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Frederick Douglass and Other Slave Narratives

In Douglass’s rhetorical slave narrative, Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass, Douglass uses his story to help inspire people to fight the wrongs of slavery.

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Douglass was born into slavery and his mother died when he was just ten years old. Douglass never had the fortune to meet his father or to know the date of his birth. However, Douglass proved to be a force to be reckoned with when it came to the topic of slavery. While in slavery, most slaves aren’t allowed an education because the slaveholders thought that if slaves were able to receive an education, they would have more insight into the world where slavery didn’t exist.

One of Douglass’s mistresses went against this and taught Douglass how to read and write. Douglass used this knowledge and ability to write, in order to construct his rhetorically powerful narrative to light the fuse of a revolution against the institution of slavery.

As a child, Douglass has begun to understand the wrongs of slavery. Douglass learns to read after his mistress, Mrs. Auld, teaches him the alphabet. After this Douglass has an epiphany that knowledge is power and the key to freedom. But this isn’t the only thing that Douglass learns. He also realizes that slavery is something that most people are unable to do anything about. In this scene, Douglass goes up and down the streets with bread while running his errands and gives bread to the poor little white boys in exchange for knowledge.

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While doing this Douglass states, “I was now about twelve years old, and the thought and the thought of being a slave for life began to bear heavily upon my heart” (Douglass 53). This excerpt from the text shows that Douglass has come to the realization of how his life was supposed to be live and how he was unable to do anything about it. This matters because after this Douglass began to recognize his ability to help abolish the institution of slavery.

While writing his slave narrative, Douglass had many ideas on how to paint pictures in the minds of his readers. One of the ways that Douglass did this was by using pathos. After Douglass writes his story, he introduces to the reader an appendix. In the appendix, Douglass makes clear how he is not against the religion of Christianity. All though, he is against the way that the slaveholders would practice Christianity. He makes this clear when he writes A Parody and states, “Two others oped their iron jaws, And waved their children-stealing paws; There sat their children in gewgaws; By stinking negroes’ backs and maws, They kept up heavenly union” (Douglass 128). This means that slaveholders are buying and selling children for their own benefit and profit, and this also means that the children are being taken from their families. This matters because it oppresses the slaves to a point where they might be unable to work physically or mentally. At these slave auctions, as their loved ones are being taken from them, they might act up in order to get their loved ones back and this behavior could result in severe punishment.

Cite this page

Frederick Douglass and Other Slave Narratives. (2020, Sep 15). Retrieved from

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