The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave

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The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave

In The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, by Frederick Douglass, Douglass attempts to make readers cringe in disgust by portraying the horrors endured by slaves. Douglass opens people’s eyes to the injustices inflicted on his own kind, consequently turning people against the institution of slavery. By showing the effects that slavery had on children, Douglass’s writing causes an emotional reaction with his readers, mainly mothers. It is Douglass’ portrayal of children, and how they are treated like animals, that enrage the readers. Douglass illustrates slavery as an institution with no sympathy for children’s rights, which is outrageous to the modern day reader. Using characterization Douglass portrays slavery as a system that does not differentiate children from animals and diminishes all ties between mother and child.

Slavery’s main feature, as illustrated by Douglass, is the sub humanization of the slave. To produce obedient slaves, one must commence by completely dehumanizing the slave from birth and sculpting them through their tender youth. The concept and methods of dehumanizing a slave are repulsive. The process of breaking juvenile slaves then, begins by taking away the bond they have with their mothers “my mother and I were separated when I was but an infant – before I knew her as my mother […] it was a common custom […] to part children from their mother at a very early age […] to hinder the development of the child’s affection toward the mother, and to blunt and destroy the natural affection of the mother for the child.” (Douglas 1) The response of the reader, especially a female reader, is certainly one that would reflect sharply with the natural value women have for the sacred relation of mother and child. To further illustrate the damage slavery causes to this revered bond, Douglass recounts how emotionally numb he was towards the woman who gave...
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