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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
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In the book, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Douglass chronicles his slave life during the mid 1800s. By informing his readership of the realities and cruelties of slavery, Douglass’ seeks to persuade Northerners to become involved in the abolitionist movement. He accomplishes this purpose by delivering his message throughout the entirety of the book -- slavery is harmful to all participants – with the effective utilization of ethos, logos, and pathos. The trio works to support his thesis, and this support therefore aids Douglass’ overall purpose. Although each of the argumentative devices is effective, the most powerful component is pathos, which is a quality that evokes pity or sadness. Unlike ethos or logos, pathos speaks directly to the readers, in this case the North, and profoundly influences their emotions and thoughts on the issue of slavery. Therefore, pathos is the most effective strategy in Douglass’ narrative because it accomplishes the author’s purpose by sufficiently delivering his message, through the manipulation of emotions to Northern readers. Ethos is without a doubt an apparent strategy throughout Douglass’ narrative; in fact, the entire book is ethos. Douglass’ life was, at the time, living proof of the cruelties of slavery. He takes advantage of this fact in his narrative and describes almost every detail, being sure to leave out names whom he did not intend to offend or embarrass, and brings to reality the treatment of slaves in the 1800s. In addition, Douglass incorporates references to the Bible, often relating slaves’ lives to peoples’ lives in Biblical times. For example, “My friend Nathan Johnson (of whom I can say with a grateful heart, ‘I was hungry, and he gave me meat; I was thirsty, and he gave me drink; I was a stranger, and he took me in’).” This is a reference to Matthew 25:35, which discusses the importance of caring for others, even strangers. Douglass includes this passage to



Cited: Douglass, Frederick, and Houston A. Baker. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin, 1982. Print.

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