Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

The autobiography of Frederick Douglass is well known for his logic and moral accountability. The author has managed to create an unresolved conflict of free will on one side and determinism on the other side. Inside this generalized conflict there is confrontation between consciously constructed rational identity of the author and his unconscious emotional one. The ability of Douglass to combine these two identities, allowed him to inspire his people and become a famous historical figure in relation to the abolitionist movement.

Frederick Douglass was born slave in Maryland he was not allowed to know his age and his mother could rarely spend nights with him before she died. Douglass witnessed terrible treatment of slaves, in particular how his master had beaten Hester. This was the first event of his motivation, as he was personally aware of the peculiarities of lives of slaves. He personally served as a slave on farms on the Eastern Shore of Maryland during the years of his youth.

Belonging to slaves, Douglass still was different from them, as he was able to learn to read and to write and he had the chance to communicate with other educated black people. This was another strong factor for his motivation, as he realized the roots of the problems of slavery and felt that he was able to have impact upon it. The second event was when Douglass learnt to read and to write and was able to experience himself how knowledge could improve the situation for a slave, providing him additional chances for gaining freedom. In order to motivate other slaves learn to read and to write, he wrote about his own path towards freedom on the basis of his education.

After his escape to New York, Douglass has changed his name and continued his self-education. The third important motivating event for Douglass was the start of the abolitionist movement at the beginning of the 1840s. Upon arrival to Massachusetts Douglas started to read the Liberator, this was an abolitionist newspapers, issued by William Lloyd Garrison. Later the two met personally during the abolitionist meeting in Massachusetts and Douglas was expected to tell about his personal recollections about slavery. His speech was coherent and Garrison made an offer to Douglas to work as an abolitionist speaker, this was the third motivational moment and motivation for his initial involvement into the American Anti-Slavery Society. Within the period between 1841 and 1845 Douglass traveled with Garrison through northern states, talking to people about brutality of slavery. The topic was very close to him because of his personal experiences and this added motivation and power to his words, spoken to other people around.

In his Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, the author devoted a lot of attention to the theme of the effect of the institution of slavery not only upon the slaves themselves, rather upon their white masters. The slaveholders had strong power over their slaves, which at the same time turned out to be corrupting. The major message of the author was related to the general ruining effect of slavery upon all layers of the society as a strong motivating factor for abolishing it. A lot of attention Douglas paid to Sophia Auld and her personal transformation from a caring woman into an oppressive and cruel slave holder, as a strong example of corruption. At the same time this character is utterly important for the narration, as it is the second character, apart of Douglass himself, who changes significantly during the course of the  Narrative. Sophia is used by the author to demonstrate the nature of slavery to his audience and this is the reason, why her change is so important for the general meaning.

He described his first impressions about Sophia, as a gentle woman, ready to contribute her effort to teaching him read and write. Douglass was even surprised by such warm attitude from the side of a white master. The only explanation he was able to find was that Sophia Auld had never had slaves before and she was not influenced by all the evils of slavery initially. Sophia did not make the attempts to punish Douglass, neither was she angry when he looked into her eyes, However, her husband Hugh was well acquainted with slavery and he immediately prohibited her doing this. He teachers her about the real relations, which should be built between slaves and their masters and under his strong impact she changes her position and attitudes absolutely and becomes a real evil. Suggesting this contrast, Douglass wants his readers be aware of absolutely different attitudes of slave owners towards the institution of slavery.

Similar transformation is described by Thomas Auld, who became slave owner after he had got married. He is the second example of corruption. He lost all his humanity and mankind, substituting it with the possession of authority over his slaves and was even able to find justification for his behavior and attitudes in religion.

Edward Covey is the third example of corruption of white slave owners. He is a  Christian man and seems to have difficulties with such unnatural attitudes towards other people, even if they are slaves.   This individual was known as slave breaker, which was the reflection of his vicious nature and cruelty. He did his best to create the atmosphere of fear and surveillance for his slaves. The fight between Douglass and Covey is the climax of the story and it is very symbolic for revealing of the turning point in life of Douglass, when he stopped being a demoralized slave and turned into a man, seeking his freedom. Analyzing the examples of corruption by white people, Douglass points out that slavery has significant soul-killing effect for them. Using his memories, imagery and power of persuasion, he convinces his readers that slavery is against the human nature. There is no justification for such social establishment as slavery, taking into consideration the corruptions of white slave holders. They would have their souls full of sorrows and sadness and these would be the results of detrimental effects of slavery upon the white masters. The corrupt power, which is brought to white slave owners by slavery, is dangerous for them as well as it had ruining impact upon their moral health. Slavery is unnatural for any society and correspondingly it ruins social norms and adequate social relations. In order to make corruption more evident, more vivid, Douglass described the behaviors of slave owners, using a typology. For example white slave owners were inclined to rape and adultery, had children with their female slaves. As a result their own families were put at risk, fathers became cruel towards their own children, they could either punish or even sell them together with other slaves. At the same time their white wives started to become cruel towards female slaves and their children, as they were jealous. Overall, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is a profound historical and philosophically ethical writing about the institution of slavery and its ruining effects upon society; the author has experienced all the hardships of slaves personally and this provided him the opportunity to be maximally precise and many-sided in his narration, making this writing utterly persuasive and motivating for the slaves as well as their white owners.

Works cited:

Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass Paperback – Dover Publications; Unabridged edition, 1995

Sharing is caring!

The terms offer and acceptance. (2016, May 17). Retrieved from

[Accessed: June 1, 2020]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016.

[Accessed: June 1, 2020]

freeessays.club (2016) The terms offer and acceptance [Online].
Available at:

[Accessed: June 1, 2020]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: June 1, 2020]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: June 1, 2020]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: June 1, 2020]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: June 1, 2020]