What Is Cruel In The Narrative Of The Life Of Frederick Douglass

Decent Essays
Men have always found affective ways to control those they view less superior to them. These ways were and are still a prevalent problem in the United States. Two early American novelist brought these problems to light. Sinclair and Douglass attacked the methods that the owning class used to control their workers and slaves by showing how the oppressors discouraged education, prevented work stoppages with the fear of death, and allowed a small amount of freedom to create a sense of dependence on the bosses.
Education is a powerful tool, and the slave owners and factory owners knew that if their slaves and workers had an escape that there would be an uprising. In The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Douglass learned to read with
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Douglass saw the first glimpse of this cruelty when his aunt was beaten severely. The slave owners made sure that their other slaves were present, including the children, because they wanted to instill in them that if they broke the rules that they too would be beaten. Douglass describes his account of his aunts beating as, “It was the blood-stained gate, the entrance to the hell of slavery, through which I was about to pass. It was a most terrible spectacle” (Douglass 4). Another instance of this threatening was when Demby would not obey his master and join the rest of the group. Demby’s master made him an example to show the other slaves what would happen if they didn’t obey him. “A thrill of horror flashed through every soul upon the plantation excepting Mr. Gore” (Douglass 14). Demby’s death was very powerful. For Jurgis, the threat of death did not come directly from his bosses. For Jurgis and the other Packingtown employees, the constant fear of being fired and left to beg on the streets was enough to make them work hard. Once a worker lost their job in Packingtown, it was hard to find another job due to the high influx of workers, and it was a brawl every morning. “The new hands were here by the thousands. All day long the gates of the packing houses were besieged by starving and penniless men…fighting with each other for a chance for life” (Sinclair 66). This combined with …show more content…
For Douglass and his fellow slaves, winter meant Christmas. Douglass describes the slaveholders encourage their slaves to drink until they got drunk. They did this so the slaves would think that being free was really not all that it was cut out to be. Douglass describes it as, “ The mode here adopted to disgusted the slave with freedom, by allowing him to see only the abuse of it, is carried out in other things”(Douglass 45). In Packingtown, the factory owners worked their employees six days a week and offered them almost no time off. During their time off they would head to the bars to get a free hot meal with a purchase of a drink of alcohol. For Jurgis this was his taste of freedom from the horrors of Packingtown. Drinking became a way of life, “So there came a time when nearly all the conscious life of Jurgis consisted of a struggle with the craving for liquor” (Sinclair 115) Drinking cost money, and the Packingtown employees had to have money. “and those few were working only for a chance to escape “ (Sinclair 115). The use of money on drinks cost a Packingtown family more than just money. “Afterward, when he saw the despair of his family, and reckoned up the money he had spent, the tears came into his eyes, and he began the long battle with the specter” (Sinclair 114). They had to depend on the Packingtown owners to survive, but at the same time, their lives were being torn

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