Frederick Douglass A Readers Perspective Essay

This essay has a total of 1888 words and 7 pages.

Frederick Douglass A Readers Perspective

The narrative of Frederick Douglass illustrates the life of a slave. He was not an ordinary
slave. Indeed he dreamed of freedom, just as all slaves did, but there was something about
Frederick Douglass that made him different. He dreamed of an education. It was this
education that made him to be different. It was the knowledge that gave him self
awareness that he was a man just as a white man was. It gave him the will to run away
and live on his own. He no longer wanted to subject himself to the punishment of the
overseer. This knowledge brought him the strength to stand up to those who thought
themselves superior to him. It changed his personality and the notion of his own self. In
this paper I will discuss the changing self image, the personality, the instances that reflect
these changes and the point of the autobiography of Frederick Douglass.
Frederick Douglass’s notion of self in the novel revolve around the life that he
lived. If it weren’t for certain aspects of his life, he wouldn’t have thought about himself
as he did. Slavery scarred him just as other slaves. He was treated as property so he felt
himself as property. In him lied no burning desire for something better at an early age. He
never fought or protested. He merely went along with his work hoping that he would not
be subjected to the overseers whip. His notion of self at this time, as I said, was that of a
normal slave - property. All he knew was the slave world. He did not even know the love
of a true family. He quotes, “I never saw my mother, to know her as such, more than four
or five times in my life” (pg. 909) His father was a white man, so naturally he never saw
him, since he had African blood in him. Frederick Douglass never had the upbringing of a
loved child. He was never taught that he was special or unique in the world. He just
knew that if he didn’t work hard enough or do what master said, the whip would crack.
This all reflected on his notion of self. Which at the beginning of the story was very low.
Various incidences occurred in Frederick’s life that reflected the view of himself.
One incident mirrors notion of self at the beginning of the story. This was the first
whipping that he ever saw. The first whipping was that of his Aunt Hester. At a young
age he stood at “the bloodstained gate, the entrance to the hell of slavery” (pg. 911) He
watched as she was stripped, tied up, and shredded by the arm of the master. He watched
her blood drip to the floor and heard her heart-rending shrieks. This event “struck me
with awful force” (pg. 911) and gave added to his own self notion. Slaves obeyed the
rules or faced the consequences.
As different events occurred in his life, his attitude and notion changed. He was
given to a different master. It was here that things dramatically changed. The second
significant event in Frederick’s life came at the young age of seven or eight, when he was
given to Master Hugh and his wife, a distant relative of Captain Anthony his former
master. Here he was treated differently by his new "family." No longer did he have to fear
the whip from wrong doings or not working hard enough. His primary responsibility was
to take care of their only child, Thomas. Also, Master Hugh’s wife was kind enough to
teach Frederick to read. Her lessons would be short-lived, however, due to Master Hugh’s
firm belief that it would be dangerous to teach a slave to read or write. He said, “If you
give a nigger an inch, he will take an ell. A nigger should know nothing but to obey his
master” (pg. 923-924) His words motivated Frederick to further his education and
continue to learn however he could. He felt as if some secret lay behind knowledge. So he
read everything he could. Eventually, newspapers and publications such as The
Columbian Orator opened his eyes to the abolitionist movements in the North. It was then
that his self-image changed, and he became aware of himself as more than just black
His self-perspective changed when he tasted his first bit of knowledge. It was then
that his mind opened up and he began to think. He found out that there was more out
there...that there was opportunity out there for himself and his people. He looked at his
own situation and became angry. He became angry with the life he was subject to. He
became mad at the idea of slavery. He also gained pride. This was pride of a human
being. He realized that he himself was a human being, and that his black brothers and
sisters also were human beings. It also gave him agony, because it had given him a view
of his, “wretched condition, without the remedy.” (pg. 927) This depressed him to the
extent that he wanted to kill himself. But the realization that he was something in the
world, kept him living, and fighting. After this education, his self notion changed so much
that he would actually fight back if a white man came after him. He would no longer be
treated as he had been treated his whole life.
The personality of Frederick Douglass is one that changes throughout the
narrative. At the beginning of the narrative, he had the personality of an unfortunate child
born into the evils of slavery. He depicted everything seen through the eyes of a child
during the early stages of the narrative. Everything remained this way until he became
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