Frederick Douglass’ “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave” is a brief look into what it means for a slave to be free during the nineteenth century, and how a slave can hope to achieve liberty through literacy. As Carson describes, Douglass employs “the use of certain literary strategies to emphasise the importance of writing in general as the only means for the slave both to overcome his social status of bondage and to acquire a true sense of self” (20). Douglass demonstrates the link between literacy and liberty with his mastery of the written word, and its connection to spiritual and mental enlightenment. Throughout the novel, he also shows us that his success and freedom came directly from his learning, and how …show more content…
A very important turning point in the narrative comes when Frederick Douglass uses physical force to combat his enslavement, by taking on his last abuser Covey. During the sequence, there is an apex in both the physical breaking away from slavery and the language techniques used to describe his immediate independence from slavery. He informs us “You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man” (57) which is a chiasmus. Douglass attempts to reaffirm his identity as an equal to mankind, simultaneously distancing himself from the lowly slave. He also describes the moment as “a glorious resurrection, from the tomb of slavery, to the heaven of freedom” which again uses creative imagery employed to reaffirm his movement from slavery to freedom. This of course contrasts his physical struggle with his master Covey, which upon winning ensures his freedom from the brutality employed by his master. While on first reflection it is his physical force that wins him his sense of freedom, it is his style of writing which confirms his new awakened identity as a free …show more content…
He describes them with a “heart [that] must be harder than stone” (30) and “tiger-like fierceness” (32). Douglass also suspected that his father was a white man, and uses the Southerners own worshiped scripture to point out their hypocrisy by stating “it is certain that slavery at the south must soon become unscriptural; for thousands are ushered into the world, annually, who, like myself, owe their existence to white fathers, and those fathers most frequently their own masters.” (4). In doing this he is using his literacy as a form of avocation for the abolitionist movement.
His further support for the abolitionist movement is described while serving under Freeland, whereupon he befriended other slaves, and even began teaching in a Christ-like manner; “I taught them, because it was the delight of my soul to be doing something that looked like bettering the condition of my race.” (71) Once again Douglass fully acknowledges the connection freedom and literacy share, even to go so far as use forged documents in an attempt to lead his pupils to
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Douglass got his passion to promote freedom for all slaves after he escaped from slavery and ultimately had an end goal to “abolish slavery in all its forms and aspects, and promote the moral and intellectual improvement of the coloured people and hasten the day of freedom to the three million of enslaved fellow countrymen”. He also wrote several autobiographies describing his experiences as a slave. One of the autobiographies in particular, ‘Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave’ published in 1845 was a best-selling and was extremely influential for promoting the cause of abolition. The narrative shows a compelling argument to basic human rights thus making it extremely influential as the narrative clearly possesses features and linguistic skills, which for most white people, negated their common perception of black people being illiterate in the 19th century.
It is at this time that Frederick Douglass learns one of the greatest freedoms of all. He is set free, in an educational sense. Douglass has been taught a few reading lessons form his mistress. Soon after his master discovers this, and commences the teaching at once. Soon thereafter, Frederick Douglass uses some smart tactics to resume his learning. He in a sense manipulates the children around him into teaching him how to read and write. This grand achievement taught Douglass something, as he says, “From that moment, I understood the pathway from slavery to freedom. It was just what I wanted, and
Douglass’s escape from slavery and eventual freedom are inseparable from his movingly narrated attainment of literacy. Douglass saw slavery as a
In a Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave written by himself, the author argues that no one can be enslaved if he or she has the ability to read, write, and think. Douglass supports his claim by first providing details of his attempts to earn an education, and secondly by explaining the conversion of a single slaveholder. The author’s purpose is to reveal the evils of slavery to the wider public in order to gain support for the abolition of his terrifying practice. Based on the purpose of writing the book and the graphic detail of his stories, Douglass is writing to influence people of higher power, such as abolitionists, to abolish the appalling reality of slavery; developing a sympathetic relationship with the
After about nine chapters detailing his slave life, he says, “You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man.” (Douglass, 75) He then goes on to describe the turning point for him that sparked his quest for freedom. By structuring his narrative this way, he reveals both sides- how slavery broke him “in body, soul, and spirit” (Douglass, 73) and how it eventually “rekindled the few expiring embers of freedom” within him (Douglass, 80). In doing so, he gives the reader an insight into how he became himself, and reinforces the evils of slavery in the way it shapes a man’s life. Douglass’ use of diction and structure effectively persuades the reader of the barbarity and inhumanity that comes as a result of slavery.
The “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass” is an autobiography in which Frederick Douglass reflects on his life as a slave in America. He writes this book as a free slave, in the North, while slavery was still running its course before the Civil War. Through his effective use of rhetorical strategies, Frederick Douglass argues against the institution of slavery by appealing to pathos and ethos, introducing multiple anecdotes, using satirical irony, and explaining the persuasive effects of slavery and reasoning behind keeping slaves uneducated.
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.
People often wonder about the struggles of slave life, including the fact that it was extremely difficult to become literate as a slave. Frederick Douglass, who was once a slave who learned to read and write, outlines these obstacles and the effects that they had on him in a chapter titled “Learning to Read and Write” within his autobiography. Said chapter reveals Douglass’s innermost thoughts and attitudes towards many things during his time as a slave, including his mistress, slavery itself, and reading. Douglass displays an appreciative and later aggravated tone towards his mistress, an outraged tone towards slavery, and an enthusiastic tone that later becomes resigned and despairing towards reading, exemplifying that tone can strongly influence the portrayal of a topic.
Throughout the history of slavery in the United States, it was common practice not only for slaveholders to neglect to teach their slaves to read or write, but also for them to outright forbid literacy among slaves. This was done in order to limit the slaves knowledge and modes of communication, making it more difficult for them to learn about the abolitionist movement or for for them to share their situation with the world outside of slavery. Like many other slaves, Frederick Douglass was not allowed to learn to read or write. In his autobiography; “The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass”, Douglass retells how he managed to become literate in a time where most African Americans were forbidden from literacy, and how this knowledge allowed him to eventually escape slavery.
Douglass prays at the brink of adulthood for the achievement of manhood and the right to governance of his mind and spirit, “God, ... let me be free ... but not a boy ... bound to someone” (Douglass 39). The voice here is the authoritative voice of emotional maturation. What Douglass affirms belongs to his personal experience, channeled through his religion. Douglass’s feelings are not unlike those he described at the end of the book, in an anti-slavery convention, deciding whether an audience binds him to captivity or provokes him to be
In the narrative excerpt “Learning to Read and Write” (1845), which originally came from the autobiography Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Frederick Douglass recapitulates his journey into the coming of literacy that shifts his point to how slavery really is. Douglass develops and supports his main idea by providing a flashback of his own experience as a slave learning to read and write and through dialogue with rhetorical appeals, such as ethos, pathos, and logos. Douglass’ apparent purpose is to retell his story of the obstacles he faced to finally become a free man to guide and prompt other fellow slaves to finally take action for their freedom; he also wants to establish a foundation in which people of higher power, such as abolitionists, are more aware of the slavery situation. The intended audience for this excerpt is the general public of the time consisting of fellow slaves, slave owners, and abolitionists; the relationship Douglass establishes with the audience is equivalent to a news reporter and the people receiving the message—he exposes the truth to them.
“The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass” is often told with a harsh and unemotional tone; it is this euphemistic style that gives the reader a keen insight into the writer's epoch as a slave in Maryland during the early 1800’s. Douglass never let us forget that his narrative was true, he wanted the readers to understand the truth that was Douglass's life, in addition the symbols and allusions that populate this book showing the intelligence and sophistication of the writer, while the detached writing also gives the reader another look into that time’s attitude and into Douglass’s own perception.
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, brings to light many of the social injustices that colored men, women, and children all were forced to endure throughout the nineteenth century under Southern slavery laws. Douglass's life-story is presented in a way that creates a compelling argument against the justification of slavery. His argument is reinforced though a variety of anecdotes, many of which detailed strikingly bloody, horrific scenes and inhumane cruelty on the part of the slaveholders. Yet, while Douglas’s narrative describes in vivid detail his experiences of life as a slave, what Douglass intends for his readers to grasp after reading his narrative is something much more profound. Aside from all the
Fredrick Douglass’s “Learning to Read and Write”, gives readers insight into the struggles of being a slave with intelligence, but more importantly into his experience. In his essay, Douglass shows how he fought to obtain knowledge; however, a reading of his story will reveal that what he learned changed him for the better. Michael Scott, a former EOF student read the story and believed that Douglass’s intelligence was a destructive and to a certain degree pointless. Contrary to Scott’s statement, Douglass’s knowledge wasn’t more of a curse than a blessing. Being a slave was everyone’s curse. Douglass went into depression because he hadn’t had the same experience as other slaves and finally felt what it was really like to be a slave when he was punished for his knowledge. However just because his knowledge is what got him into trouble doesn’t necessarily make him, being an intelligent slave; a curse nor does it mean that he had absolutely no alternatives to his condition. In fact, he above most other slaves had the upper hand when it came to creating his own alternative. Douglass’s intelligence helped him become autodidactic, manipulate situations to benefit him, and develop an ambition to become free.
In lines 18-32, Douglass describes what was an abnormality in those times- a white woman (his master’s wife) taking pity on him, and teaching him to read and write. Douglass’s juxtaposition of his master’s wife’s attitude toward him- which was one of a “pious, warm and tender-hearted” nature, to the way the rest of society perceived him as a “mere chattel” helped highlight just how abnormal her behavior was. This contrast further developed through the fact that to treat a slave as a human being back in those days was “not only wrong, but dangerously so,” yet despite that commonplace assertion found all throughout life back then, his master’s wife still treated Douglass no different than she would treat a friend. This section of the text elaborated upon her kind-hearted nature, which led her to pity and help those worse off than her, no matter how society perceived it. Douglass emphasized this point by using mostly long, well constructed sentences that were filled with figurative language. This syntax helped elaborate upon the tone of newfound hope in this section, by demonstrating his flowing thoughts and feelings, due to his newfound freedoms. This syntax helped emphasize the fact that Douglass had acquired the very knowledge slave owners sought to keep from him, therefore acquiring the power that had been kept from him his whole life.