Notes on Frederick Douglass "Narrative of the Life of an American Slave"

Will Neibergall Frederick Douglass summaries Chapter 1: The emotional high point of this chapter (for the reader

, at least) was when Frederick Douglass spoke about his mother. For most of this chapter, Douglass is speaking with such eloquence and objectivity that it seems like he isn t attempting to convey any personal attachment to the issues he discusses, but this section of his narrative is a strong exception. When he says, I received the tidings of my mother s death with much the same emotions I should have probably felt at the death of a stranger. it carries great emotional power to readers, especially contemporary readers, who are deeply connected to a society that holds family values above nearly all others. Emotionally low moments of this chapter include most that involve Douglass describing violence against blacks and the sexual practices of slaveholding whites. He becomes so focused on conveying accurate facts that he gives a stoic image. Chapter 2: The emotional high point of this chapter is Douglass s sentimental recollection of the songs sung by other slaves at the Great House Farm. He claims that after being freed, he found the songs more moving than they had been when he was in bondage. The beginning of this chapter concerns facts and events to set up Frederick s narrative of his time at Colonel Lloyd s farm and is the emotional low point. Chapter 3: This chapter is one of the more poignant sections of Doglass s narrative so far. The most emotionally effective part is probably the second half of the chapter, describing injustices and violations of natural rights done to slaves specific allusions Douglass makes to the story of old Barney and young Barney the stable hands and the slave who was punished for telling Colonel Lloyd he didn t like his treatment when asked are particularly effective. Some initial descriptions are emotionally uninvolved, though they lead into one of the more stimulating anecdotes of the book, concerning punishment of slaves for stealing fruit. Chapter 4: This chapter describes acts of violence carried out by the new overseer of the farm, Austin Gore. The story of one of Gore s murders of a slave named Demby is one of the first emotionally fueled descriptions of violence of the book, though the violence described later in the chapter is communicated to the reader as stoically as before. Chapter 5: This chapter is another particularly emotional one. Highlights include Douglass s unlikely friendship with the grandson of the colonel, the gift of Frederick s first pair of pants and the ecstatic days of Frederick s travels to Baltimore. There are a couple descriptions of different hardships at the farm that break from the emotional high of this section. Chapter 6: The emotional high point of this chapter is undoubtedly the glimpse the reader is given of young Douglass s almost pubescent attainment of insight and

at least for the reader. Chapter 10: At first.perspective on his life. Douglass remarked after hearing his master tell his wife that teaching a slave literacy and intelligence would cause insubordination. to the point where it stands out as one of the strongest points of the book as a whole. The reading becomes more emotionally uninvolved when Douglass details the lack of hardship at his new place of work. Chapter 7: The reader is emotionally broken by the increased pace of this chapter Douglass skips entire years in his narrative. This is salvaged by the description of Frederick s endearing attempts to become more literate on the streets of Baltimore. When describing the cruel abandonment of his grandmother. The Liberator. by the merest accident. this section is another stoic one for the narrative. however. After Douglass leaves this master. Chapter 11: The final chapter of Frederick Douglass s Narrative of the Life of an American Slave is an emotionally calm one. the emotional power of the section dies down. The rest of this section is emotionally flat. Give me liberty or give me death. It is. Douglass s exclamation. This begins to foreshadow Frederick s future and historical image. His allusions to Patrick Henry s quote. I found the emotional high point to be when Douglass mentioned his duplicitous schemes pulled to get food from neighboring farms when he wasn t given any by his new master. I had gained from my master. in which Douglass claims to have come up with enough money to subscribe to William Lloyd Garrison s journal. understandable that Douglass would skip over parts of his life that were uninteresting or difficult for him to remember. the reader can t help but to feel a level of sympathy for Frederick. The dark night of slavery closed in upon me. Great hope and contentedness is shot across to the reader in the final part of the book. Douglass s contemplation of suicide and the confrontational behavior of his new master prove to be emotionally shaping factors of this section. and behold a man transformed into a brute! helps this to be realized. Douglass returns to his very subtle and stoic method of storytelling. . Douglass s lengthy narrative regarding the valuation of slaves is somewhat emotionally detached. until he begins to describe his initial plotting for escape. Chapter 9: Despite some details regarding hardship. I was gladdened by the invaluable instruction which. only increases the emotional value of this section. this long chapter is the first to breed strong hopeless and negative emotion in large quantities. Chapter 8: In this chapter. Hope is injected into the narrative when his fight with Covey refuels his drive for freedom.

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