Physical and Mental Abuse on Slaves

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 28 June 2016

Physical and Mental Abuse on Slaves

The essay is about the how significant both physical and mental abuse was important for the slave owners described in the Narrative Of The Life Of Frederick Douglass. Frederick Douglass who was born in 1895 might have been the most influential African-American of his time or possibly ever. He rose up from the hardships he had from his birth to become a internationally known writer and orator. Douglass was born in Tuckahoe, Maryland and was thought to be fathered by one of his masters. In Maryland he had a rather easy life for a slave, he was an inside slave who cleaned and helped watched one of the masters children. This benefited him greatly both then and in the future because Thomas, the boy he attended too, helped Frederick read and write. From Tuckahoe, Frederick was moved to Baltimore then to Colonel Lloyd’s Plantation. Then from there he moved to St. Michael. Then to Mr. Covey a slave breaker. This was a major turning point in Frederick Douglasses life because for the first time in his life he stood up to a white master in control of him and won the situation. This greatly increased Frederick’s confidence in himself and he want and desire to runaway and become a freed slave. As I read in the story he acomplished this task and he makes a life for himself that every other slave could only dream of. Frederick Douglass was a rare case of slave, in the way that he was not poisoned by the ways masters had control of slaves. In this way there is two types of ways masters dominated slaves. Physically and Mentally, both maybe equally as powerful and influential on the idea of dominance a master used over a slave.

So in this essay I will discuss both the idea of Mental and Physical dominance over a slave examples of each and what the purpose of this was to do. To me I feel that one of the most basic parts of dominance over a slave is a masters Physical dominance over them. Obviously beatings and whippings are some of the most general types of physical dominance a master would do to his slave. Whippings in a sense showed a type of superiorism over the slave, especially when they did something that was “wrong” or sometimes just to show superiority. Although this is the most obvious and most commonly used form of physical dominance, it was not the only one. Another thing a master might do to show dominance over their slaves in the physical form would be to give them very little clothes. This left slaves very cold and made them want to get done with their work better to get in a warmer environment. Another thing that is not emphasized so much in history or very much in this novel is rape. A master might rape his female slaves to either pregnant a slave to make their ownership of slaves larger and also to show a general dominance over the slave, letting them know that they could do that and there wasn’t much they could do about it because he was the master. Although these methods were cruel and at times extremely grotesque masters saw this as nessicary to enforce their status as a master over slaves. But this was not the only method used to show their superiority over the slaves.

Slave owners also used many forms of mental domination to rule slaves. In my personal opinion I feel this method was much more effective over slaves than that of physical dominance. I feel this was more effective in the sense that slaves didn’t always realize that they were doing this and if a master could break a slave down emotionally and mentally then he owned the slave in a sense and physical forms of dominance were not as nessicary to enforce superiority over the slaves. One way a master might mentally dominate a slave would be to separate them from their families. This was a good idea because it broke up family bonds between slaves and secluded their identity and knowledge of their heredity, which completely destroyed any sense of pride that was in a slave. This also would insure loyalty to a master, since a family was not present in the slaves life, a slave in an ironic way might see their master as a form of family. Another thing the masters would do would be to seclude them from knowledge.

The more a master could keep his slaves ignorant the more sure he could be that the slave would be loyal and not devise an idea to become free or to revolt and cause problems with a master. This also kept out the problem of a master having to worry about a slave becoming more intelligent than that of his or her’s master. One last example of mental dominance over a slave was false consciousness. This method would fool a slave into a system that benefits the master. One example a master might do to enforce false consciousness would be to give them holidays off of work. This would make the slaves believe that a master might really actually care about the slaves and their well being, but intern helped the masters so that the slaves would then feel the urge to be more loyal to him.

Both forms of dominance over the slaves regardless were extremely effective in keeping salves in check by their masters. Physical was more of a last resort type of dominance and was good for rebel type slaves and just to show every once in awhile to a slave who ran what. While mental dominance on the other hand was more of a mischievous form of dominance that held a tighter wrath over the slaves an was something that was very hard to defy and rebel against. Either way dominance was a key part in a masters plan to keep a plantation and slaves working to his benefit.


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  • University/College: University of Arkansas System

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 28 June 2016

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