This book effectively describes the life of Frederick Douglass. He gives his views and experiences as a slave in the historical American society. He lived in an era that could be simply termed as challenging and degrading, with slavery flourishing. That practice lasted for decades before Abraham Lincoln illegalized it. Slavery was a controversial issue before it was illegalized, as some viewed it as a necessity for progress in terms of the cheap labor provided by the slaves. Others were of the view that it was simply a degrading and inhumane practice, which had to be abolished. The preface of the book provides a succinct and elaborate view of the entire book and its focus, namely Frederick Douglas. In addition, it also depicts moral and societal implications of the acts of slavery hence calling for ending the vice (Douglass 11).
The first chapter is a prologue of the life of Frederick Douglas as a slave in the American society. The society and the slave master describe Douglas as an ordinary slave who lacks control over his destiny that is predetermined. His lack of control is evidenced by his inability to know his origin and roots as well as his date of birth. It is also evident that the majority of the colored children during his era resulted from rape cases against black women. The chapter effectively describes the turbulent times Douglass undergoes as a child. The chapter also effectively captivates the audience with succinct and chronologically arranged experiences and subjections of the black slaves in the American society at that time.
The slaves, especially the black slaves, are subject to cruelty and degradation of their culture and humane senses by their white masters. They are made to feel that they were not humans in comparison to their white masters. Sex is a crucial issue in this chapter, as the author provides information about the rape of the black women by their white masters as well as other white men in the society. Beginning with an introduction of his life as a slave, the author aimed at appealing to the humane part of the audience (Douglass 22)
He also indicates that the slaves are compared to objects by their white masters, all with an aim of confusing them and preventing them from understanding their culture, origin as well as their abilities to become equals of their masters. He appeals to the emotions of the audience to ensure that the audience understands the pain and distress in his voice, as he depicts his childhood as a slave child. Moreover, he describes the life of his aunt as well as his expectations to be subject to similar mistreatment by his masters, as he grows older reaching the working age. He states, “I expected it to be my turn next,” indicating that he lacked individuality, hope, and control over his young life (Douglass 26).
This chapter depicts typical community in the period of slavery. This is aimed at providing the reader with an idea of the presence of inequality and racism that the black people were subject to by their masters. The community is a means of segregation and separation of various races and classes of people in the American society. Segregation is continuously actualized in the establishment of white-only communities with their respective social amenities. This is used to ensure that the slave communities were not aware of the presence of issues such as education, medical and other facilities. Hence, they were simply not human in the eyes of their white masters. The author also portrays sufferings of lower class slave traders and masters in the community clearly.
Another point brought about is the presence of humane treatment of slaves in areas such as Maryland in comparison to the south of the United States that was notorious for the trade as cruelty against the slaves. This provides an elaborate picture of the slave trade. It is deep rooted in the south of the United States. Thus, the chapter was critical in providing a preview of the issues related to slavery (Douglass 31). The chapter also describes Douglass’ family.
In this chapter, Douglas engages himself in criticism of the splendor of the Lloyd’s estate. The slaves are duly responsible for creation of the estate, as they were subject to hard labor to ensure the growth of the vineyards and the respective fruits and plants in the estate. The slaves were not allowed to taste “fruits of their labor.” Those who were found eating the fruits were subject to beatings and restricted to food for several days as a means of punishment. This chapter successfully portrays the ill-treatment of the slaves by their masters despite their efforts of making their masters wealthy through hard labor. In addition, beatings were merely means of intimidating the black slaves and brainwashing them. The author uses it as a form of realization to enable the audience to understand the need for the abolishment of slavery (Douglass 43) uses this.
This chapter lays emphasis on the legality of slavery during that period. According to Douglass, the masters were above the law. Hence, slaves did not accrue any form of legal treatment, as they were not considered humans in order to receive such treatment. He provides evidence of the beatings of Demby with an aim of intimidating the larger slave population. Thus, the law was applicable to white people only, as the slaves were simply objects for labor. Douglass describes the stories of different slaves as a way of proving how slavery is inhumane. Douglass effectively describes different events whereby whites kill blacks with no action being taken against them.
The author focuses on the ill-treatment of the slaves through beatings as a form of intimidation and ensuring continued provision of labor to the white masters by the slaves. Intimidation was also practiced by dividing families and clans to ensure lack of unity that could result in uprisings and rebellions by the slaves (Douglass 55).
This chapter depicts the effects of slave trade on the white slave traders and masters. They were merely driven by the need to make easy and quick money from the trade and the labor provided, as they did not pay the slaves at all. It is clear that the trade transformed individuals into cruel and hostile people due to the need for cheap labor and riches.
According to the reflections provided in this chapter, slaves are victims of fate and circumstances. This is because they lacked the ability of self-determination and control over the circumstances. This is evidenced by the inability to make decisions that directly affect an individual, as their masters made all decisions.
This chapter deals with the treatment Douglas received after the death of Captain Anthony. He was treated as an equal to the animals in the slave master’s homestead. His subjection to mistreatment was aimed to ensure that he did not gain knowledge of his rights and to instill fear in him through intimidation by beatings.
In this chapter, the author depicts the tribulations he underwent under the care of a ruthless and cruel slave master. He reinforces the subjection to cruelty by the slave masters through tactics, which could be simply termed as inhumane. He was also intimidated to the extent that his concerns were not a priority in his life. All he sought was the need to escape from the humiliation and beatings by the masters.
In this chapter, Douglas embarks on a discourse of the empowerment of the slaves. The slaves were in need of gaining freedom, as they grouped themselves to voice for their rights and impartiality in the society. They sought to end the ill-treatment they were subject to by their masters (Douglass 59).
Black empowerment was actualized through education for individuals such as Douglas who was able to read and write. This ability enabled him to gain equal status even though on a limited scale. However, the white people were reluctant to socialize and engage in similar activities with the black empowered individuals. This is an evident indication of the dire constraints brought about by slavery and racism.
This chapter concentrates on the main issues resulted from racism. The author makes sure that he appeals to the emotions of the audience through vivid conceptualization of his experiences such as beatings and hard labor.
The white people in the years of slavery were simply inhumane because of the greed for money and cheap labor provided by the slaves who were not paid for their services by their masters. He illustrates the pain and agony a black person; in particular, a black slave experienced (Douglass 65).
Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001. Print.