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Frederick Douglass Memoir Analysis

2003 words - 8 pages

Although Fredrick Douglass’ account of his interment as a slave outlines in many ways the typical life of an American slave, his narrative utilizes a subjectivity and in-depth perception of his treatment which creates a looking glass of 19th century American slave experience. The narrative itself works in part to both display Douglass’ personal and unique experiences as a slave while at the same time acting as a “cookie-cutter” for the American slave experience itself, that meaning that so many slaves existed in similar conditions to that of Douglass’ that the work doubles as a synopsis for slave lifestyle as a whole. This paper will analyze and expand on the experiences had by Douglass and also attempt to better explain the incidents he experienced throughout his life. Such examples will include Douglass’ account of life on the plantation, his culture shock from being transplanted to Baltimore from the plantation lifestyle and finally the overview of his life as a freedman in the state of New York. Using these particular points from the narrative, an overview of the slave experience with regards to psychological and psychosocial influence will also be reviewed and expanded upon to give the reader a more clear and concise understanding of Douglass’ work.
Firstly, looking at the experiences Douglass describes having while living on Captain Anthony’s plantation, there are several elements detailed that reflect the psychological stresses experienced by American slaves that are relevant to modern researchers. Primarily is the practice of breaking apart family units of slaves in Maryland before they are even twelve months old to which Douglass speculates this is done as a way to destroy the child’s natural affection for their mother. (Douglass, 2) This is one of the first pieces of information Douglass presents as being factual and historically accurate despite claiming an inability to fully comprehend why this practice is carried out. Having been born into the slave institution by a white father and a slave mother interests this point further. Douglass further claims “...that slaveholders have ordained, and by law established, that the children of slave women shall in all cases follow the condition of their mothers; and this is done too obviously to administer to their own lusts, and make a gratification of their wicked desires profitable as well as pleasurable; for by this cunning arrangement, the slaveholder, in cases not a few, sustains to his slaves the double relation of master and father.”(Douglass, 3) This is not entirely correct though, perhaps in the state of Maryland it was indeed a customary law but as John Hope Franklin points out: “Masters, stricken by conscience, impelled by affection, or yielding to the temptation to evade responsibility, manumitted their slaves in large numbers until legislation either discouraged or prevented them altogether from doing so.” He continues to say that despite legislatures,...

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