The very first chapter of the novel produces the first example: loss of identity. Many slaves had absolutely no concept of time, in terms of factual dates. Slaves were kept "ignorant" as to the facts of the real world, in most cases not even knowing the year of their birth, preventing the knowledge of a captive's true age. A birthday is something with which people can identify, as they are a celebrated part of our culture, especially to youth. Douglass here identifies himself as a human being lacking what we may consider a normal childhood simply through the use of dates. We identify ourselves by the dates which surround the events of our lives. Part of our identity is formed from dates and this was a privilege he was denied. He is, however, provided with a general idea as to how old he truly is, " I come to this from hearing my master say, some time during 1835, I was about seventeen years old" (Douglass 1).
Adding to this already tarnished identity is the status of his parental figures. While Douglass somewhat got to know his mother, he never really had a father. His father, according to practically everyone, was a white man, ."..opinion was also whispered that my master was my father..." (1). Although it is true that he knew his mother, it must be noted that they were separated while he was an infant and thereafter only met a total of four or five times. The consequences of not knowing who you really are may not have phased Douglass much during his childhood. However as he grew older and began to understand how the politics of slavery work, there is no doubt that this lack of principle human right (to which everyone should be entitled) certainly motivated Douglass towards achieving his goal of freedom.
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