Use Frederick Douglass’s Narrative Of The Life Of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave To Examine Identity

833 words - 4 pages

Use Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave to examine identity.
From its first page, The ‘Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas’ is set up as an exploration of Identity; The main purpose of the novel being to establish the truth of Frederick Douglass’s public identity and ‘set [himself] right before the public in the United States’ (Blassingame, 1979, p. 251). In fact, the text was described by Albert Stone as the “first native American autobiography to create a black identity in a style and form adequate to the pressures of historical black experience” (Stone, 1973, p. 213). As Kimberly Drake explains, “Slaves' (or more accurately, ...view middle of the document...

18) BREAK
Elaine Scarry's theory of the consequences of extreme bodily pain upon the victims of torture to Frederick Douglass’s ‘Narrative’ postulates a way by which to understand the scope of the destruction of identity that is detailed in the narrative (Scarry, 1985). As Scarry says, it is "only when the body is comfortable, when it has ceased to be an obsessive object of perception and concern, that consciousness develops other objects" (Scarry 39). One of those "other objects," according to Scarry, is language. Pain, she claims, destroys the victim's voice, his/her ability to express him or herself in words; in doing so, it also destroys "the contents of the consciousness," or the victim's sense of self. Scarry argues then, that these narratives, are attempts by their authors to speak, to rebuild and reestablish the self (Scarry 4, 6, 31).
Drake, argues that (p. 91-92) “although she doesn't acknowledge it, Scarry's analysis relies on the model of psychological development developed by Freud and revised by Lacan. This model charts a progression from a moment before identity is developed and language has been mastered to the possession of both a unique identity and language. The mastery of language is central to the models of identity formation constructed by Scarry, Freud and Lacan's models.” The ability to utilize language, especially written language or literacy, is also portrayed by Douglass’s as crucial to his quest for freedom – In fact, it can be argued that the discovery and...

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