Essay about The Narrative Of The Life Of Frederick Douglass

885 Words Oct 7th, 2015 4 Pages
In his memoir The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Frederick Douglass depicts education as his kickstart to freedom. After learning the alphabet from Ms. Auld, Douglass overhears the following conversation:
If you give a nigger an inch, he will take an ell. A nigger should know nothing but to obey his master – to do as he is told to do. Learning would spoil the best nigger in the world. Now if you teach that nigger how to read, there would be no keeping him. It would forever unfit him to be a slave. (Douglass, 42)

Eavesdropping on this exchange between his master and mistress marks the turning point in the life of Frederick Douglass. For at this moment, Douglass resolves to “take an ell” and earn his freedom. Yet this personal resolve, present throughout the narrative, finds strength in Douglass’ complicated exploration of education and literacy. For as he explores language, exemplified by his gradual understanding of the word abolition via newspapers and Irish workmen, Douglass develops his own understanding of the world. Thus we ask the question: How does Frederick Douglass employ the alphabet – his education from Ms. Auld – to propel his life into the historical record? With the start of his education, Douglass develops an understanding of the system of slavery. After recounting the above conversation, Douglass narrates, “I now understood what had been to me a most perplexing difficulty – to wit, the white man’s power to enslave the black…

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