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Douglass And The Elkins Thesis: The Effects Of Bondage On Slaves

870 words - 4 pages

"I dare do all that may become a man. Who dares do more is none" (William Shakespeare). When the Bard penned that sentence in his acclaimed play Macbeth, what he intended to signify was that one should endeavor to be something within one’s reach, rather than be something greater. When this excerpt is pertained to enslavement, one can comprehend that the only purpose within a slave’s reach was a lifetime of servitude. The very thought of one day being free, to one day be something greater, was blasphemy. Nevertheless, there was a slave by the name of Frederick Douglass who made it his objective to grow to be someone who is more than just a drudge. Douglass did everything in his power to ...view middle of the document...

Furthermore, by castigating what they deemed to be iniquitous, and rewarding child-like moralities such as meekness and obedience, slave owners ameliorated their thralls until they resembled the notion of Sambo. Furthermore, to be a slave is not to be a black man, woman, or child, but rather to grasp the dogma that there is no likelihood of running away from your current predicament. By accepting that ideology, one is a slave. By that definition Frederick Douglass was not a slave, for he imagined that one day he would be something greater. However, the people around him had accepted the ideology when Douglass avowed, “We were all ranked together at the valuation. Men and women, old and young, married and single, were ranked with horses, sheep, and swine” (39). In that passage Douglass illuminates how enslavement took away his fellow slaves capability to reason, as all of them stood there obediently being deprived of their humanity. Due to the psychological effects of enslavement, the slaves did not have the wherewithal to argue that they are not brutes. This concurs with the Elkins thesis as the average American slave had become profoundly degenerating.
One can make the argument that the Elkins thesis is wrong, or at least when applied to the “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.” Those who form this dispute mostly retort that Douglass himself was a freethinking slave, who was anything but the resemblance of Sambo. As stated above, Douglass was an incongruity in American slavery. But in the grander scheme of bondage, he was only one slave. Furthermore, the standard slave was submissive to his master. Moreover, if one...

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