Picture this going through life without the ability to read or write. Without these abilities, it is impossible for a person to be a functioning member of society. In addition, imagine that someone is purposely limiting your knowledge to keep a leash on your independence. Not only is an American slave raised without skills in literacy, he cannot be taught to read unless someone breaks the law. In Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, the reader is given a detailed explanation of why slave masters keep their slaves ignorant and the effects such a strategy has on the slaves’ lives. In his autobiography, Douglass describes how the knowledge he obtains has substantial positive and negative effects on his psyche. He is given renewed passion and hope for freedom while struggling with the burden of enlightenment of his situation. Ultimately, however, education shapes his fate, and he achieves freedom and prominence as an advocate for abolition.
In Frederick Douglass 's first autobiography, "Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass”, he provides a graphic portrayal of his childhood and disturbing experiences as a slave as well as his eventual escape to freedom. Douglass went through physical abuse, starvation, and mental fatigue during his youth, yet through unimaginable circumstances he was able to overcome everything and become a writer, newspaper editor, and most of all one of the most influential abolitionist. In telling his story, Douglass paints a realistic picture of slavery. Douglass 's narrative spells out the slaveholders ' tactics in simple terms while highlighting the moral inefficiencies and the damaging effects of slavery on both the slave and the slaveholder
Douglass uses family relationships, starting with his own birth, to gain the compassion of his target audience. He never knew the identity of his father, but it was "whispered" (Douglass, Narrative, 43) that it was his master. Douglass shocked his Northern white readers when he informed them that slaveholders regularly split slave families for no reason. This upset Northerners because their family units were the foundation of their communities. People couldn't believe that slave children were taken
“Whilst I was saddened by the thought of losing the aid of my kind mistress, I was gladdened by the invaluable instruction which, by the merest accident, I had gained from my master. Though conscious of the difficulty of learning without a teacher, I set out with high hope, and a fixed purpose, at whatever cost of trouble, to learn how to read. The very decided manner with which he spoke, and strove to impress his wife with the evil consequences of giving me instruction, served to convince me that he was deeply sensible of the truths he was uttering. It gave me the best assurance that I might rely with the utmost confidence on the results which, he said, would flow from teaching me to read.” (Douglass, 29-30).
Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, more commonly known as Frederick Douglass, was born around 1818 in Talbot County, Maryland (Hagler). Douglass was one of the most influential human rights leaders and one of the most renowned abolitionists. By learning to read and write around the age of 10, Douglass was able to develop a greater understanding of the world that didn’t revolve around slavery, along with the desire to become a free man and civil rights activist (Hagler). Douglass is now well known for his famous autobiography, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, in which he recalls his many experiences in slavery and the ways he dealt with the daily suffering. In his autobiographical narrative, The Narrative of the Life
“You are a product of your environment.”- W. Clement. The way you were raised, the people who raised you and the community that you are raised in all play a role in who you are as an individual. Constantly throughout time the way an individual defines themselves is based on their roots, the actions or reactions that have built a foundation of who they’re today. Through the lens of a slave later turned into one of the largest faces of abolitionist acts, Frederick Douglass creates “The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass” in which he accounts the community he was raised in and the constant fear instilled within his community as well as his later assimilation into new communities and possibly being responsible for creation of a
Slavery was an embarrassing time in America’s history. In 2016, slavery has become a distant memory. It’s easy for us to admit that slavery is wrong but, in Frederick Douglass’s time no one thought that it was. Frederick Douglass went on to write books and give speeches in hope that one day all slaves would be free. In the book called “The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass”, he attempts to shine light on the American Slave system in the 1800’s.
In "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass", Frederick uses his trials and tribulations to show that mental strength can overcome physical abuse while also showing us how faith is something that one must have to stay true to one’s self. “I was covered with blood. My hair was all clotted with dust and blood. I supposed that I looked like a man that had escaped from a lion’s den” (54). Fredrick Douglass once said reading and writing is the most important, most basic, and the most meaningful way to grasp an understanding of life and express yourself.
The “Narratives of the Life of Frederick Douglass” is the story of Frederick Douglass’ life from the time he was born into slavery, to the time he escaped to freedom in the north. When Douglass wrote this book, slavery was still legal in a large portion of the United States. After Douglass’ escape to freedom and his continuation of his education, he became an abolitionist through his works of literature and speeches. In “The Blessings of Slavery”, by George Fitzhugh he states that southern slaves for the most part are the freest and happiest people in the world. He also goes on to say a number of other things that basically establish that slaves live an easy and good life compared to others. Frederick Douglass’ pure story telling in the “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass” directly goes against any argument for slavery from Fitzhugh, by revealing the harshness of the institution of slavery and the individuals behind it. In each piece of literature both authors also unknowingly touch on topics of early American history such as free labor ideology and paternalism therefore deepening our knowledge of popular understandings during this time period. Douglass refutes Fitzhugh’s pro-slavery argument of the average slave living an ideal life, by disproving early ideas of the free labor system and paternalism through real life encounters of the physical oppression slaves faced on the day to day basis in the forms of inhumane treatment and violence, as well as the true harsh
The theme of individual versus society has been featured in many pieces of literature over time. This conflict can be described as an individual’s struggle against the confines of their culture or society. The individual wrestles with either upholding society’s rules or breaking them. The conflict of the individual versus society is included in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass. In his memoir, Douglass, who was a slave at the time, learned how to read and write. This was deviant from society in that period because slaves were not allowed to read and write. This conflict also appears in real life situations, such as the women’s suffrage movement or the Civil Rights Movement. Members of these movements did things that deviated from societal norms at the time. The theme of the individual versus society is presented as an individual deviating from society’s ideals.
Being a slave in the United States was not uncommon in the 19th century. There were many brutalities of being a slave including physical and spiritual abuse. Slaves were considered property and not as human beings. They were mistreated and kept illiterate. The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave is a autobiography written by Frederick Douglass himself that told of his experiences of being a slave in the United States. He expresses the brutality the slave owners and how he struggled with running away to become a free human being. The themes of his story include: the ignorance of slaves, the treatment of slaves as property, religion used as justification, and the victimization of female slaves.
Given the certain circumstances, literature is a very strong thing in this world. It has the power to shape beliefs of the reader, such as who to love or hate, why people did certain things in the story, or even the understanding of whether someone did the right thing or not. The author has the control of what to think, and it’s like they are the puppet master in the whole operation. Not only do they have the control of the reader’s belief, they get to choose who is given power, and gets to shape people’s beliefs in the story itself. It’s not also positive sometimes either. As shown, in literature, power can be given to individuals whose use it to negativity shape people’s beliefs.
The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass perfectly depicts the dreadful experience of living in slavery. From being unsure of the day he was born, to his first beating from a master, to the brutal and exhausting work, and to the joyous day he was freed. Besides describing his experience as a slave, he describes the toll slavery had on the masters and families of slaves. Frederick Douglass also includes his view of education in relation to freedom. The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is a good excerpt from The Classic Slave Narratives that can be considered a good historical resource due to the historical content it provides about slavery.
Patrick Henry once said, “give me liberty, or give me death.” In the eyes of Frederick Douglass and countless others enslaved, this took on a much deeper meaning to them. “It was doubtful liberty at most, and almost certain death is we failed.”  Frederick Douglass was one of the most commonly known slaves to have existed. Slavery has been around since the 1700s, but the subject of slavery is controversial because it not only includes information written from former slaves, but information acquired from historians. The question that has with stood the test of time is, “are these encounters that have been written out, exaggerated or the whole truth and nothing but the truth?” In the early 1800’s Frederick Douglass was born in Tuckahoe, Maryland, and grew up on Colonial Edward Lloyd’s plantation. Children would be separated from their mothers before they were twelve months in age-Frederick too was separated from his mother. As a result of entering slave-hood at an early age, he did not know his birthdate (like most slaves). Frederick Douglass’s account on slavery could be seen as biased as a result of first hand experiences with being held as a slave. Although, Douglass is able to be direct our thoughts to these experiences in such a light, you feel as if you are witnessing it happen right before you. Because of Douglass’s quest for freedom, his daring attitude, and determination to learn, he shows us the way through American Slavery in his eyes. Douglass provides
In Frederick Douglass’s narrative, Frederick Douglass struggles to free himself mentally and physically from being a slave, he also struggles with the lack of knowledge surrounding his family and his parents, and he also struggles with the reality of being a slave. Douglass struggles to save money to escape to New York City, in the end; he ends up marrying a free black woman and becomes a speaker for the Anti-Slavery Society.