Frederick Douglass 's Learning Of Read Essay

1068 Words Oct 20th, 2016 5 Pages
Frederick Douglass’s Learning to Read
In his essay Learning to Read, author Frederick Douglass offers a seemingly grim outlook on the power of language in the context of nineteenth-century slavery. On first glance, Douglass 's struggle and subsequent suffering brought on by acquiring literacy seem to indicate futility, however, Douglass masterfully uses this newly acquired skill to introduce antislavery rhetoric without compromising the audience 's receptivity. His arrangement provides a high-stakes example of language’s unique ability to shelter and spread powerful yet potentially controversial ideas. Douglass uses linguistic elements such as vivid diction, narrative genre and metaphor to create an appeal to pathos that prevents his subtle criticism of slavery from fading into the darkness. Douglass laments the terrible conditions of his life through brutal, negative diction that subverts the informational hierarchy the slave owners exploited. Although Douglass blames his misery on learning to read, it is clear all slaves exist in this condition of suffering but are unable to observe or express this idea. Douglass describes the discontent that would "torment and sting [him] to unutterable anguish" that manifested after he learned to read (230). The word "torment" connotes severe abuse and suffering, and when coupled with "sting," seemingly alludes to a swarm of attacking insects, hounding after an innocent victim. Learning to read did not cause his discontent, but made…

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