Frederick Douglass Theme Analysis
Frederick Douglass Theme Analysis
There are a number of important themes in The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Themes not only occur frequently throughout The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, but are connected in various ways. Inequality and Christianity in terms of its true values within the institution of Slavery are prominent themes in Douglass’s narrative. Primarily, one of the most prominent themes in The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is inequality. Douglass attempts to show how African American slaves are simply human beings like their whites, although there are numerous instances showing how many whites did not accept slaves as human. Frederick Douglass experiences the racial inequities at an early age and states: “I do not remember to have ever met a slave who could tell his birhday.
They seldom come nearer to it than planting-time, harvest-time, cherry-time, spring-time, or fall-time. A want of information concerning my own was a source of unhappiness to me even during childhood. The white children could tell their ages. I could not tell why I ought to be deprived of the same privilege” (Douglass 13). Including the fact that he did not know the details of his background is an important part of the narrative since it shows an early encounter of inequality, but goes on telling the difference between the white and black children. Descriptions of inequality fill the first half of the book revealing the worth of a slave when Douglass states: “We were all ranked together at the valuation. Men and women, old and young, married ands single, were ranked with horses, sheep and swine. There were horses and men, cattle and women, pigs and children, all holding the same rank in the scale of being, and were all subjected to the same narrow examination” (Douglass 51).
Given these points, Douglass wants to appeal to readers’ pathos revealing the humanity of both him and other slaves. However, another prominent theme in The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is Christianity described and functionally differently throughout the text. Based on Douglass’ thoughts within the text, there are real and false versions of religion and the real form of Christianity are practiced by himself as well as those whites who opposed slavery. The role of religion in The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass serves as a symbol as well as narrative functions. The false form of religion, or what Douglass refers to as “the hypocritical Christianity of this land” (Douglass 95) is practiced by whites, like Mr. Covey, and is a complete disgrace to the true ideals of Christianity. In fact, through his discussions of religion readers gets the sense that slavery and true Christianity are opposing forces and one cannot be present while the other exists.
Not only is can the existence of the true version Christianity with slavery impossible, but if real Christianity does the introduction of slavery completely corrupts it. For these reasons, Douglass juxtaposes both forms of Christianity to reveal the hypocrisy of the slaveholding South. Given these points, it is not just a religious or traditionally Christian exposition of the evils of human, but a statement of how ideals can be easily adjusted to fit the current situation. Moreover, Inequality and Christianity are themes exhibited in The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. The themes could all be connected due to the effect of inequality and how it affects the practical, social, and spiritual lives of the characters.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 29 December 2016
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