It is in the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, that Douglass informs the reader not only of “how a man is [mentally] made a slave; you [also] see how a slave [is mentally] made a man” (75). Douglass informs the readers that slaves were often separated from their family members, by their slave owners because owners felt; slaves who had relationships would be a greater threat together than they would be if they were separated. In this novel, Douglass addresses the significance of the relationships that existed between slaves and their loved ones; he also shows how the absence of these relationships affected the slave’s state of mind and helped contribute to the formation of a slave’s identity.
Slave owners enforced the separation of slaves from their friends and families at birth. Slave owners feared that if they allowed relationships to develop between slaves they would run the risk of slaves uniting and planning a revolution. Therefore, “frequently, before the child has reached its twelfth month, its mother is taken from it...” (20). The repercussions of a slave defending their child if something dangerous occurred would put both the slave and the slave owner’s life in danger. A slave would be whipped severely and possibly sold for putting his or her hands on a white man; and a slave can become overwhelmed with anger and strike a slave owner until he is dead.
Douglass says,” [he] never enjoyed to any considerable extent, [his mother’s] soothing presence, [or] her tender and watchful care...” (20). The love a mother has for her child cannot be replaced. Douglass states, “[he] received the tidings of [his mother’s] death with much the same emotions [he] should have probably felt at the death of a stranger” (20). The simple things that are so common to children, such as a mother’s affection, were ripped away from Douglass. Friends and family were a secure way for slaves to escape the feelings of pain that was left by enslavement. If slaves were able to form these kinds of relationships then their emotional state would have been improved a great deal considering their dreary circumstances.
Douglass spoke often of planning to escape but had trouble following through with his plans. It was not until Douglass developed trusting friendships with fellow slaves that he was finally prepared to proceed with his plan to escape. “My fellow slaves were dear to me. I was anxious to have them participate with me in this...” (89). Unfortunately, slave owners heard about Douglass and his friends plan to escape and seized them, jailed them and finally separated them. “We were resolved to succeed or fail together...” (94). Together they were...