Frederick Douglass and Richard Wright Essay
Frederick Douglass and Richard Wright
There are many similarities and differences between the two intellectual authors, some of these are deep within, some stand out. The main focus is not only to understand the differences and similarities of the two, but also the qualities and characteristics of these writers consist of. Each author displays qualities that illustrate their identity. It is important that we, as readers, understand the authors’ inspiring and intellectual words that portray who they are on the outside and the inside. I believe the authors show similarity and difference to each other in many ways. Family, desire to learn, and the way they portray people, are some of these ways.
Both Douglass and Wright have the uncontrollable urge to learn; with their experiences, it made it difficult for them to succeed. There are many examples of this struggle. One example would be when Mrs. Auld had to stop teaching little Frederick how to read and write. As he reflects, “The most interesting feature of my life here was learning to read and write, under somewhat marked disadvantages” (Douglass 458). This shows how Frederick really loved reading; he had a huge passion for it. When Mrs. Auld had to refrain from teaching Frederick, it put matters into his own hands. He struggles everyday just to get reading and writing lessons. He eventually has to pay a “tuition fee” to the young white children in his neighborhood for a lesson. This event made times tough for Frederick. Giving up belongings is the only thing he could do to cure his urge. It is sad because the reason Mrs. Auld had to refrain from teaching Richard was because of her husband.
He didn’t approve of slaves to learn. Slavery in general plays an important role in Frederick’s life; one reason is because it was against the law for slaves to read. This made it real hard for Frederick to learn how to read and write, he would be forced to receive his education secretively. If Frederick’s learning were to ever be discovered by the public, punishment would take place and maybe result in death. Although reading wasn’t against the law for Richard, he still had to give away money and steal food to succeed like Frederick. They both had that powerful urge and they would do whatever it took to fulfill their passions. Both Frederick and Richard had to live on their own moral principles for them to succeed in life because they basically just had themselves to engage in reading and writing; they were forced to learn everything on their own.
Douglass and Wright’s family had a huge impact on them because they held them back from learning, tearing apart their sense of identity. “Mrs. Auld was an apt woman, and the advice of her husband and her own experiences soon demonstrated to her entire satisfactory that education and slavery are incompatible with each other” (Douglass 461).
This made it hard for Frederick because he had no one to go to for learning. It is important to remember that for Frederick learning was not just a privilege, it was a passion. A passion is a powerful emotion, such as love, joy, hatred or anger. Taking away reading and writing from Frederick and Richard is like taking away food from starving children. Frederick’s family has an enormous impact on him because they steal this passion away from Frederick. Although Mrs. Auld stopped teaching Frederick, he still stated that she was caring, kind, and warm-hearted person. It took courage for her to teach him, but it also took courage for Frederick to still strive for his goals even if it was against the law. Unlike Frederick, Richard didn’t have a person like Mrs. Auld to teach him to read and write; all he has is himself. On a positive note, Richard did eventually get to attend school, which didn’t come till later on in Frederick’s behalf. Richard’s grandmother hindered his ability to learn because she thought that reading novels was a sin and that the only reading he should have been doing was in the bible.
As crazy as this may be, it was true that Richard’s grandmother thought this way. Like Frederick, Richard’s motivation to fulfill his passion was being chopped into pieces, like your favorite piece of cake on a Sunday morning at church. Richard’s life in the city up north made it very difficult for him to afford anything. Without a family, Richard had to jump from job to job and steal from local places, such as the movie theatre, just to make a few bucks. It is hard to believe that somebody who stole food, was dirt poor, and could barely receive a healthy education would ever become such a great writer. Langston Hughes once said “Hold fast to your dreams” I believe Frederick and Richard both held fast to their dreams. These examples help to reflect on how both Frederick and Richard’s family held them both back from reading, tearing apart who they are at the same time. Forcing them to be someone they are not.
The portrayal of people and events in both books is colored by the author’s feelings. “My life as a Negro in America had led me to feel that the problem of human unity was more important than bread, more important than physical living itself; for I felt that without a common bond uniting men… there could be no living worthy of being called human” (Wright 260). These deep, vast, and profound words show how Richard Wright felt about racism and the people involved in it. He often wondered why people are who they are. This led him into states of confusion and mixed feelings about white people, and even black people. An example would be when Douglass states the differences of Mrs. Auld and him, he being a slave, her being a slave owner, really displayed how he felt about the incompatibility with education and slavery. As he reflects, “My feelings were not the result of any marked cruelty in the treatment I received; they sprung from the consideration of my being a slave at all.
It was slavery-not the mere incidents-that I hated” (Douglass 463).He obviously wasn’t fond of the belief; it showed how he colored her with his feelings and thoughts. Frederick also felt that Mrs. Auld was wonderful, but controlled by society. Society said that slaves couldn’t get an education; sadly, Mrs. Auld had to accept and tolerate the misunderstood beliefs society had. Another example of Richard’s portrayal of people which is colored by his feelings is when Richard portrays the characters Olin and Pease not just as evil people, but as characters in a drama. This exhibits Richard’s deep feelings and thoughts of racist people. Both Richard and Frederick had an atypical outlook on the world; they colored people and events differently than most others would color.
I believe the authors show similarity and differences in one another in many ways. As I stated before three of these ways are: Family, desire for learning, and the way they portray people. Each author contains certain qualities which only few people have. Their views, feelings, and thoughts are comparable and contrastable, not one or the other. Overall these writers are wonderful and inspiring, they learned by experience and “[held] fast to [their] dreams.”