Frederick Douglass has finally managed to run away from one of his masters to become a free slave, but yet he feels fear and paranoia. As he runs away, he contemplates all the possibilities of him getting caught by slaveholders or even turned in by his own kind. And it upsets him having to pass all the houses and food, but he has no shelter and starves with no food. This in fact heightens the intensity of his fear and paranoia because he is more likely to be caught with no where to hide and having no energy to run because he is starving. In The Narrative Life of Frederick Douglass, he utilizes things such as parallel syntactic structure, paradoxes, figurative language, and caesuras to help portray his feeling of built up unease and terror.
Frederick Douglass really takes advantage of parallel syntactic structure to compare his situation of being run away to slaves. Frederick tries to get us to feel empathy in his current condition, while also speaking of the slaves. He says “-wanting shelter and no one to give it-wanting bread, and no money to buy it […]” (Douglass 137). This seems more difficult to live with than having somewhat of shelter and having a bit of food, rather than Douglass having neither. He gets readers to question such things as, would one turn in a man in such need as? Would one understand more if one knew how it was to be in my condition? And this gets people to understand his despair and distress.
Douglass uses his paradoxes in a creative way. Where he uses parallel syntactic structure, he also utilizes paradoxes. On page 137, where he says “-wanting shelter and no one to give it-wanting bread, and no money to buy it […]” (Douglass). His use of contradiction is quite effective because it is hard to have all the things you want and need in one’s face, but one can not have it. For example, if a person wanted a new bike and one was just sitting there in their house waiting for them to take it, but their father was standing next to it and if he saw them touch it they would be grounded. And the bike was just sitting there taunting them. The paradoxes get people to understand how irritating it is to be passing by all these necessities stay you need to live and survive, taunting you as you pass by.
While Douglass is running away, he relates slaves and hunting slaveholders, using figurative language, to wild beast and himself to the helpless prey. On page 136, Douglass says “…as hideous crocodiles seize upon his prey!” He says this because he feels so defenseless that he feels like a little animal going to be eaten. With all the slaveholders and there guns and all slaves that might turn him in, he doesn’t really stand a chance with no where to hide and running out of energy. In addition, on page 137 he says “…famished fugitive is only equaled by that with which monsters of the deep swallow up the helpless fish upon which they subsist,” In this he basically saying it is only a matter of time before they find him and take him in. He can’t really run from them with how hungry he is, he has no energy and no hope that he could out run them if he tried.
On pages 136 and 137, caesuras are applied multiple times throughout these pages to conduct a sense of his worry and anguish. He says like “…in total darkness as to what to do, where to go, or where to stay -perfectly helpless both as to the means of defense and means of escape-“ (Douglass 137) The breaks leave you kind of hanging because you don’t know if at the end of the next break he could be caught or even shot. And that is where the worry builds because while he was running away he didn’t either if at any second a slave would show up and turn him in. Or a slaveholder would shoot him from behind a tree. So a person really get into his shoes as a run away slave and sort of feel what it is like.
Frederick Douglass really utilized these devices well. They all help build the reader to become like a fugitive slave just as he was. Relating slave and slaveholders to animals, and putting all the caesuras help the reader feel all the unease he felt because it was exactly how he was feeling. You would think at first that he was free now, and all his problems were gone yet they are still there. All the devices he used really help you come to that conclusion.
Courtney from Study Moose
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