AP Lang Douglass Essay

675 Words Sep 27th, 2013 3 Pages
The Liberating Power of Music
In his autobiography "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave,” Frederick Douglass uses various rhetorical techniques to illustrate how slaves use music as a form of expression of their sorrow and grief. He describes how music, more specifically in the form of singing, liberates the deep despair and anguish of his subjugated people.
Music is typically seen an expression of joy and satisfaction, however, through his own personal experience Douglass exposes the true meaning behind the sorrowful songs of the slaves. He reveals their significance when he states, “They would sing, as a chorus, to words to which to many would seem jargon, but which, nevertheless were full of meaning to
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Douglass shows that this music is the perfect artistic representation of the feelings of oppression and hardships of his people, even though it sounds melodically pacifying to others.
Douglass also portrays the music as liberating for the deep desolation of distress in his people. It metaphorically represents a cry for help, a message of freedom. It is their coping mechanism to all the unjust atrocities they face. Each tone touches his heart, and causes “an expression of feeling [to find] its way down [his] cheek (Douglass 12).” He compares this music, a cry for help, to that of being in the deathly horrifying jaws of a monster, evoking an emotional response of pity. Through this metaphor, Douglass fortifies his message of how the slaves liberated their anguish and fear by singing, like being liberated jaws of a monster. He then continues to explain this liberating power of music when he states, “The songs of the slave represent the sorrows od his heart; and he is relieved by them, only as an aching heart is relieved by its tears (Douglass 12).” This well thought out simile is an excellent comparison in this situation, because Douglass is able to take his experience as a slave (which most people cannot even envision), and compare it to the experience of crying which most people can easily relate to. Douglass is able to display his perspective and the culture of his people through this description of their expression of music. In his powerful enriched writing,

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