The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass was a heartfelt book of his enduring life. This book gave me a great appreciation for all Frederick has endured, all he overcame and lived through and for what he became. What an inspirational story that helps us all appreciate the life he lived and the impact he has had on millions of people. Douglass stood up for himself and his country to get slavery abolished.
Douglass as a child in Maryland would always have the passion to learn to read and became a leader with his mentality, orphaned as a young child, Frederick Douglass endured overwork, whippings, beatings, prison, the brutality of masters, and additional shocking events. Douglass tells in intriguing detail his journey from an illiterate slave to being freed and becoming a gifted and distinguished author. Douglass fills your mind with vivid descriptions of the hardships and lives of slaves living in the south during the 19th century.
Frederick Douglass was a slave who was born into slavery. He was shuffled around to many places and was rarely ever treated kindly by his owners. Despite it all, he learned to read and write. At first by one of his masters until it was forbidden, then continued on his own. He also went on to teach other slaves how to read and write as well. What sets this narrative apart is Douglass’s ability to analyze the psychology behind slaves, slave owners, and taskmasters. For example, Douglass explains that part of the secret to keeping slaves from rebelling or running away is to convince them that they would be worse off if they were free. One way to do this is to let the slave overindulge in something in order to lose faith in his ability to control himself. Douglass tells us, “For instance, a slave loves molasses; he steals some. His master, in many cases, goes off to town, and buys a large quantity; he returns, takes his whip, and commands the slave to eat the molasses, until the poor fellow is made sick at the very mention of it “(Douglass, 66). The owner taught this slave a lesson in the way that he would destroy himself if he were not careful. This absurdity shall give Douglass more reason to want to end slavery.
Douglass elaborates on the role of Christianity in slavery. Though most modern Christians deny that the Bible endorses slavery, from the perspective of Douglass, there was no crueler master than the jealously religious master, for it was the religious master that could use religion as a barrier to his own conscience and therefore commit more heinous acts than an ordinary conscience would allow . The religious aspect he lived, “His house was the house of prayer. He prayed morning, noon, and night. He very soon distinguished himself among his brothers and was soon made a class-leader. His activity in revivals was great, and he proved himself an instrument in the hands of the church in converting many souls” (Douglass, 47). Douglass recounts the time one of his masters went to a religious revival. Hoping the master would return as a less violent, kinder person, Douglass was dismayed to see his master’s poor attitude and with high hopes yet, making him a worse of slave owner than he had previously been.
At one point in the book Douglass realized he had past the time of being an indentured servant and knew that being a slave for life was his fate. He was treated with little if no respect. Douglass described.” Mr. Severe, the overseer, used to stand by the door of the quarter, armed with a large hickory stick and heavy cow skin, ready to whip anyone who was so unfortunate as not to hear, or, from any other cause, was prevented from being ready to start for the field at the sound of the horn” (Douglass, 22). Douglass illustrated that Mr. Severe had no respect for his slaves but treated them as if they were not human. Many people may think that Douglass story was the exception, but that’s not the case. Many times, throughout the book Douglass spoke of other slave’s punishment as far worse than his own. He even recorded the murder of two slaves in Talbot, Maryland and stated that the slave owner never paid for the crime. Also, that masters weren’t feeding slaves enough, “ He was so. Not to give a slave enough to eat, is regarded as the most aggravated development of meanness even among slaveholders. The rule is, no matter how coarse the food, only let there be enough of it “(Douglass, 45). Douglass noticed many examples of horrible treatment masters gave to slaves. This type of abuse almost seems unfathomable, but it’s reality.
The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass was about Douglass’s experience of slavery in his lifetime. Frederick Douglass grew up without ever knowing his father and was separated from his mother when he was an infant. During his time as a slave, he went through hardships, prejudice, and was also forbidden his natural rights as a human being. He talked his first time trying to escape with other slaves but they got caught. He included how they were whipped endlessly until blood would be rushing down their body by their masters. When Douglass finally escaped from slavery and reached New York he was greeted with kindness. People there were willing to assist him in his wonderful journey to freedom. This narrative focused on the hardships of slavery and the daily life of a slave. How a slave was not treated as equals amongst people but were treated as equals amongst animals and filth. That a slave would be whipped to such an extent that blood would be rushing down their body
Studying the origins of slavery can allow us to see the disgusting progression of the enslavement of human life and stripping of human character. Douglass’ narrative provides the reader with a glimpse into the life of a slave. The emotional state of Douglass was strong, considering the abuse that he underwent during his life. The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is a superb read for anyone wanting to get a firsthand understanding of the life of an American slave.
- Douglass, Frederick, 1818-1895. Narrative Of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. Boston :Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2003.