The Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass
An American Slave
Written by himself
Throughout its autobiography, Douglass narrates his life as a slave, from his birth, in 1818, in a plantation of Maryland, to his evasion in 1838, which allowed him to take refuge in the North of the United States. He quickly became there a figure eminent and respected by the abolitionist movement to which he dedicated then all his energies. At first, we shall focus on the inhuman conditions from which Douglass suffered. Then we shall redraw the road he took towards freedom. We shall finally analyze how Douglass criticizes various institutions.
The author makes us go right to the ...view middle of the document...
Slaveholders controlled not only their physical but also mental condition by using terror. The monthly and yearly allowances of food and clothes determined their standard of living. The quantity of food given was often the benchmark for slaves to characterize the kindness or harshness of their master. The hunger was sometimes so intense that it became inevitable to steal food to survive. In this respect, Colonel Lloyd used the worst stratagems to prevent the slaves from stealing from his garden. The slaves were then under constant surveillance. In this respect, Edward Corey was given the nickname of “snake” due to his ability for hiding and deceiving his slaves. The slightest misdemeanour was subject to the most severe of the punishments. Douglass was just a boy when he fully realized the extreme violence of his master for the first time: his aunt was whipped without any mercy. This episode shows the arbitration with which the masters took their decision of punishment. They could kill without batting an eyelid as they considered black people of being inferior. The author makes even several times the comparison between his condition and that of animals until compare children to pigs when they eat. The evaluation of property when Captain Anthony died  gives an idea about how degraded was his position. The slaves formed a part of their wealth, so the masters were up to raped their slaves to increase their capital.
The weakness of his position fuelled increasingly his hatred regarding slavery. In his memoirs, Douglass tells his physical and intellectual emancipation, but also how, having learnt to read, he went into the road of freedom.
When Douglass at the age of seven left colonel’s plantation for Baltimore, his stay at the Aulds’ home marked a turning point. He was at first surprised by the kindness with which he was treated by his new mistress Sophia. It can be explained by the fact that she was not used to have a slave. She was a crucial person in Frederick’s life as she gave him the basic tools necessary to know how to read. However, his learning was soon stopped by her husband who was aware that she was giving him real weapons to think and to aspire to freedom. His concern demonstrated his fear of Frederick being “unmanageable” and his consciousness that slaves are confined in their position because they could not access to knowledge. According to him, “a nigger should know nothing but to obey his master”. The words of Mr Auld had been a revelation for Douglass who understood that learning how to read was his way of salvation. Douglass was more and more obsessed by his condition. He began to be interested in abolitionism, a word which he learnt to know by listening to conversations around him. Douglass also decided to learn how to write, what he succeeded to master after several years of patience which were marked in particular by the contribution of his white companions and a book in particular:...