Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: Annotations and Analysis

Chapter 1

Device: Diction and Tone

Assertion: The brutality of slavery

Textual Evidence to Prove Assertion

“I have two masters….I wish I could commit to paper the feelings with which I felt it” (Douglass 19-20). *The excerpt on pages 19 and 20 of this student’s book should have thorough and insightful annotations relating to diction (word choice) and the brutality of slavery.

Analysis of Given Assertion

Throughout the paragraph Douglass uses violent and gory diction to depict the brutal force which impacts both the master and the slave in the construct of slavery.

The characterization of Plummer as “miserable,” “profane,” and “savage” illustrate the harsh impacts of slavery on the master. Regardless of the horrific actions he precipitates on Douglass’ aunt later in the chapter, Douglass ensures that Plummer, while not freed from condemnation, is displayed and equally morally destroyed by the actions required by slavery. Douglass continues his violent laden depiction as he describes the whipping of his aunt through the repetitive use of “blood” imagery upon the “naked” reality of slavery, made more vivid by describing the slaves’ situation as “doomed” and a “hell.

” Douglass’ use of harsh diction throughout the paragraph helps him insinuate the destructive, brutal, and horrific toll slavery takes upon all of the individuals involved.

Chapter 2

Device: Situational Irony or Diction and Tone

Assertion: Function of the slave song misunderstanding of contentment

Textual Evidence to Prove Assertion

“I can never get rid of that conception…the songs of the one and of the other are prompted by the same emotion” (Douglass 30).

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Analysis of Given Assertion

Douglass is consistent as he addresses how cruel slaves were treated by the white man and sets the state of poverty as the tone. The slave song was focused on the “Great House Farm” since slaves saw it as the highest privilege a slave could achieve. Although he did not understand the interpretation of the songs, it brings Douglass to tears once he relives his life in slavery and realizes the deeper meaning to the songs. He explains that slaves sing mainly when they are “unhappy” and that his tears are a sign of “sorrow.” Douglass also compares the man singing on an island alone with a slave singing as an example of misunderstanding of contentment. Although the man singing is free on a “desolate” island, he is not filled with content since he’s still alone. Douglass’ use of diction helps the reader understand the mentality of those who were in slavery.

Chapter 3

Device: Situational Irony

Assertion: Slave perpetration of their Master’s superiority

Textual Evidence to Prove Assertion

“Colonel had three sons…and enjoyed the luxury of whipping the servants when they pleased, from old Barney down to William Wilkes, the coach-driver” (Douglass 33).

Analysis of Given Assertion

Douglass describes the significance of what telling the truth would do to a slave. For example, Douglass stated that a slave had talked negatively about Colonel Lloyd and was later “chained” and “handcuffed” for his actions. Douglass emphasized on the fact that slaves were never to complain about their masters which made it hard for them to trust anyone especially since spies would watch over them to make sure they were working accordingly. Colonel Lloyd’s sons and son-in-law’s loved whipping the slaves as Douglass expressed as a form of “luxury.” Douglass informs the reader that slaves took satisfaction in how their masters treated them and they were not allowed to complain since that’s all they grew up knowing which illustrates situational irony.

Chapter 4

Device: Diction and Tone

Assertion: Brutality of slavery (Why juxtapose against Chapter 3)

Textual Evidence to Prove Assertion

“His savage barbarity was equaled only by the…blood and brains marked the water where he had stood” (Douglass 38).

Analysis of Given Assertion

Throughout this chapter, Fredrick Douglass sought to discuss the injustice of being a slave. He does not only use examples from his own experiences, but experiences of others. Douglass’ intense diction makes the reader discover the magnitude of horrors experienced by slaves in the hands of their masters. He thoroughly remembers the “most savaged” acts committed by a master under their own charge. Demby was trying to relieve his body from the bruises Mr. Gore inflicted on him, but when trying to do so, Mr. Gore saw no option, but to shoot him. The death of Demby was not further investigated since Mr. Gore claimed he shot him because he was not following his orders and did not want the other slaves to take after him. In another case, Mrs. Hick killed one of her slaves because her slave did not help her baby stop crying. In her situation, Mrs. Hick brutally hit her with a stick which consequently broke her nose and breastbone. Douglass’ narration of various traumatic events brings to life how hopeless the life of a slave really was.

Chapter 5

Device: Diction and Tone

Assertion: Concept of home

Textual Evidence to Prove Assertion

“My home was charmless it was not home to me…I should have not escaped any one of them by staying” (Douglass 42-43).

Analysis of Given Assertion

As a slave, Fredrick Douglass is not able to relate to what most people consider home since his mom died and his grandmother was not present. The companion of a sibling was also absent since they were separated when they were little which is common to most slaves. The only home Douglass ever knew was filled with “hardships,” “hunger,” and “whipping” which develops a melancholic tone and makes the reader feel pity for him. Douglass’ diction describes his move to Baltimore as a sign of freedom and will hopefully lead him to a better life. At the end of the chapter, he believes that if he was not chosen to move to Baltimore then he would forever remain a slave.

Chapter 6

Device: Diction and Characterization

Assertion: Dehumanizing effects of slavery on the Master

Textual Evidence to Prove Assertion

“Just at this point of my progress…It would make him discontented and unhappy” (Douglass 47).

Analysis of Given Assertion

In the beginning, Douglass characterized Mrs. Auld as having the “kindest heart” and “finest feelings.” Her husband was furious when he found out she was teaching him the alphabet because he believed slaves are supposed to be “ignorant.” Mr. Auld thought slaves will not respect their masters if they are educated and if she were to continue teaching him it would also bring “harm” to Douglass. After Mr. Auld confronted his wife, Douglass characterized Mrs. Auld as a “demon.” The masters were superior over the slaves so they do not respect them nor treat them like they are people. The masters were never even punished for the crimes they committed. Slavery created a symbiotic relationship where slave owners benefited and slaves were left in misery which is known as parasitism.

Chapter 7

Device: Diction and Tone

Assertion: Concept of intellectual freedom

Textual Evidence to Prove Assertion

“When I was sent on errands, I always took my book with me…for it is almost an unpardonable offence to teach slaves to read in this Christian country” (Douglass 51-52).

Analysis of Given Assertion

Douglass explains how slaves were not allowed to learn how to read because the mentality of a slave is supposed to lack knowledge. Slave owners do not want their slaves to have the ability to think freely. Although Douglass eventually learned how to read and write, it was a difficult process for him to go through. Douglass uses encouraging diction to further emphasize the importance of intellectual freedom. Douglass takes advantage of the fact that he lives close to poor white boys and exchanges bread for learning how to read, but cannot dare tell anyone since it is an “unpardonable offense.” Douglass refers to the book “The Columbian Orator” to explain the origin of the relationship between a master and their slave which makes Douglass hate his masters more than he did in the past since it exposed him to how bad slaves are treated by their masters. At the beginning of the chapter the tone is shameful, but towards the end the tone shifts to hopeful.

Chapter 8

Device: Diction and Tone

Assertion: Dehumanizing effects of slavery on slaves

Textual Evidence to Prove Assertion

“We were all ranked together at the valuation…brutalizing effects upon both slave and slaveholder” (Douglass 57-58).

Analysis of Given Assertion

Douglass explains that as slave owners dehumanize their slaves, the mind of a slave is programmed to think they are nothing except property. When Douglas went back to being a plantation slave, he uses an ironic tone to inform the reader how disgraceful slaves were “ranked together” with animals. Slaves are not given any say or have any control in their lives which Douglass continues to refer to. As Douglass remembers his grandmother, he changes from past tense to present tense when referring to her suffering. The fluency of Douglass’ diction creates compelling knowledge on how slaves were treated by their masters/overseers.

Douglass continues to express his sadness about slavery on behalf of all slaves not given the opportunity to be liberated intellectually and otherwise.

Chapter 9

Device: Diction and Characterization

Assertion: Depictions of power and lack thereof/religious hypocrisy

Textual Evidence to Prove Assertion

“I have said my master found religious sanction for his cruelty…shall be beaten with many stripes” (Douglass 66).

Analysis of Given Assertion

Douglass characterizes Master Thomas as a “mean” man since he does not give any of his slaves enough food to eat. Although Master Thomas had power, he was not self-assured in his commands. Douglass explains that Master Thomas is “cruel” which the reader begins to realize when Thomas becomes religious. When Thomas begins going to “Methodist” camp meetings, he wanted his punishment of his slaves to be identical to the scriptures which turns to into barbarity. For example, Douglass described him whipping a physically disabled woman with “cow skin”, left her child to “starve” and “die” and he still claimed he was “taking care” of her. He never thought what he was doing was wrong. Douglass expresses hypocrisy with Master Thomas through his brutal diction regarding the way Thomas treated his slaves.

Chapter 10

Device: Characterization

Assertion: Douglass’ assertion that “you have seen how a man was made a slave and you shall now see how a slave was made a man.”

Textual Evidence to Prove Assertion

“I made no effort to comply, having now made up my mind to let him do his worst…and near enough to prevent losing my way” (Douglass 76-77).

Analysis of Given Assertion

Throughout the novel, Douglass characterizes how slave owners treated their slaves as property as a sign of dehumanization. The reader first sees how the maters/overseers dehumanize their slaves by revoking their ability to think for themselves by not allowing them to learn how to read and write. Douglass was one of the few slaves who refused to strip away his clothing when commanded to do so because he was tired of following his master’s orders. After Douglass ran off into the woods he loved the idea of escaping, he never thought of anything except reaching somewhere that is not a slave state. The intelligence a slave can accomplish proves their ability to see themselves as human and not a piece of property.

Chapter 11

Device: Diction

Assertion: Freedom is the same as bondage.

Textual Evidence to Prove Assertion

“Added to this, almost everybody seemed to be at work…to me this looked exceedingly strange” (Douglass 114).

Analysis of Given Assertion

When Douglass was a slave, he had the company of his fellow slaves and loved them dearly. After he escaped slavery, Douglass was filled with “excitement,” but that feeling was shortly lived. Douglass’ uses an unforeseen diction in which he describes his first few moments as a free man to be filled with “great insecurity” and “loneliness” which made him feel very distraught. Douglass indirectly alludes back to the man on a “desolate” island where the man is free, but is lonely. When he compared the man with a salve, the slave is the one who suffers, but is not alone. At the time, Douglass reaches the conclusion that freedom no matter being a salve or not is the ultimate satisfaction and also realizes that there are many opportunities given as a free slave.

TWO Connections from Just Mercy to Douglass

Connection #1: what issue within the system/society are the two authors highlighting?

One of the issues both authors are highlighting racism.

Which chapter and assertion does this connection match in Douglass?

It’s found in chapter eight and the assertion is dehumanizing effects of slavery on slaves.

Continued on the following page…

Textual Evidence from Just Mercy addresses the same concept

“He grabbed me by the arms and pushed me up against the back of my car…We’re going to let you go. You should be happy” (Stevenson 40-41).

What comments on systemic oppression are BOTH authors making?

In “Just Mercy” Stevenson talks about the injustice of the legal system where the black man is not judged fairly because of the color of his skin and he is discriminated against. Ralph Myers, on the other hand, was given an opportunity to get out of death row. He even switched his testimony several times yet the authorities believed him when he accused Walter of being involved since he was the only black man related to the case, so he thought they would definitely convict him. In “The Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass” Douglass shows the supremacy of the white man over the black man because the black man is put in bondage by the white man thereby illustrating racism in both books.

TWO Connections from Just Mercy to Douglass

Connection #2: what issue within the system/society are the two authors highlighting?

One of the issues both authors are highlighting the path out of suffering.

Which chapter and assertion does this connection match in Douglass?

It’s found in chapter four and the assertion is brutality of slavery

Textual Evidence from Just Mercy addresses the same concept

“There were three men who hurt me on the first night. They made me do things…We ultimately got Charlie’s case transferred to juvenile court, where the shooting was adjudicated as a juvenile offense” (Stevenson 123-124).

What comments on systemic oppression are BOTH authors making?

Douglass experienced severe years of misery through slavery. On September 3, 1838, Douglass fulfilled his dream of becoming a free slave and was surprised to find a place where no man is whipped. As Stevenson describes Walter McMillian’s case, he talks about how McMillian was wrongfully convicted for something he did not do. He went through six years in prison he became mentally disabled from years of torture and was constantly threatened about being sent to execution. McMillian’s wrongful conviction also cost him his reputation, his job and his wife. Although he experienced many hardships, McMillian was able to walk out of the court room a free man.

Cite this page

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: Annotations and Analysis. (2021, Feb 10). Retrieved from http://studymoose.com/narrative-of-the-life-of-frederick-douglass-annotations-and-analysis-essay

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