Comparison Of Slavery In The Heroic Slave, By Frederick Douglass

Great Essays
The ideology of slavery coerces its victims and masters alike to adhere to its theatrical and illusory mindset, as both actors are ingrained with the idea of a dichotomy between the powerful and powerless. Throughout Frederick Douglass’s novella, “The Heroic Slave,” Douglass underlines the heartfelt interaction between the white observer Mr. Listwell and the eloquent slave Madison Washington, altogether providing a call to action on the faults of slavery. Although his novella may seem too serendipitous upon first glance, it nonetheless exposes Douglass’s adamant view against the wretched condition of slaves through the fervent actions of abolitionist, Mr. Listwell. In contrast, within Herman Melville’s novella “Benito Cereno,” the author …show more content…
Douglass’s overarching theme of converting whites into abolitionists provides the drive for his passionate tone, and distinguishes his work from other slave literary works. Mr. Listwell’s attentive listening to Madison’s profound critiques of slavery and his continuous care for the outspoken slave inspires potential readers to take sides with both the white intermediary and the eloquent slave. Upon giving Madison the proper attention for his melodramatic soliloquy, Mr. Listwell exemplifies the idyllic abolitionist when he exclaims, “I shall go to my home in Ohio resolved to atone for my past indifference to this ill-starred race, by making exertions as I shall be able to do, for the speedy emancipation of every slave in the land” (Douglass 154). The sweeping statement not only projects the urgency of freeing the myriad of slaves within the country, but provides an unmediated view on Douglass’s goal for his solitary piece of fiction: to encourage the predominantly white readers to consider the unjustifiable fetters of slavery. He utilizes succinct yet heartfelt diction that empowers his distinct viewpoint on the abusive treatment of the slave, essentially heightening the reader’s emotions of pity and encourages them to swiftly …show more content…
Douglass interweaves undertones of resistance and solidarity amongst the slaves and free white men, as Mr. Listwell’s sudden epiphany after Madison’s soliloquy is illustrated through his repeated care for the pained slave. In stark contrast to Douglass’s prominent goal to encourage people to become abolitionists, Melville does not overtly pride his novella as anti-slavery propaganda, but instead allows his white readers to see the flaws in the “natural justification” of the power dynamic in slavery. Whereas Douglass articulates his view of egalitarianism through the powerful and capable slave alongside an equally capable abolitionist, Melville simply does the opposite by providing an incompetent white man to battle against an extremely powerful slave. Regardless of the mutinies in both novellas having similar outward appearances, Melville’s novella and his biased white character indicates the understanding of the idea that slaves are capable, while Douglass builds more upon the idea and forces his readers to take action to liberate them. Captain Delano’s disbelief of the slaves being capable of the upheaval of the ship can be juxtaposed to Mr. Listwell’s complete understanding of Madison’s capability and leadership, indicating the implementation of a

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