Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass - Essay Example

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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass Frederick Douglass is one of the most influential black American reformers of the nineteenth century who fought for the abolition of slavery and made countless efforts to end racial discrimination…
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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
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Download file to see previous pages In the opening sentences of his narrative, Douglass stated the fact that slave owners thought of slaves as animals (Douglass, 47). It was not just the slave owners who treated their slaves as animals but the slaves themselves also had the perception about themselves. The access to reading opened a new world for Douglass and casted a new light on the world he was already living. The dawning of self-consciousness was the outcome of the acquisition of reading skills, which made him capable to think independently. He also stated that learning to read was a curse rather than a blessing because after gaining knowledge he was able to see his miserable condition with no remedy to get out of it (Douglass, 84). Douglass occasional regrets regarding his wretched condition were due to the knowledge that self-education afforded him and was the main source to change his status from a slave. The ability to read and write was important in the eyes of Douglass because it was through this ability he was able to describe his story in his own words and refuted the common misconception that slaves were not capable enough to communicate through the standard conventions of American literature. The ability to fully understand his environment and comprehend the hopelessness of the situation faced by him and other slaves was only because of the literacy which was the greatest tool to work for the freedom of slaves. This revolutionary incident of Douglass was the turning point in his career as a slave which revived a wave of manhood in his heart (Douglass, 113). There are no illusions that education plays a key role in setting slaves free because it equips them with the skills and knowledge to improve their lives. It helps in articulating the injustice caused by the slavery and awakens the consciousness to fight against abolition. In case of Frederick Douglass, he was able to reveal the strategy of his master, Hugh Auld, about how he used to manage to keep blacks as slaves and by which blacks would be able to free themselves. This quote from his narration clearly depicts the importance of learning: “If you teach that nigger how to read, there would be no keeping him. It would forever unfit him to be a slave. He would at once become unmanageable, and of no value to his master” (Douglass, 49). These ironic words were delivered to the Mistress, wife of Auld, who taught Douglass how to read and was strictly forbidden because they believed that education ruins slaves. The transformation of a kind-hearted woman to a harsh mistress made him realize that the institution of slavery has a major effect on well-intentioned people as well (Douglass, 82). This means that illiteracy and ignorance were the most important elements in the subjugation of slaves. The desire to gain more knowledge was not only a constant battle for Douglass as it was unlawful to teach a slave to read and had to be a secretive process (Douglass, 20). Douglas further said that his mistress gave him the start by teaching the alphabets and nothing was so powerful to prevent him from learning (Douglass, 81). The harsh attitude of mistress and vigilance to stop Douglass from seeking knowledge by many means made him clear that an educated slave is a dangerous notion for the masters. It can be noticed that when it comes to education, masters and slaves are inherently opposite to each other. The thing that changed the whole life ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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Critical Essay on Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
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