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Narrative on the Life of Frederick Douglass - Book Review

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"Mr. Gore then, without consultation or deliberation with any one, not even giving Demby an additional call, raised his musket to his face, taking deadly aim at his standing victim, and in an instant poor Demby was no more, His mangled body sank out of sight, and blood and brains marked the water where he had stood."(Douglass 57)

After finishing the "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass", I found myself wondering how the author could seem so matter of fact. That is to say, how could he write about such awful atrocities incurred, without allowing his anger to splatter the pages like the blood from a wielded cowskin? If the life of Frederick Douglass were my own autobiography the hatred and rage felt towards my oppressors could not have been contained. It occurred to me, after some reflection, that the telling of his story had a purpose. The identity of his intended readers, might be what held the answer to that purpose?

Since, for the most part, black people could not, or were not allowed to read, this literature must not be primarily for their eyes. Mr. Auld made it very clear, "that it was unlawful, as well as unsafe, to teach a slave to read." (Douglas 63) Certainly he would

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have desired all of the free, fugitive and prisoned black people to know his story. However, for the time being this piece of writing was most likely meant to implore the abolitionists of slavery or those who may be on the "fence" about the topic.

It is my belief that Douglas new how sensitive the subject was. Because of this he

strategically left certain emotions and parts of stories out of his Narrative. An instance of this is later revealed in his book, MY Bondage and MY Freedom. "Douglass's 1855 description verges on slapstick when he pitches Covey headlong into a barnyard full of dung, a detail he omits in the Narrative." (Ganter 546) Although Douglass had revealed his physical strength in his struggle with Covey in his original telling, it reads like a case of self-defense. He doesn't declare anger as the result for his response nor does he indicate vengeance. He certainly doesn't mention his "master" ending up in a pile of dung by the hands of one of his own slaves. Declaring his personal anger may have been construed as an indicative representation of all American slaves. This would then instill fear about potential, negative, repercussions from newly freed slaves. None of which would have improved reaching his ultimate goal, the freedom of all slaves. A purpose, which began as a slave and eventually, led him to the doorstep of president Lincoln.

Douglass may have had a direct influence on changing Lincoln's view in respect to slavery. Abraham Lincoln, "evolved from stating that no person of the African American race was equal to any man



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