Slavery in Literature
Frederick Douglass was born into the lifelong, evil, bondage of slavery. His autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself, depicts his accomplishments. The narrative, however, is not only the story of his success. It is not simply a tale of his miraculous escape from slavery. Frederick Douglass' narrative is, in fact, an account of his tremendous strides through literacy. He exemplifies a literate man who is able to use the psychological tools of thought to escape the intense bonds of slavery.
Hard labor, and deprivation of both physical and spiritual necessities, defined slavery in the south. Frederick Douglass struggled throughout his youth to keep himself amply fed and, in optimum physical condition. He struggled throughout his life, searching for some rational belief. Through his potentially lifelong struggle of slavery, he was forced to use his reasoning to overcome internal as well as external obstacles. Separated from his family and loved ones, Frederick Douglass was deprived of past cultural and religious beliefs. He also had the burden of watching his masters use religion as justification for the treacherous conditions of slavery. The ambiguous picture that he received about religion developed a question of God's benevolence. If my master has God's approval for all of his wrongdoing, how can religion be developed through good will? If God condones such appalling behavior, how can I follow such lead? Despite the hardships entailed, Frederick Douglass was surprisingly able to use his cognitive thought to effectively search for his worldly niche. He began to accumulate his own thoughts, values, goals and opinions and he began his journey toward psychological, internal understanding. Frederick Douglass had a positive attitude toward the conditions of slavery. He did not allow the slaveholders to capture his opinions and judgement. He did not allow the slaveholders to destroy his dignity.
Douglass successfully climbed the ladder from a position of a powerless slave to a strong, devoted, influential, individual. He did so when he began to divert from the path of ignorance to one of education and power. How did Douglass escape the blinding state of ignorance? How did Douglass manage to escape misery and attain happiness? How did Douglass manage the escape of bondage and slavery? This transition involved a series of processed, the first being the destruction of ignorance.
In the eyes of the slaveholders, a happy slave was an ignorant one. For this reason, they were denied any form of knowledge. The masters were fearful of discovering that a slave had run away or were plotting an escape. They were afraid of a slave acquiring a vision beyond the unjust conditions they lived by. In Frederick Douglass', Narrative, he mentions how the first steps toward overcoming ignorance can lead to discontentment and realization of the harsh increments they live by as slaves....