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Frederick Douglass, 1818-1895 Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. Written by Himself Boston: Anti-Slaincredibly Office, 1845.


Frederick Douglass is just one of the many commemorated authors in the Afrihave the right to Amerideserve to literary tradition, and his first autobiography is the among the the majority of extensively review North Amerideserve to slave narratives. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An Amerideserve to Slave was published in 1845, much less than seven years after Douglass escaped from slaincredibly. The book was an prompt success, marketing 4,500 copies in the first four months. Throughout his life, Douglass ongoing to revise and expand his autobiography, publishing a second version in 1855 as My Bondage and My Freedom. The 3rd variation of Douglass" autobiography was published in 1881 as Life and also Times of Frederick Douglass, and also an expanded variation of Life and Times was published in 1892. These miscellaneous retellings of Douglass" story all start via his birth and childhood, yet each brand-new version emphasizes the common influence and close correlation of Douglass" life with key events in Amerideserve to background.

Like many servant narratives, Douglass" Narrative is prechallenged via endorsements by white abolitionists. In his preface, William Lloyd Garriboy pledges that Douglass"s Narrative is "essentially true in all its statements; that nothing has been collection dvery own in malice, nothing exaggerated" (p. viii). Likewise, Wendell Phillips pledges "the many whole confidence in fact, candor, and sincerity" (p. xiv). Though Douglass counted Garriboy and also Phillips as friends, scholars such as Beth A. McCoy have said that their letters serve as subtle reminders of white power over the black author and his message. Certainly, in every one of his succeeding autobiographies, Douglass reput Garrikid and also Phillips" endorsements with introductions by prominent black abolitionists and also legal scholars.

Douglass begins his Narrative with what he knows around his birth in Tuckahoe, Maryland—or more exactly, what he does not know. "I have no specific knowledge of my age," Douglass states; nor have the right to he positively determine his father (p. 1). Douglass notes that it was "whispered that my understand was my father ... the implies of discovering was withorganized from me" (p. 2). He recalls that he was separated from his mom "prior to I kbrand-new her as my mother," and also that he witnessed her only "4 or five times in my life" (p. 2). This separation of mothers from youngsters, and also absence of knowledge around age and also paternity, Douglass explains, was common among slaves: "it is the wish of the majority of masters ... to store their slaves for this reason ignorant" (p. 1).

As a child on the plantation of Colonel Edward Lloyd, Douglass witnesses brutal whippings of various slaves—male and female, old and young. But for the the majority of part, he defines his childhood as a typical or representative story, fairly than a distinct or individual narrative. "y very own therapy ... was very equivalent to that of the other slave children," he writes (p. 26). The early chapters of his Narrative emphasize the status of slaves and the nature of slaextremely over his individual suffer. "I had actually no bed," he writes. " sleep on the cold, damp, clay floor, through my head in and also feet out" (p. 27). This summary explicitly links Douglass" suffer earlier to that of the other slaves: "old and also young, male and also female, married and also single, drop down side by side, on one common bed,—the cold, damp floor,—each covering himself or herself via their miserable blankets" (p. 10-11).

At age seven, Douglass is sent out to work-related for Hugh Auld, a ship carpenter in Baltieven more. "A city servant is almost a freemale, compared with a servant on the plantation," he remarks, and also the progression of Douglass" Narrative illustprices his boosted liberty in the city (p. 34). The young Douglass" thriving sense of freedom is due in part to his brand-new master"s wife, Sophia Auld, that "incredibly kindly commenced to teach me the A, B, C" (p. 33). However, Hugh quickly puts a sheight to these analysis lessons, warning his wife that finding out to read "would certainly forever before unfit him to be a slave" (p. 33). Douglass takes this leskid to heart, noting that this event "just served to inspire me with a desire and also determicountry to learn" (p. 34). Over the following seven years, Douglass recalls, "I thrived in learning to check out and write ... various stratagems," consisting of supplying bcheck out to hungry white children in exchange for reading lessons.

At age fifteenager, Douglass is sent out back to Colonel Lloyd"s plantation to work-related for Hugh"s brvarious other, Thomas Auld, a ship captain. Here he is when again "made to feel the painful gnawings of hunger," and also he starts to withstand the tyranny of slavery more forcefully (p. 56). A few months later on, Auld hires Douglass out to Edward Covey, a Methodist via a reputation for "breaking" recalcitrant slaves (p. 57). After a challenging year in which he is beaten, runs away, is recaptured, and finally battles Covey in a prolonged fistfight, Douglass is hired out to an additional landowner, William Freeland also, to job-related as a area hand. Surviving his servitude under Mr. Covey seems to steel Douglass" desire for liberty, as his summary of their fistfight reveals: "You have actually watched just how a man was made a slave; you shall check out just how a slave was made a man" (p. 65-66).

Douglass does not provide the full details of his escape in his 1845 Narrative, for he fears that this information will prove valuable to slave owners seeking to thwart or recapture future runaways. (He later gives an explacountry of his escape in both versions of Life and Times of Frederick Douglass.) However, in his initially autobiography Douglass does disclose that he is able to setup his escape as soon as Hugh Auld enables him to work-related for weras at a Baltimore shipyard. Upon getting to the North, Douglass explains his sensations as "a moment of the highest possible excitement I have ever knowledgeable ... I felt like one that had actually escaped a den of hungry lions" (p. 107).

By the end of his Narrative, Douglass has resettled in New Bedford, Massachusetts, readjusted his name (which, till this time, was Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey), and married Anna Murray, a cost-free black womale to whom he came to be engaged while still enslaved in Baltimore. In New Bedford, he is introduced to the members of William Lloyd Garrison"s American Anti-Slavery Society. Douglass ends his narrative through a start, as he recalls his initially public resolve before an audience of abolitionists. "From that time till currently, I have been involved in pleading the cause of my brethren," Douglass writes, leaving the future open up for hopeful possibilities (p. 117).

Works Consulted: Andrews, William, To Tell a Free Story: The First Century of Afro-Amerihave the right to Autobiography, 1760-1865, Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1986; Blassingame, John W., and also others, Eds., The Frederick Douglass Papers, Series Two, Vol. 1, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999; Douglass, Frederick, Autobiographies, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., ed., New York: Penguin Books, 1996; McCoy, Beth A, "Race and also the (Para)Textual Condition," PMLA 121:1 (Jan 2006): 156-169.