American Literature-ENG 201-40

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Literary Analysis Essay 2

"This piece was my greatest challenge because I had a hard time finding my focus. I found myself concentrationg on the biographies of Frederick Douglass. My concentration should have been more on the struggle of overcomming slavery through him learning to read. This would be one paper that I would try to do differently."

Frederick Douglass

In Frederick Douglass narratives he demonstrates how white slave owners continued slavery by keeping their slaves ignorant. During the era in which Douglass wrote his narratives, it was believed that slavery was a state of being natural. It was also the belief that blacks were not capable of functioning in a general society and since this was believed, blacks were kept as workers for whites. Douglass’ narrative also enlightens all types of plans and measures the whites used to gain and keep power over their slaves from the time they were born, until they were adults or dead. In Douglass’ narratives will learn how slave owners kept their slaves ignorant of key facts in relation to themselves, such as their birth dates and their paternity. This imposed ignorance took from slave children their natural sense of individual identity. This imposition prohibited slave children a learning right, because whites seriously felt literacy would give blacks a sense of self-reliance and capability and deep within they felt assured that; if the slaves were kept illiterate, the white Southerners maintain control over the rest of America’s knowledge regarding slavery.

Hugh Auld gave Douglass the insight that knowledge was the key to being free. Auld’s wife was forbidden by him to teach Douglass to read and write because being educated would ruin slaves. Once Douglass realized the strategy that whites were using to keep blacks as slaves and by which blacks might free themselves, Douglass used the strategy to educate and free him and to make a way possible for all slaves to become free.

Douglass also demonstrates in his narratives that slaveholding doesn’t only damage the slaves, but their owners are damaged too. This damage was done by the unpredictable and dishonest influence that slave owners enjoyed over their slaves. Douglass describes in his narratives and gives a picture of typical behavior patterns of slave-owners, depicting the damaging effects of slavery. Within his narratives he also give facts on how many slave-owning men have been lured to adultery and rape and fathering children with their female slaves. On many occasions concerning adultery and rape the unity of the slave owner’s family were threaten and sometimes caused the slave-owner wife to become hostile with the slaves.

In Douglass’s narrative he builds up a difference between true Christianity and false Christianity in relation to whites. In his appendix, he gives clearness to the point, calling the former “the Christianity of Christ” and the latter “the Christianity of this land.” He also showed that with slave owners Christianity is not proof of their natural goodness, but just an insincere show that serves to support their self-satisfying cruelty. He also points to the major challenge between the charitable, peaceful tenets of Christianity and the violent, immoral actions of slave owners. This part of his narrative is centered on his slave owners, Thomas and Lucretia Auld.

Throughout his narrative, he is concerned with showing the disagreement between the fact that slaves are human beings and the fact that slave owners treat them as property. He also illustrates how slave-owners often pass slaves between owners, despite the fact of where the slaves’ families are. There’s also a depiction of how slave owner, treat their slaves as property and animals.

Literacy played an important role in promoting American history, but it also supported Douglass’ narrative. Douglas succeeded in learning to read from white children, and by observation of writings of the men with whom he admired. Although, slavery was an issue throughout the course of history Douglass did not subject himself to it. Frederick Douglass and his narrative, we were able to see slavery from his mental state. Frederick Douglass’ Narrative of his life is about his experiences both during and following his life as a slave. His narratives help him to escape slavery and become an abolitionist leader as well. Douglass worked hard his whole life on self-improvement. Douglass came to terms with being a proud black American slave man.

Work Cited Douglass.Retrieved 5 July 2006
Foner, Philip Sheldon. The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass. New York: International Publishers, 1950

Weidt, Maryann N. Voice of Freedom: a Story about Frederick Douglass. Washington: Lerner Publications, 2001.

Douglass, Fedreick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Paul Lauter. 5th ed. Vol A . 1889-1940


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