good use anymore to his master. After some reading and some thinking Douglas finally noticed how bad he and the other slaves were being treated, how bad he was enslaved, and how the other slaves didn't see what Douglass saw " It had even me a view on my wretched condition without a remedy ... In moments of agony I envied my fellow-slavessllaves for their stupidity " ( Douglass 24 ) The slaveholders wanted to keep the slaves ignorant so that they would stay slaves and only focus in the plantation other than what'swhats happening in real life. This was dehumanizing because the slave didn't know they were being treated less than
Born into a life of slavery, Frederick Douglass overcame a boatload of obstacles in his very accomplished life. While a slave he was able to learn how to read and write, which was the most significant accomplishment in his life. This was significant, not only because it was forbidden for a slave to read due to the slaveholders wanting to keep them ignorant to preserve slavery, but because it was the starting point for Frederick to think more freely and more profound. Frederick Douglass then taught other slaves how to read and write because he believed and taught “Once you learn to read you will be forever free” (Frederick Douglass). This man was an astonishing individual who
Mrs. Auld, Douglass’ mistress, begins teaching Douglass his letters and small words, but these lessons are put to an end by Mr. Auld. Douglass overhears Mr. Auld stating that “A slave should know nothing but to obey his master—and to do what he is told to do” (Douglass 2187). That is, the only knowledge that a slave should have is the knowledge of the slaveholder’s power. Mr. Auld adds that if a slave learns how to read, then he is unfit to be a slave (2187). Through this crack of light, Douglass sees the importance of knowing how to read and write.
Frederick Douglass’ biography revolves around the idea of freedom. After seeing a traumatizing incident as a child, Douglass slowly begins to realize that he is not a free human being, but is a slave owned by other people. He is surrounded by a society that devalues him and people like him, and systematically worked to keep them ignorant and submissive. In this society, it is made clear that no slave is special, and everyone is replaceable. Rather than accept this, Douglass struggles to maintain what little autonomy he was allowed to have. When his one of his masters, Thomas Auld, bans his mistress, Sophia, from teaching Douglass how to read, Douglass learned from the young boys on the street. His biography shows him transforming from an ignorant child into his older, more learned self.