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Fredrick Douglass Essay

857 words - 3 pages


The purpose behind Fredrick Douglass’s Narrative was to appeal to the other abolitionists who he wanted to convince that slave owners were wrong for their treatment of other human beings. His goal was to appeal to the middle-class people of that time and persuade them to get on board with the abolitionist movement. Douglass had a great writing style that was descriptive as well as convincing. He stayed away from the horrific details of the time, which helped him grasp the attention of the women who in turn would convince their husbands to help by donating money and eventually ending slavery. He used his words effectively in convincing the readers that the slave owners were inhuman and showed how they had no feelings for other human beings. Although Douglass appealed to the middle-class people, he upset other Northerners at the same time, mainly the slave traders, because he was destroying their business. Through personal anecdotes, Douglass draws an accurate picture of slave life. Simultaneously, he chooses these events for how they will affect the Northern audience’s opinion of southern slaveholders (Quarles ii).
Douglass uses family relationships, starting with his own birth, to gain the compassion of his target audience. He never knew the identity of his father, but it was “whispered” (Douglass 2) that it was his master. Douglass mentions this to demonstrate how the “master in [many] cases, sustains to his slaves the double relation of master and father” (2). This was so commonplace that it was “by law established that the children of women shall in all cases follow the condition of their mother” (2). This meant that these bastard children were slaves despite their paternal heritage because their mother was a slave. The effect of this revelation was to shock and offend the morals of the conservative Northern whites. Northern society scorned people in adulterous and interracial relationships. By portraying these Southerners as immoral and adulterous, Douglass wanted to cultivate in his audience a damaging opinion of southern slaveholders (Quarles ix).
Continuing with the theme of family values, Douglass shifts to the basic family unit. Their master separated Douglass and his mother when he was an infant, for what reason he “does not know” (Douglass 2). No one gave Douglass an explanation because this situation was customary on plantations. Douglass wanted to horrify his Northern white readers by informing them that slaveholders regularly split slave families for no apparent reason. This obviously would upset Northerners because the family unit was the foundation for their close-knit communities. Multiple generations and extended families lived together or near each...

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