The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass Essay Example



In the memoir Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave by Frederick Douglass, Douglass manages to preserve his humanity as a slave through knowledge, in which he believed is a passage to freedom. When Douglass came to live in Baltimore as a child, he was introduced to the Auld family, and he especially took a liking to Ms. Auld, the wife of Hugh Auld. She was portrayed as a kind and sympathetic woman , and she also did not own any slaves, “My new mistress. proved to be all she appeared when I first met her at the door,--a woman of the kindest heart and finest feelings. She had never had a slave under her control previously to myself, and prior to her marriage she had been dependent upon her own industry for a living” (Douglass, 32). Ms. Auld also taught Douglass to read, “Very soon after I went to live with Mr. and Mrs. Auld, she very kindly commenced to teach me the A, B, C. After I had learned this, she assisted me in learning to spell words of three or four letters.” (Douglass, 34). The way Ms. Auld treated Douglass made him confused, for she does not appreciate his submissiveness towards her, yet he likens her presence to a stark contrast of the effects of slavery, which made him feel like less of a person. However, Mrs Auld is chastised by her husband when he hears that she has been teaching Douglass how to read, making Douglass realize the importance of literacy and how it could make him free, “The very decided manner with which he spoke, and strove to impress his wife with the evil consequences of giving me instruction, served to convince me that he was deeply sensible of the truths he was uttering. It gave me the best assurance that I might rely with the utmost confidence on the results which, he said, would flow from teaching me to read.”. By taking note that he will be unfit for slavery if he kept on reading, Douglass made it his sole interest to become literate in order to gain liberation from slavery. This is demonstrated in later chapters, where he teaches other slaves how to read, “This desire soon sprang up in the others also. They very soon mustered up some old spelling-books, and nothing would do but that I must keep a Sabbath school. I agreed to do so, and accordingly devoted my Sundays to teaching these my loved fellow-slaves how to read. Neither of them knew his letters when I went there.” (Douglass, 80) and they formulate a plan to escape, albeit being unsuccessful. Although it was not revealed in the autobiography itself because slavery was still legal at the time when it was published, it was later revealed in Douglass’s later autobiographies that he manipulated documents and created an alias in order to escape to freedom.

Douglass’s favorite book, The Columbian Orator, contains a speech in which a slave succeeds in persuading his master to free him. Through this speech and several other ones involving the topic of slavery, “In the same book, I met with one of Sheridan's mighty speeches on and in behalf of Catholic emancipation. These were choice documents to me. I read them over and over again with unabated interest. They gave tongue to interesting thoughts of my own soul, which had frequently flashed through my mind, and died away for want of utterance” (Douglass, 39-40), he is inspired in his own journey to humanization. However, he wondered if “learning to read had been a curse rather than a blessing” (Douglass,