Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
The American history would not be full without the discussion and analysis of the period of slavery and civil right movements for the racial equality. One of the most outstanding books related to the topic is ‘Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass’, a memoir on the abolition written by former slave and remarkable speaker Frederick Douglass. The book describes the moments from his life and is regarded as one of the most influential works in literature which sheds light on the abolitionist movement in the beginning of the nineteenth century in the United States. The narration is presented in a chronological order starting with Douglass’s birth and ending with his becoming an outstanding fighter against slavery and racial discrimination. There are many topics, themes, and problems discussed in the piece of writing which reflect on the debate about slavery in different contexts. Specifically, the author demonstrates the way white slaveholders strived to perpetuate it by ignoring the issue. To oppose this disregard, knowledge was the only path to freedom as presented by Douglass, the only way to fight the inferiority and lack of awareness of the religious motifs in the emerged inequality.
The language of the work is simple for everyone to understand the essence of the story. Douglass starts with describing the day of his birth, his mother’s death, and many other events which affected him and formed his personality. In the first chapters, the writer shares few memories about his diseased mother and some of her visits. Moreover, the author suspects that his father is a white man. From the very childhood, the boy has to witness cruelty and violence of the white people toward their black slaves. Masters never express compassion to African Americans keeping them in fear and stress. Subsequent chapters testify to the remarkable shifts in Douglass’s life that make him realize the possibility of liberation from slavery and becoming a free man. In particular, the author strongly believes that education and knowledge are two powerful tools which could lead the African Americans to freedom and liberation. This is the moment when Douglass understands the meaning and essence of the word “abolition” and starts his unique journey to the abolition of slavery.
The entire book could be named as the traditional example of rhetoric exposition that ends with the introduction to the subject and arguments against slavery, and a call to action. Apparently, Douglass’s rhetoric strategy is reminiscence of the specific themes which develop sufficient evidence and persuasion for the audience to understand the genuine effects and outcomes of slavery. There are many skeptics and critics of the work because they have failed to believe the uneducated and escaped slave who could write such pieces or the fact that the cruelty described really existed at the time.
To continue, the book is not only about slavery and its detrimental effect on America’s social and cultural development. It is also Douglass’s attempt to raise the patriotic spirit and spread the morale and ethics among the population and encourage them to fight for freedom and equality. His argument about equal treatment of the whites and African Americans is justified because the phenomenon of slavery diminishes the importance of a human being due to its affiliation to a certain race. In fact, there was no specific underpinning to agree with the statement that black people are intellectually inferior. However, at the time, this belief was accepted as a reason for taking care of slaves as those who should be supported and managed in order not to damage the society and protect the white from ignorance and moral degradation. Such an absurd assumption served as a justification for violence and abuse as well as for the desire of the white-dominating society to prevail and take control of the ethnical minority.
Although the major topic of the book refers to the abolition of slavery, there are many other issues discussed. As such, the author places an emphasis on freedom and standards of equal treatment and behavior on the part of the white-dominated society. In the narrative, Douglass changes settings several times switching between Baltimore and Maryland. For the man, Baltimore symbolizes freedom. This is the place of the regulations which do not allow slaveholders to demonstrate violence and cruelty towards their slaves. The city is also represented as the place of great opportunities and open community. This is also the first place where the writer meets white people who are against slavery and who perceive him as a human who has rights to freedom and equality. At the same time, countryside is regarded as the place of increased violence and surveillance among slaves. In this region, the latter have to suffer from pressure and lack of mobility.
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In the light of the concept of freedom, Douglass also focuses on such urgent topics as victimization of black women and treatment of slaves as property. To enlarge on the issue, females are shown not as full-fledged humans, but as images symbolizing abused bodies. For instance, the writer’s aunts appear in scenes that focus on the master’s abuse and violence toward them. The depictions of female’s mangled bodies are aimed at rendering outrage and pain to the readers pointing to the cruelty and illogic of the slavery as institution. Throughout the book, Douglass is concerned with the demonstration of the lack of balance between the facts that black people are human beings, but slave owners refuse to treat them as such; instead, they consider them to be their property. Masters value the slaves only in terms of their effectiveness and productivity. They also consider them as animals or livestock because of the color of the skin. In this respect, Douglass emphasizes that there is no logical reason for such an attitude.
Apart from legal and moral issues, the writer accentuates on the religious explanation believing that slaveholding is a perversion of Christianity. In the course of the book, the author provides the distinction between genuine Christianity and the false one. Douglass explains the fact that masters’ Christian faith is not presented through innate goodness, but a hypocritical demonstration that serves to highlight their brutality. To emphasize the difference, the man refers to the major contradictions between peaceful, charitable tenets of Christianity and immoral, violent actions of slaveholders. For instance, Thomas Auld is the character that serves as the illustration of this theme. Similar to Sophia, Thomas has to undergo a shift from cruel slave to the slave owner. The author demonstrates his brutality and the way it increases because of the previous hard experience. Through the example of Auld, Douglass shows that the church is corrupt because it seeks benefits from slave owners and is ignorant when the case of cruelty, abuse, and violence toward slaves occurs.
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The above-presented examples reveal the detrimental effect of the phenomenon of slavery on humanness of slave owners and slaves. The irresponsible, immortal and corrupt power of slaveholders they enjoy has a negative impact on them and their morality. In this context, the author discusses the concept of slavery as unnatural having no underpinnings and reasons for existence. In the book, Douglass resorts to the depiction of several behavioral patterns displayed by slaveholders revealing the destructive outcomes of the practice. He recalls the number of masters who have resorted to the adultery, violence, and rape of female slaves. This kind of behavior is a threat to such values as family, unity, fidelity, and other moral issues. Douglass’s main illustration of the corruption among slave owners involves Sophia Auld who transforms into demon because of becoming a master. With all the examples presented above, the piece of writing proves that slavery is adverse for the moral growth of the community in general, and its appearance does not contribute to the development of a righteous and morally justified society. Ignorance and knowledge are also among the major topics of the book contributing to the understanding of the writer’s message to the readers.
Douglass’s autobiographic narration is by all means a subjective representation of past events, facts, and reality. However, the history in general is also the subjective description of researchers and theorists. Nonetheless, the comparative analysis of these facts could lead to the development of the clear and genuine depiction of the fact which could further be either justified or withdrawn. There are many other illustrations of slavery, but they are confined to almost similar depictions of violence, ignorance, and cruel treatment of African Americans. The white-dominated society had established a long-lasting system which did not recognize the importance of freedoms and human rights of people in regards to the color of skin. To prove the idea, Buell refers to the narrations and memories of former slaves and historians to describe. Apart from recalling the first-source narrations, the author also resorts to photos and illustrations. Specifically, she argues that “Slave owners wanted their slaves to survive because they were valuable property, but they also did not want to spend money keeping their slaves healthy.”
The researcher also supports the facts of female abuse, slave owners’ violence and unequal treatment present in historic documents and paintings of those times to prove the existence of inferior attitude and ignorance directed towards black people. Furthermore, she mentions Frederick Douglass as an outstanding African American who first strived to liberate the black community from the white-dominating society’s power and superiority. Specifically, Buell asserts, “Frederick Douglass served as a house slave in Baltimore, where he was taught to read by his master’s wife.” The chance of travelling and gaining knowledge and experience allowed Douglass to increase his awareness regarding the degrading power of the slavery in general. Due to such people as Frederick, the resistance movement grew, and black people from all the regions became more conscious of the possibility to organize rebellion and revolution to fight for their rights and freedoms.
In fact, the book presented in the mid-nineteenth century gained positive feedback on the part of many literature critics, although a lot of them were skeptic about the intellectual level and writing skills of slaves who were limited in educational opportunities. Nonetheless, the very existence of the texts, along with the narrative skills of Frederick Douglass, have persuaded the world of critics that African Americans could make a significant contribution to the development of literature and freedom movement in general. Therefore, Frederick’s work could be presented as a tangible piece of literature in terms of anti-slavery slogans for both black community and white people who opposed the phenomenon under consideration. It was essential for retaining the spirit of liberation and abolition of the violence and inappropriate treatment of ethnic minorities. Douglass has managed to make white critics to look at the concept of slavery from another angle. Specifically, the outstanding African American narrators have proved that slavery would never bring positive changes to the American society in terms of cultural, social, and economic development. Furthermore, they have convinced the public that slavery was the denial of certain freedoms and moral concepts in the U.S. community leading to the moral and ethic destruction, as well as impossibility of creating a harmonious society. A deeper investigation of the case has showed even certain superiority of African American society who has excelled in terms of intelligence and aspiration to science, growth, and survival.
The history of slavery has taught American people that the African American movement will never stop because of their strong desire to outperform the s. They are more motivated and enthusiastic to advance in many spheres of social life because of the constant pressure on the part of the white-dominating society. Additionally, gender issues and detrimental effect of slavery is revealed through the inadequate treatment of women who were sexually abused by white owners, and who were the reasons for adultery. The mentioned aspects did not contribute to the normal development of the systems of values and morale. On the contrary, the slave owners were morally degrading, depriving themselves of the possibility to create a strong and righteous society in which there would be specific norms for cultivating transparency, justice, and equal attitude. Educational and cultural opportunities should be affordable to everyone.
In fact, the very idea of slavery emerged and was based on the biological differences among people. However, the reasons go deeper into the desire of each race to govern over the others and prove their superiority. The later displays of such conduct include the times of the reign of the Nazi Germany. Douglass was among the first persons who highlighted the problem and showed that the distinctions based on race are not the determinant for successful development. He did not specify the fact that African Americans were suppressed; on the contrary, he denied the fact that race could become the reason for establishing the hierarchy of needs among people which seems to be illogical and ridiculous. In this respect, the book is a valuable example of the utmost skills and knowledge demonstrated by the representative of the African-American culture. Actually Douglas gave rise to the development of culture and education in which African Americans make significant contribution to the development of the United States in economic and political terms.
In conclusion, the book is an autobiography which narrates about the life of Frederick Douglass, an outstanding African American who was freed from slavery and who managed to become an excellent speaker and the fighter for freedom and equality of the African American community. The author of the book called for the abolition of slavery because it negatively contributed to the development of the American society depriving it of educational, cultural, and moral growth. Violence, cruel attitude, and adultery were among the detrimental consequences of the practice. Douglass had a firm belief that slavery did not provide social and economic advancement for the American community. Rather, it led to the destruction of human values because it was not logical to consider slaves as property because they were the same human beings as white people. Therefore, the narration is the tribute to the black people who managed to contribute to free and liberated development of society leading to the growth of democracy and transparency in the country. The African American leader was a well-educated person whose book was further acknowledged as a significant contribution to the literature.