Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave

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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave: A Masterpiece of Propaganda

When was the last time you were exposed to propaganda? If you think it was more than a day ago, you are probably unaware of what propaganda really is. According to Donna Woolfolk Cross in “Propaganda: How not to be Bamboozled,” propaganda is “simply a means of persuasion” (149). She further notes that we are subjected daily to propaganda in one form or another as advertisers, politicians, and even our friends attempt to persuade us to use their product, vote for them, or adopt their point of view. Propaganda is usually considered in a negative sense. However, when viewing propaganda as mere persuasion, one can readily appreicate that it is
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Although the work was ostensibly written to prove that Douglass had actually been a slave, according to critic Houston A Baker, Jr. “the light of abolitionism is always present” (584). Douglass, working for the abolitionist group, wrote for a specific audience: white Puritan Christians whom the abolitionists hoped to convert to their way of thinking. Thus, what began as a telling of life experiences evolved into a mighty tool of persuasion.

As does all propaganda, Douglass’ Narrative contains certain elements that appeal to the emotions of the reader. This emotional hold allows the writer to sway the opinion of the reader. The various devices employed in his artful promotion of abolitionism are especially worthy of note, for, although a self-taught writer and orator, Douglass makes use of sophisticated elements of persuasive writing.

Most evident of the literary devices he uses is his treatment of language to manipulate or produce an impression. In Douglass’ highly descriptive manner, he makes liberal use of “charged words,” those words which by their connotation “carry a judgment of a person or situation” (Birk and Birk 54). The use of words with unfavorable connotations (charges) emphasizes the negative aspect of a character or situation, whereas the opposite effect is produced by the use of
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