Master And Slave, Equal

Better Essays
Vanya Vegner
Mr. Hebert
D-Block English
23 September 2015
Master and slave, equal in their crudeness. “To subjugate another is to subjugate yourself.” So wrote Elbert Hubbard, distinguished American writer and philosopher, on the topic of slavery, and Frederick Douglass would agree. Slavery is an institution built on the domination and bloody brutalization of human beings, among the tools of which is the dehumanization of its subjects to the mental state of beasts through frequent whipping, demoralization, starvation and psychological pressure. But as masters exercise their abominable power over their slaves, they themselves become as brutal as those they seek to control, further spreading the pestilence of slavery.
Slavery’s effects on
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To support this, Douglass uses animal comparisons to help the audience picture the bestial conditions in which the children are “fed”. He writes: “Our food was coarse cornmeal boiled. This was called mush. It was put into a large wooden tray or trough, and set down upon the ground. The children were then called, like so many pigs, and like so many pigs they would come and devour the mush; some with oyster shells, others with pieces of shingle, some with naked hands, and none with spoons.”(Douglass 16) As if this early indoctrination isn’t bad enough, at ten years old the children are sent to the fields, where they experience the full wrath and cruelty of the overseers, the whips, shouts and insults. From birth, they are kept in ignorance and misinformation because “a content slave [is] a thoughtless one.”(Douglass 58) In fact, slaves are kept in such arduous perpetual labor and hunger that the slave is too worried about his survival to think like a human. Drawing the parallels between this state and the primitive, non-cognizant state of animals, one can see in full the reduction of humans to beasts. But inducing this state takes cruelty, deliberate dispensation of injustice and extreme disregard for the value of life, equality and freedom, which are the values that slaveholders came to exemplify the longer they held slaves. The more slaveholders dehumanized and primitivized their slaves, the more they reduced their own humanity. As Douglass’s experiences show,
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