Individualism In Douglas's The Narrative Of The Life Of Frederick Douglass

1322 Words 6 Pages
Identifying a Community over the Individual
Specifically, in Frederick Douglass’s autobiographical book, The Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, he characterizes his younger self as overcoming the label, an American slave, as a communal identifier, an identity inherited to him by slaveholders, and in turn, reciprocates self-taught techniques of personal autonomy back to the slave community. That is to say, Douglass observes and adapts his master’s power, namely his individualism, in order to deny his master’s power. Furthermore, when slavery is used to identify a community, the act of subjugation is less personal, and therefore moves the focus away from the individual and onto an entire group of people; as Douglass’s narrative introduces
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Auld in Baltimore becomes the driving force behind his operation to seek out individualism. As a child, Douglass is chosen to live with Captain Anthony’s son-in-law’s brother, Hugh Auld. Although, one could argue his regional experience is the catalyst for seeking out his personal autonomy, as he dissociates himself as having any family ties or a sense of home, it is during the moment when Mr. Auld orders his wife to stop educating Douglass. Mrs. Auld grows particularly attached to Douglass when he initially moved in to the Baltimore home, teaching him the alphabet and how to spell words; demonstrating humanity towards Douglass, Mrs. Auld embodies the idea of the individual not accustomed to slavery, holding no prejudice towards black people until slavery institutionalized her. When Mr. Auld immediately tells his wife to stop pursuing any education for Douglass, as education ruins slaves and makes them harder to manage, the young slave overhears his lecture and describes “[that] which to him was a great evil, to be carefully shunned, was to me a great good, to be diligently sought; and the argument which he so warmly urged, against my learning to read, only served to inspire me with a desire and determination to learn” (1197). It is here that we see the initial influence of Douglass’s agency to attain personal autonomy, as well as Douglass’s application of his self separate from another man. Douglass at a young age grows a consciousness and utilizes his observational skills to analyze his master, who, himself, exercise personal independence and individuality in his opinion to keep Douglass

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