The Life of Fredrick Douglas

The Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglas is a treatise and memoir on abolition, which was written by a former slave and famous orator known as Fredrick Douglas. The book is one of the most famous narratives that were written by ex-slaves, and it is through the book that the author narrates the events regarding his life. The book is also known as being one of the most influential works which fuelled the abolitionist movement during the early nineteenth century in the US. It is through the book that the reader is able to see the cruel cooperation that happens between the masters and the slaves, as well as the way the slaves are supposed to behave in the presence of their holders. Many of them were not able to change anything because they were scared of being punished for telling the truth. Several instances of brutality that were meted on Douglass’ fellow slaves are clearly described. According to masters, the slaves are useless individuals who are not supposed to be able to read since it could change the status of such slaves. Douglass, having realized the importance of reading, tries on his own volition and finally gets to know how to read and write well, despite the hardships that he undergoes. Later he realizes the meaning of the word “abolition” and makes up his mind to escape to the North where he enhances his reading as well as writing skills.

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In childhood, Douglass appeared to enjoy some privileges unlike other slave children since he was able to share cakes with Master Daniel who was a sort of protector to him. But besides that, Douglass was still subjected to inhuman treatment like suffering from hunger, cold, lack of clothing, and even shoes. However, Douglass through all means tried and adopted a plan in which he made the white boys to be his teachers so that he could be able to read and write. Through reading The Columbian Orator, Douglass became enlightened about the relationship between the master and the slave and learned about the various attempts made by the slave to run away his owner for three times. It is through the book that readers can ascertain how the argument regarding slavery was brought forth by the master and disposed of by his slave. In reply to the master, the slave was required to utter some impressive words to him and it was clear that indeed, the conversation led to a voluntary emancipation on the part of the slave regarding the master.

A new hatred towards slavery is developed by Douglass at the age of about ten or eleven years, when upon the death of his master the slaves are equalized to livestock when the property is divided between the master’s daughter and son. The theme of cruelty and oppression runs throughout the story book, and it is clear that indeed, slaves are objects which can easily be transferred from one place to another one without any considerations and that almost all masters were cruel regardless of their religious backgrounds. Through the story, readers are informed how Douglass’ resistance towards his master’s brutality and oppression leads him to numerous problems. Douglass is subjected to hard labour which makes him collapse, and, despite of the numerous complaints made, he is instead tossed between different masters who continue to treat him with cruelty of the highest order.

The fight with the master, in which Douglass emerges victorious, changed the events as he never got hit again, but instead, he was sent to another farm where he made friends with fellow slaves and eventually taught them how to read. Education is portrayed in the story as an eye-opener, because it is through its influence that Douglass and his fellow slaves plan an escape, which however turns out to be unsuccessful. Without educational skills imparted in the slaves by Douglass, then ultimately, there could have been no attempts for the slaves to escape from the plantation. Despite learning a trade after being released from prison, the masters still had a notion that slaves were meant to be abused and oppressed at each and every instance, and, therefore, despite being employed as a caulker, Douglass was forced to surrender his money to Auld, the owner. In the end, Douglass finds his own job and later successfully runs to the North, where he and his fiancé finally reunite and Douglass starts working as his owner. Ultimately, Douglass attends an antislavery convention, in which he supports policies aimed at ending slavery since that time.

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Various mechanisms and strategies were implemented by the masters to nab their rogue slaves who dared to make any mistakes. For instance, a fence was tarred around a fruit garden to nab any slaves who dared to steal the fruits from the master’s garden. Anybody found guilty through being got with any tar was whipped severely by the chief gardener, “…the slaves became as fearful of tar as of the lash…” (Douglas, 1963:45)

Reading the book, readers cannot fail to comprehend that indeed, the relationship that existed between the slaves and their masters was one in which the slaves were subjected to numerous insults from their spendthrift dandies, blows from the mercenary, and a lack of humanity from the outward form. Despite various critics arguing that the various events listed in the story by Douglass are not genuine, his use of exact names, places, and real dates cannot be doubted at all. It is, therefore, no wonder that many of the readers viewed the text as being an affirmation of what Douglass publicly spoke and stood for. Douglass’s work in the narrative is, therefore, an incredible piece of influential literature in the face of anti-slavery movement.


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