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Literacy in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass - Essay Example

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This paper revolves around the literacy in the narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.This book is significant since it is a first-hand account of the hardships of slavery. At the time that it was published, many people refused to believe that such a well-written book was the handiwork of a black man. …
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Literacy in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
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Download file to see previous pages The paper discusses the value of narrative. Douglass’s narrative is important since it debunks many of the theories that had currency during the period of slavery and it also, makes clear the importance of literacy in the movement against slavery. The ability to read is continually held up as the magic wand that would enable African-Americans to lead lives of dignity and respect. The instruction that Douglass received from the mistress of the household where he was a slave in the knowledge of language is a turning point in his life. He is able to expand his horizon of knowledge through reading. As is the case with education that was introduced in colonies by colonial powers, this education that Douglass receives makes him want to learn more. Moreover, the knowledge that he receives also awakens in him a thirst for freedom. It is literacy that impels him to question the ways of the world and the organizing structures of southern society that believed in the inherent inferiority of African Americans. The people of these parts were characterized by an urge to retain the structures of slavery even after it had been abolished in the north. This was for economic reasons, since the labor on the cotton plantations that sustained the economy of the old south was almost entirely black. The immense profitability of the plantations depended a great deal, on the almost free labor that was extracted from the black slaves who were also subjected o inhuman torture on the plantations. The need for documentation is what the production of the book stands for. A documentation of the sufferings of the black slaves of America was necessary for a solution to the problem to be found out. This was however, not in the best interests of the people who drew their livelihoods and their luxurious lifestyles by exploiting the poor slaves. This is the reason why Mr. Auld is always critical of the efforts that Mrs. Auld puts in into helping the education of Frederick Douglass. He fears that Douglass too would attempt to escape to the north in search of his freedom. This betrays an understanding of the cruel and exploitative nature of the institution of slavery on the part of white landowners who employed black slaves under conditions that were extremely inhumane. When Mr. Auld denies Douglass the permission to learn how to read, Douglass reflects, 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 (Douglass, 45). The “invaluable instruction” of knowing the value of literacy and the associations of freedom that literacy carried changes the way in which Douglass looks at the manner in which he led his life. The knowledge sows in him the seeds of rebellion and makes him want to escape to the north. Behind this urge is the love for freedom which Douglass feels is a natural impulse on the part of any human being whose senses have not been deadened by the yoke of slavery for ages. This impulse leads him ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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