There are portions United States history that are not something to be proud of, especially the early 1600’s to the late 1800’s, when slavery was common among wealthy white men. Slavery has been widely debated over time and eventually contributed to being one of the causes of the American Civil War. Because of the unhappiness and rough times the slaves went through, they often documented their stories, whether that be in song or story. One of these slaves was abolitionist, author, and social reformer, Frederick Douglass. In his novel, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Douglass compares an optimistic future of freedom with his disturbing experiences as an ex-slave, with the intention to persuade the audience of the dehumanizing effects of slavery on both parties involved. Toward the beginning of the novel, Douglass is given to Master Auld and his wife Sophia Auld, who live in Baltimore. At this point in the novel, he had only experienced one cruel master in his life. Upon his first meeting with Sophia Auld, he described her as a woman with, “a white face beaming with the most kindly emotions”, which to Douglass is, “a new and strange sight to me, brightening up my pathway with the light up happiness” (30). Meeting Mrs. Auld is a critical point in the novel, where he realizes that not all slave masters were oblivious to the fact that he is a human. The dramatic shift in the tone of the novel from hopelessness to optimism exhibits the dehumanization of the slave. Furthermore, Douglass uses many analogies to portray his message. In his time with Mr. Auld, he said he’d, “often wished himself a beast. He preferred the condition of the meanest reptile to his own” (40). The comparison between the conditions of himself and an animal exhibits the severity of slavery, to assume a human being would be equal to a reptilian. This, however, is not the only illustration he made of slaves and animals. Douglass uses parallel structure to convey the personal anecdote of being sold to Mr. Auld, saying, “We were all ranked together at the same valuation. Men and women, old and young, married and single, were ranked with horses, sheep and swine. There were horses and men, cattle and women, pigs and children, all holding the same rank in the scale of being, and were all subjected to the same narrow examination” (45). Because he chose to word his comparison like that, putting the animals and humans together, he was able to correlate them. The parallelism draws upon the supposed “worth” of the humans and animals being the same, furthering the dehumanization of the slaves. Toward the end of the narrative, Douglass shares his desire, along with millions of other slaves, for freedom instead of being enslaved. He does this by juxtaposing the crude conditions of Mr. Auld’s plantation with his hope for a better future by saying, “The wretchedness of slavery, and the blessedness of freedom, were perpetually before me” (107). From his use of antithesis, he strengthens the argument on how different slavery and freedom are, despite how the slave masters make it seem. To solidify how different both are, he later uses another analogy of, “I felt like one who had escaped a den of hungry lions,” (107). The use of the metaphor enforces the dehumanizing effects on the slave masters, comparing them to “hungry lions” instead of humans. Ultimately, Douglass uses parallelism again to promote his gratitude to the people who had helped him along his journey, saying, “I was hungry, and he gave me meat; I was thirst, and he gave me drink; I was stranger, and he took me in” (114). The anaphora of “I was..and…” three times in a row emphasizes his issues versus how the people helped him. The fact that a human being must make this excruciating journey solely to have their freedom is outrageous and somewhat dehumanizing. In his heartbreaking and revealing narrative, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Douglass contrasts the hopeful future with harrowing details of his life as a slave in order to convince the audience of the major dehumanization of both the slave and the master. Expository novels, like Douglass’, helped add to the buzz of the abolitionist movement. Eventually, slavery in America was abolished in 1865 by Abraham Lincoln, after a large civil war between the North and South. Ultimately, African Americans, along with people of any other race, have accepted each other as equals and have thrived in the United States.


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