The Dehumanization Process in the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave

2204 Words 9 Pages
The Dehumanization Process in the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave

Throughout American history, minority groups were victims of American governmental policies, and these policies made them vulnerable to barbaric and inhumane treatment at the hands of white Americans. American slavery is a telling example of a government sanctioned institution that victimized and oppressed a race of people by indoctrinating and encouraging enslavement, racism and abuse. This institution is injurious to slaves and slave holders alike because American society, especially in the south, underwent a dehumanization process in order to implement the harsh and inhumane doctrine. In the episodic autobiography Narrative of the
…show more content…
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.

To begin, Douglass uses imagery to describe the heart wrenching experience of a slave child on a plantation. Without adequate food or clothing, slave children begin the process of dehumanization. Denied blankets or beds, the children slept on the cold and damp floor and Douglass describes with horrid detail his “feet [being] so cracked with the frost, that the pen which [he is] writing might be laid in the gashes”(1836). This painful description creates empathy for a mistreated child whose only “crime” results from his birth to a black mother. In the most dehumanizing comparison, Douglass uses animal imagery to reveal the conditions and manner in which the children are fed. Douglass writes:

Our food was
Open Document