In Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Douglass explains, in great detail, how slave master would use a variety of methods to dehumanize slaves located on their plantation. These methods involved both severe physical and psychological trauma. Nevertheless, Douglass remains diligent and finds a way to resist the harsh reality of being a slave. Because of his immovable desire to acquire knowledge to his fighting encounter with Mr. Covey, these experiences help shape Douglass to be the archetype of what it means to go from slavery to freedom. This essay will highlight the physical and psychological tactics used on slaves. In addition, the aspect of how Douglass resists the
Douglass uses vivid imagery to depict the gruesome and ungodly nature of slavery. For example, in chapter six, Douglass describes the death of his grandmother “…She stands-she sits-she staggers-she falls-she groans-she dies-and there are none of her children or grandchildren present, to wipe from her wrinkled brow the cold sweat of death…” (59) This quote helps the reader imagine the grandmothers death and how helpless she felt. The fact that the slaveholders made it impossible for her children to be there when she died, contributes to the inhumane image Douglass has already been painting throughout the
In the Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass: an American Slave, written by himself, the author argues that slaves are treated no better than, sometimes worse, than livestock. Douglass supports his claim by demonstrating how the slaves were forced to eat out of a trough like pigs and second, shows how hard they were working, like animals. The author’s purpose is to show the lifestyle of an American slave in order to appeal to people’s emotions to show people, from a slave’s perspective, what slavery is really like. Based on the harsh descriptions of his life, Douglass is writing to abolitionist and other people that would sympathize and abolish slavery.
In chapter 5, Douglass begins his narrative to discuss the animal-like, inhuman treatment he received from his past slaveowner. Douglass does this by his use of diction and imagery throughout chapter 5. For example, he says “I suffered much from hunger, but much more from cold” (34). The diction and imagery Douglass uses in these sentences helps discuss the purpose of inhumanity by describing how the slaves were treated horribly. They were not given enough food and they were not given the proper amount of clothing need to stay warm in the frigid winter. The effect of this powerful quotes conveys a doleful tone that teaches the audience how many slaves, including Douglass, had suffered. Another example would be when he writes “The children were then called, like so many pigs, and like so many pigs, they would come and devour the mush…” (34). This quotes diction and imagery helps exhibit the purpose of animal-like, treatment by comparing the slave children as pigs. Douglass also does this by describing the food that they were given, like mush. The simile that Douglass uses effects the audience in that it conveys a sense of disturbance and gives the reader a clear picture of what and how the slave were forced to eat. These quotes help forecast Douglass’s purpose of the slaves being
This is the start of the process that extracts a brute from a child. Throughout the narrative Douglass uses the word 'brute', to form the image that slaves were nothing more than beasts. This is only one of the numerous examples in which Douglass creates the image of a dehumanized slave though the use of his vocabulary. Douglass states, "I was broken in body, soul, and spirit. My natural elasticity was crushed, my intellect languished, the disposition to read departed, the cheerful spark that lingered about my eye died; the dark night of slavery closed in upon me; and behold a man transformed into a brute!" (Douglass 73). Douglass makes it clear to the reader that slavery degrades a man, and makes him loose his manhood. According to Douglass, slavery transformed humans into beasts. Douglass was no longer a man; he was in every essence an animal transformed by the brutality of slavery into a mindless worker. Divine further supports the idea by saying, "The plantation was seen as a sort of asylum providing guidance and care for a race that could not look after itself" (Divine 237). Slavery as an institution created animals from men; it bleeds the humanity from humans and formed beasts in it's wake that need nothing but a comparatively small amount of cultivation to make him an ornament to society and a blessing to his race. By the law of the land, by the voice of the people, by the terms of the slave code, he was only a piece of property, a beast
Greed is the undertone upon which Douglass states that slavery “corrupted souls” and “turned good people into bad people.” The institution of slavery was based on the ultimate control and power over a human to whom he is stripped of all of his identity and becomes sub-human. Consequently, the institution forces slave holders had to buy into this concept in order to justify any and all cruelty toward slaves. Douglas states “Slave holders resort to all kinds of cruelty” and later describes various ways of torture and punishment “all are in requisition to keep the slave in his condition as a slave in the United States” (Douglass 272). Slave holders showed no mercy when reprimanding slaves. The brutality and cruelty of these punishments were more of a statement of power and control and often times the punishment was worse than the offense.
Frederick Douglass focuses mostly on appealing emotionally to pathos through the use of imagery. He writes, “there were no beds given the slaves, unless one coarse blanket be considered such.” He again appeals to pathos when describing the eating portions. Douglass explains the eating troughs used for children and says “few left the trough satisfied.” Douglass illustrates the cruel conditions slaves faced, from the bare sleeping quarters to the harsh whippings received. This effects the reader by helping them visualize the conditions the slaves were placed in. He chose to do this to inform those who weren’t aware of what was happening inside the gated properties. Douglass next establishes credibility through the use of ethos. He begins his narrative by giving background information and stating that he has “no accurate knowledge” of his age. Douglass implies that he can be trusted because of his own personal experience.
Douglass not only describes slaves as animals, but he describes slave treatment as if they were animals to further describe the horrendous lives of slaves. Slaves were fed food in troughs (36). By choosing the word “trough”, Douglass emphasizes the poor treatment of slaves; slaves were not good enough to be fed from bowls or plates, they were no better than animals. Douglass also compares women on the plantations to breeding animals. Women were expected to reproduce in order to increase their masters’ wealth, not to create a family. Women and children were separated before the child was a year old so they would not form familial bonds with one another. When Douglass’ own mother died, he compared it to a stranger dying because he had no connection with her (18). Slaves were not only thought of animals, but also fostered as animals. Douglass describes Mr. Covey as a “nigger-breaker”, Douglass was broken in “body, soul, and spirit” by
In Fredrick Douglass’s a narrative, Narrative of The Life of Fredrick Douglass, an American Slave, he narrates an account of his experiences in the dehumanizing institution of slavery. This American institution was strategically formatted to quench any resemblance of human dignity. Throughout, the narration of his life Fredrick Douglas, meticulously illustrates the methodical process that contributed to the perpetual state of slavery. In his narration Douglass, denounces the idea that slaves are inferior to their masters but rather, it’s the dehumanizing process that constructs this erroneous theory. Ultimately, the desires of his consciousness for knowledge ferociously leads him to mental and physical pursuit of his emancipation.
Douglass was quick to show the first act of how a slaves were dehumanized. Children were separated from their mothers at very young ages ; “ Frequently, before the child has reached its twelfth month, its mother is taken from it, and hired out on some farm a considerable distance off, and the child is placed under the care of an old woman, too old for field labor, “ ( Douglass, 2). This act is like what happens to animals, they are taken away from their mothers at young ages so they can adapt to their new environments while they are still young, much like what happened to the slaves. Like Frederick many of the slaves did not even know their mothers that well because they only got to see them a few times in their whole lifetime. Without the slaves knowing their backgrounds, they did not tend to know their actual ages.
Starting from a slave’s birth, this cruel process leads to a continuous cycle of abuse, neglect, and inhumane treatment. To some extent, slave holders succeed because they keep most slaves so concerned with survival that they have no time or energy to consider freedom. This is particularly true for plantation slaves where the conditions of slave life are the most difficult and challenging. However, slave holders fail to realize the damage they inadvertently inflict on themselves by upholding slavery and enforcing these austere laws and attitudes.
When Douglass was a young boy, he witnessed for the first time a slave getting whipped, Douglass's first encounter was of extreme cruelty that slaveholders can have. The slave receiving the whipping is Douglass' Aunt Hester. By witnessing this Douglass sees that slaves are treated no better than animals, they lived in continuous fear of being beaten if they did not behave. The issue of freedom is here as well. Do these animals have more freedom then themselves, it seems so. The slave owners dehumanized the slaves with the power of the whip, showing the horrors of traditional slavery and property they have over slaves.
In his youth, Douglass felt inferior to other boys his age because of his slave status. Frederick Douglass was often whipped by his masters and suffered from hunger and cold. As an outcome from being a child and not old enough to work in fields yet, Douglass often had leisure time which include keeping Master Daniel Lloyd company. To his advantage as the master’s son being attached to him, he would not let Douglass be “made fun of by older kids and would shares his sweets with him” (Douglass, 5). Even as child, Douglass knew he would never be able to enjoy life like his master’s son. He knew slaves were not given the same amount of freedom like citizens or indentured servants. Slaves were not permitted by law to read or write. A slave could not go anywhere with a written consent form from his or her master. There were no laws that stop a white slave owner from abusing their African slaves. The slaves worked more intensive labor for less benefits of an indentured servant because of the law. A slave would cook and clean, tend crops, and do other assignments from dawn to dusk (Sewall, The Sin of Slaveholding, 3). These hours were much longer than an indentured servant. Although the son was the same age as him, Douglass would be always a lower status than him.
Dehumanization can be described as the deprivation of an individual’s control over their actions and stripping them of their basic human rights and qualities. The act of dehumanization transpired in the 1800s when amputation, abuse, and other brutal means of punishment became a way to control slaves, leaving physical and physiological trauma on both the slave and the slaveholder. The relationship of the master and the slave is criticized and questioned continually as it is both wrong and unjust in society. The Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass, an American
The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave details the progression of a slave to a man, and thus, the formation of his identity. The narrative functions as a persuasive essay, written in the hopes that it would successfully lead to “hastening the glad day of deliverance to the millions of [his] brethren in bonds” (Douglass 331). As an institution, slavery endeavored to reduce the men, women, and children “in bonds” to a state less than human. The slave identity, according to the institution of slavery, was not to be that of a rational, self forming, equal human being, but rather, a human animal whose purpose is to work and obey the whims of their “master.” For these reasons, Douglass articulates a distinction