Frederick Douglas

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Honors English, Period 5
September 12th, 2012
Mental Darkness In the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, literacy plays a cathartic role in self- discovery and triggers an insatiable hunger for knowledge. For Douglass, learning to read was a life-changing milestone. It opened him to an opportunity to finally experience the light of knowledge when for so long he was shackled in “mental darkness.” This new ability, although presently taken for granted, was a lifeline for him. It was truly the inspiration, which fed his thoughts of one day fleeing the grotesque lifestyle of slavery. His desire to read meant everything to him, “When I was sent of errands, I always took my book with me… I found time to get a lesson before my return. I used to also carry bread with me…[which] I used to bestow upon the hungry little urchins, who, in return, would give me that more valuable bread of knowledge.” This new capability opened the gates of reality and opened his eyes to his cruel, but very real, life. He was then able to form his own thoughts on slavery, which brought about immense pain he never felt before. The more he read and learned of the sorrowful history of his people; he felt a greater hatred for his enslavers. This realization of the horrific past and his own life brought him to regret his decision in becoming literate, “In moments of agony, I envied my fellow-slaves for their stupidity. I have often wished myself a beast. I preferred the condition of the meanest reptile to my own. Any thing, no matter what, to get rid of thinking!” By learning to read, Douglass became much more aware of reality and “escaped slavery” much before he actually did.

In my own life, literacy is the way that I am able to express myself. It feeds my creativity and gives to me inspiration I would have never had otherwise. By just reading I am inspired to recreate a scene by pen and paper...
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