The Narrative Angle

Topics: Slavery in the United States, Slavery, Abraham Lincoln Pages: 2 (801 words) Published: December 5, 2012
Frederick Douglass is an orator, newspaper editor, and significant civil rights activists in the nineteenth century. Douglass provides a glimpse inside the true depth and extent of slavery in the excerpt “Learning to Read”. Douglass uses three modes of persuasion to connect to his audience as he gives a first-hand account of the struggles he faces to free himself mentally and physically from slavery. Through effective use of ethos, logos, and pathos, Douglass argues the importance of literacy in overcoming oppression.

Douglass establishes ethos in the first sentence, “[he] [lives] in Master Hugh’s family about seven years. During this time, [he] [succeeds] in learning to read and write” (346). Because he writes about his own life experiences as a slave, he is more than qualified to write about slavery. Because it is illegal for slaves to have an education, the fact that he learns to read and write while he is a slave, says a lot about his character. Douglass’ tone throughout the excerpt is mostly modest instead of hostile, convincing his audience he is telling the truth. To increase his ethos Douglass writes about the strategies he invents to gain knowledge, “[t]he plan which [he] [adopts], and the one by which [he] was most successful, was that of making friends of all the little white boys whom [he] met in the streets. As many of these as [he] could, [he] [converts] into teachers” (Douglass 347). He turns children into teachers and through an exchange of bread successfully learns how to read. Douglass wants to name the children in his book to show his gratitude, but only names the street where each child lives, increasing his ethos. Douglass’ most important appeal to ethos is in the preface, there one will find his preface is written by William Lloyd Garrison, who gives a preview of what is to come and assures it is all true.

Douglass establishes a high ethos that in return paves the way for his audience to see the logic in how slavery is...
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