Fredrick Douglass Rhetorical Analysis

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Kate James
Mr. Campbell
English 389-2
31 August 2010
Ignorance- The Building Block of Slavery
Beginning in the seventeen hundreds, America depended on slaves for free labor in order to make a considerable profit. These slaves were not treated as normal people though; they were sold into a life of no rights, cruel punishment, and rigorous work schedules. In his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, freed slave Fredrick Douglass shares his personal accounts with slavery in order to reveal the harsh truth slavery hides to the public. The most successful strategy slaveholders used to maintain control of slaves was ignorance. Slaves were completely oblivious to the basic rights and privileges any person should have. Douglass uses a vivid yet detached tone to describe his disgust for the way slaves were treated through ethical appeals, emotionally grabbing anecdotes, and logic.

Douglass evokes an ethical appeal to his audience by showing them just how ignorant slaves were of simple facts. He writes, “The white children could tell their ages. I could not tell why I ought to be deprived of the same privilege” (35). Douglass reveals that slaveholders would make slaves ignorant of basic elements of their life. Through Douglass’ tone the reader can infer that slaves did know that they should be aware of something commonly known as age. Douglas also recalls, “The men and women received, as their monthly allowance of food, eight pounds of pork, or its equivalent in fish, and one bushel of corn meal” (23). He describes the scarce amount of food each slave received in order to appeal to his audience’s ethical views because food is a basic need of all living things. Douglass challenges the reader to compare his or her food rations with that of a slave, and to realize that slaves were deprived of basic human needs.

Douglass engages the audience’s emotions through emotionally involving recounts of the voids in slaves’ lives. He...
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