Experience Prevail Over Fiction
Before the Civil War, America was plagued with a complicated social quandary that incorporated individual, societal, political, economic, and religious principles. Its authorship includes Frederick Douglass and Harriet Beecher Stowe who dually challenges the legitimacy of slavery in their literature. While both Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” and Frederick Douglas’s “Narrative of the Life of an American Slave,” offer impelling accounts, regarding the historical slavery era throughout the 1800s, the two authors write from distinctive experiences. Stowe’s Uncle Tom, a fictional character, attracts his audience through his profound Christian faith, which gives him an unbreakable spirit that enables him to see both the hand of God in all that happens and, in the critical moment, to stand up for what he believes is morally conscientious. Douglas, on the other hand, attracts his audience through his short but extremely powerful autobiography, which the great abolitionist brilliantly brings out slavery’s corrupting influence on society. Although both literary works have won over the hearts of numerous audiences during the time of its public release, Douglas, as his own character, presents a more imperative perception of his identity as a slave than Stowe’s Uncle Tom through his strategy of writing, his audiences, and initiative for freedom.
Frederick Douglass’s strategy as a writer proves to be effectively powerful in terms of his narrative describing his life as a former slave. As the character, whose name is Proximo of the movie film, “Gladiator,” says to Maximus; “Win the crowd and you will win your freedom,” Douglas must strive to do the same to his primary audiences in the North. In his narrative, Douglas offers a calm, concise, yet compelling account of his experience as a slave. He describes heart-wrenching scenes of beatings and whippings and of the most basic failures in decency, like the one in which the small slave children, separated from their mothers and raised by their owner like a litter of puppies, eat from bowls of food slopped on the floor indiscriminately among them for their meals. It is explicit details of his story that allows the author to gain support and sympathies from his audience, which will ultimately convince his audience that he is a man worth listening to. This means Douglass must show he knows more, has seen more, and is something extraordinary. By sharing his harsh experiences, regarding his past life as a slave, Frederick Douglas states his turning point when he finally earns the respect that he deserves, “You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man” (1211). His complexion is unfavorable, and to see beyond that, he cleverly assumes the role of a hero: a slave-turned hero.
Stowe’s strategy for her writing is more religiously based, as well as less bias than Douglas in terms of speaking against slavery since she lacks his personal-accounts. Instead, she uses the idea of cruel hardships for slaves as a tool to protest human enslavement. This permits the writer to unleash a small hint of emotions, which downplays the brutality of southern life. On the other hand, Stowe’s writing style lacks Douglass' scholastic command, utilizing emotional appeal instead. As a result, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s writing sounds preachy and a little too engaged on sentimental story resolutions. Because Stowe’s novel is base on her personal abomination towards the foundations of slavery, she cannot mimic the same sense of empathetic emotions as Douglas, when he speaks of his own horrifying and excruciating experiences. Frederick Douglass writes a first hand depiction that is a non-fiction account of his life as a Southern owned slave including horrible details involving his actual comrades and relatives. While Stowe’s way of writing is more vivid than Douglass’s Narrative, she does capture the imagination of her readers by bringing...
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