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They fight for two hours, with Covey “getting entirely the worst end of the bargain” (p. Douglass is never whipped again, and he describes this incident as “the turning-point in [his] career as a slave” and says that it “revived within [him] a sense of [his] own manhood” (p. Douglass emphasizes the importance of literacy in developing his sense of himself as human.Is he suggesting, though, that his refusal to submit to Covey’s punishment was ultimately more important than his ability to read and write in shaping his sense of self?He was appointed to several government positions, including recorder of deeds for the District of Columbia and United States minister and consul general to Haiti. DISCUSSION QUESTIONSFor Further Reflection Related Titles Book of Job This Old Testament book, notable for its poetic language, questions why God allows the righteous to suffer.
Douglass does not know how old he is, and he quickly asserts that this is not unusual, since most slaves “know as little of their ages as horses know of theirs” (p. It is instructive that this initial comparison of slaves to animals does not serve to express something about the minds of the slave owners; instead, it expresses something about the minds of the slaves that is the consequence of being born into an environment constructed and carefully maintained by their owners.
In an environment that does not permit the idea that slaves are human, the only perspective available to them is that of their owners.
Another such point was his violent resistance to a beating by the man to whom he had been bound as a field slave at age seventeen.
Three years later, he escaped to the North, married, and worked menial jobs until his debut as an orator at an antislavery convention in 1841.
His anguish is so great that he “would at times feel that learning to read had been a curse rather than a blessing” (p. It allows him to see his “wretched condition, without the remedy” (p. Self-consciousness, the trait that most distinguishes humans from animals, produces such despair in Douglass that he confesses he often wished himself a beast.
Douglass portrays the breadth of slavery’s ability to dehumanize through his insights into the mentality of slave owners.From 1847 to 1863, Douglass published his own weekly paper, The North Star, leading to a break with his mentor William Lloyd Garrison.Douglass also produced a number of other periodicals, as well as two extensions of his narrative—Life and Times of Frederick Douglass and My Bondage and My Freedom.The transformation of his mistress raises the question of how much of the behavior of slave owners toward their slaves was learned and how much was internally motivated.Douglass would have us believe that the mistress was the victim of her circumstances, yet the brutality other slave owners seemed to come by so easily makes it difficult to determine whether the behavior was learned or inherent.INTRODUCTIONThe compelling autobiography of an extraordinary man born into slavery, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave is also a powerful inquiry into the question of what it means to be human.From the opening sentences of the narrative, Douglass delineates the context from which this question emerges—the fact that slave owners typically thought of slaves as animals. Make your own flashcards that can be shared with others.Learn with extra-efficient algorithm, developed by our team, to save your time.However, what gives Douglass’s narrative its universal relevance is his acute awareness of the complexities of human psychology.He observes that slaves usually spoke of themselves as content and of their masters as kind, concluding that slaves “suppress the truth rather than take the consequences of telling it, and in so doing prove themselves a part of the human family” (p. Douglass is ever mindful that our humanity encompasses our failings no less than our capacity for nobility.