Rhetorical Analysis of Frederick Douglass's "How I Learned to Read and Write"

1458 Words Mar 10th, 2014 6 Pages
Rhetorical Analysis of Douglass

In the excerpt “Learning to Read and Write”, Frederick Douglass talks about his experiences in slavery living in his masters house and his struggle to learn how to read and write. Frederick Douglass was an African American social reformer, orator, writer, and statesman. Some of his other writings include “The Heroic Slave”, “My Bondage and My Freedom”, and “Life and Times of Frederick Douglass”. In this excerpt, Frederick Douglass uses an empathic tone, imagery, certain verb choice, contrast, and metaphors to inform African Americans of how important it is to learn to read and write and also to inform a white American audience of the evils of slavery. I find Frederick Douglass to
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As far as the white audience goes, he likely chose this audience to make slave owners and non-slave owners look at slavery a different way. The way he portrays slavery in my eyes is almost as a force that turned this woman (his mistress) into something that she is not. It makes slavery look like a disease spread on white Americans that makes them horrible people. Another audience that might be included are poor white children and/or teenagers. Throughout the excerpt, Douglass explains how he would use the poor white children as instructors to teach him how to read and write in exchange for food. In the excerpt he writes “Have not I as good a right to be free as you have?" These words used to trouble them; they would express for me the liveliest sympathy…” He could have chosen this audience because he knows that the children hold the future. This would be his way of convincing the younger kids to look down upon slavery. That could change the lives of African Americans forever. There could be a number of different audiences that Frederick Douglass was referring to, but the least likely would be extremely racist slave owners. Racist slave owners probably wouldn’t even pick up something an African American wrote, let alone care what he had to say. The Logos in this excerpt has a structure of Frederick Douglass’s events going in chronological order. He opens this