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A Major Theme of Slavery in The Narrative of The Life of Frederick Douglass

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The narrative on the Life of Frederick Douglass is all about the harassment Frederick experiences before he escapes to freedom. In the book, Douglass informs the reader of the information about brutality pain and humiliation during the slavery period. He reveals the cruelty of both victims and perpetrators. As one of the slaves, Douglass witnessed all forms of brutality the black people faced due to their color. He is keen to narrate on the discomfort and suffering, and he fought back for freedom by attaining education. However, the form of education offered by their masters was not of help. The masters feared that if slaves were educated, it would become hard to be managed. The paper acknowledges the nature of enslavement, negative of slavery, difference’s experiences of slaves in Baltimore and Maryland, and surprises made by Frederick Douglass.

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Violence and Preservation of Slavery

Douglass, in the book, believed that although he was as a slave, his entire mind was not enslaved. He reveals that slavery created a lot of violence between the masters and slaves. The white people did not only physically dominate the slaves but also controlled slaves by creating fear and refusing to provide an appropriate education. The battle he experienced with Mr. Convey regenerate freedom and recuperated the sense of his manhood. Douglass planned his first escape together with other four colleagues in 1836. He explained how they were allowed to travel to Chesapeake Bay, although one of the slave people betrayed them, and they were arrested for two years. Notably, Douglass explains the abuse and violent treatment of slaves as some of the difficulties faced by slaves. He witnessed even to his family members’ violence. For instance, his aunt was beaten by Captain Antony without and reservation.” I have often been awakened at the dawn of the day by the most heart-rending ahreks of my aunt”. Their masters used violence as a way of pleasure without considering the mental and physical suffering experienced by the slaves. The harassment of the slaves did not only affect the affected individual but the surrounding environment. During the slavery period, labor was carried out without any rewards, followed by corporal punishment that resulted from mistakes done by the slaves. Nonetheless, Douglass believed that instead of being fearful, he tried to overcome the minds of their master by the use of his knowledge that was unexpected and condemned.

Douglass, in his book, has depicted many memorable events that resulted in opposition to the slave master. According to the American history on slavery, “White masters had virtually unlimited powers both physical and legal, over the slaves”. The master treated slaves as being animals who worked their plantations farms. Young children faced difficulties since their mothers were sold to other neighborhood slaveholders. Also, women were treated as concubines, and the masters had no respect for them and forced to live in quarters in ordinary beds and on damp floors. According to Fredrick, slaves were treated as part of properties owned by the masters, and this notion made Fredrick hate slavery. The majority of them were denied food in some instances by the masters despite the hard work in the farm plantations.

In the book, Douglass reveals that slavery had a different perception in various locations. For instance, he was surprised by what he found in New Bedford. In his expectations, he thought that people in the North have no difference in his original homeland. He assumed that people who own slaves were comfortable and rich. However, in New Bedford, things were different in that they were large and crowded warehouses of commodities and clean houses. Individuals here behaved in proper manners, hardworking, and intelligent. Residents were happy and healthy compared to their counterparts in Maryland. The place where Douglass resided in the Northern part, the owner, was not a slave owner or wealthy, but was religious, moral, and politically informed. However, things in the North part were not also perfect since he experienced prejudice in his calking business, and he finds difficulties in landing into a new job. It was clear that the North part was not free from discrimination, but it stands out as a more pleasant place to dwell. Douglass was among the chosen slave children to go and lives in Baltimore, and here he lived with Hugh Auld. The place was one of the densely populated, and residents worked in the shipbuilding and maritime. Slaves were treated differently here in Baltimore, and slavery was close to freedom. He had enough food, clothing, and more other privileges that were rare to find in rural areas. The masters also never wanted the reputation of being termed as being cruel, and therefore they did not involve in any form of cruelty due fear of public shame. The majority of the slaves were treated well as compared to those in plantations.

Douglass lived in Hugh’s place for seven years, and it’s from here he learned how to write. He learned it without having a regular teacher since his mistress was not allowed to give more instructions. In his first meeting, with the mistress, Douglass viewed her transformation by use of a heavy heart. Also, she treated him as a human being and provided all the required basic needs. Notably, in Hugh’s place was not able to access newspaper, but his desire to read and write triumphed him. His plan to get an education was centered when he started making friends with poor white children of Baltimore, and with time, he could little. He could complete his chores and hurriedly go to meet with his new friends. In most cases, he could give them bread since he was better off than the majority of them. The idea of him being a slave attracted the young new friends. Douglass learned how to read and writes through friendship bribery and cunning. He learned how to write by critically observing letters of the young Thomas Aulds copybooks. Columbian Orator was one of the influential early texts that Fredrick used to perfect his reading and writing skills. Also, he started to have a deep understanding of abolition, and the concept had earlier affected his consciousness.

Negative Impacts of Slavery

Douglass, throughout the book, has elaborated slavery was associated with a lot of difficulties. According to him, slavery hardens people’s lives, taught them to hate and even harms instead of embracing respect and love for other people. For instance, he explained how Mr. Plummer was a miserable drunkard and a savage monster. “I saw more clearly than ever the brutalizing effects of slavery upon both slaveholders and slaves.” People typically think about the positive impacts of slavery on the slaveholder, such as getting cheap labor but forget on the adverse effects of slave people such as living in harsh conditions. In the book, Fredrick is concerned with Thomas Auld, Edward Covey, and Sophia Auld as some of the Masters in explaining the negative impacts of slavery. For instance, Thomas Auld was a poor man, and with time he possessed all the slaves by marriage. He was a cruel and coward slaveholder and did not have the capability of managing all his slaves. Nonetheless, he concentrated on power and even wished to identify as the master by his slaves.

In the book, slavery was a system that was termed to be detestable and disgusting. Slavery destroyed people’s fate of individuals and persecuted them both mentally and physically. Slaves experience rape cases from their masters and also did not allow slaves to marry in peace. Also, they were obliged to cheat about their situations, and this makes them unhappy and unsatisfied. Moreover, slavery intoxicated the system used in Maryland. Fredrick heavily criticized the slaveholders who came from the South, who used Christianity to justify the bondage of slave people. In his statement, Fredrick referred Mr. Covey, “professor of religious class leader, the pious soul in the Methodist church”. Slavery did not have negative impacts on the slaves only but also to the slaveholders whereby soon after people become enlightened, being educated, they were economically affected.” Thus is slavery the enemy of both the slave and the slaveholder”. The slaveholders were affected by the so-called peculiar institution and eventually fell prey to vices of humanity.

Douglass was keen to indicate in his book that the slaveholder used religion as a way of exploiting the slaves. The slave’s songs were referred to as the prayers, and they represented part of communion with God. In the book, Douglass indicated that he decided to move to Baltimore as a result of divine intervention. Also, the majority of slaves embraced the biblical stories on the struggles the Israel people faced. Douglass’s book is a man of surprises, and throughout his narrative, he was so determined and dedicated to the issue of slavery. What surprises most is how he learned to read and write by bribing poor white children with bread. Also, on his planned escaped where they were sentenced for two years because of one slave who revealed their hidden agenda. It is clear that some of the slaves were not able to move out of slavery.

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In summing up, Fredrick Douglass can be termed as self-educated individual and his book expose the atrocities of slavery. He elaborated on the violence associated with slavery, such as physical beatings, where he explained how his master beat his aunt. Also, on the negative impacts of slavery whereby both slave and slaveholders experiences difficulties. Moreover, Douglass revealed the nature of slaves both in rural and urban areas. Slaves who worked in the plantation faced a lot of challenges in terms of housing, food, and corporal punishment. However, in the urban slaves were treated like human beings and provided with the basic needs, lastly, through personal experience, how education helped him to move out of slavery. Also, the book shows how he lived a complete honesty life intending to help other people to become enlightened and understand the concept of slavery and its consequences.

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