The American Slave In Sharon McElwee’s literary analysis of Frederic Douglass literary piece, “The Narrative of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, by Frederick Douglass,” Sharon breaks down the different key elements in Douglass’ story that make it so outstanding. Frederick Douglass is famous for his speech given during a time where slavery was still considered acceptable and was used by most wealthy white. Slavery was not viewed as cruel, but a valuable business that could earn them money.
Although Douglass was not alone, his speech stands out among the others who were fighting for their freedom.
Sharon first notices the use of repetition that Douglass uses in his work. She claims that this theme of repetition allows the reader to focus primarily on the content, or message, rather than the literary structure that may sometimes be distracting. Douglass left little room for the imagination and made sure to reiterate and describe exactly what he was saying. She gathers from his works that Douglass wanted to get one main point across; that slavery is dehumanizing and an unfair practice that should be done away with.
Because Douglass mentioned these two things numerous times, the reader is able to really connect with the purpose of Douglass argument. Douglass would use words with negative connotation repeatedly throughout his descriptions to help emphasize the fact that nothing good was to be associated with slavery. Sharon even notes that each sentence has a formula that Douglass used to help eliminate any outside thought. Before the semicolon, the first word of each section is the, the second word is an adjective that ends in -er, the third word is either he or she, depending on the subject, and the final word of each section is a verb ending in -ed.
This formula makes for easy reading, and again puts the emphasis on the act, allowing the reader to feel they are watching this event unfold in front of them and are able to create their own image instead of some made up, un realistic image that represents a false meaning. Sharon believes that Douglass strongest point throughout his entire work was the incident of the innocent slave being whipped by his slave master for no reason. Sympathy always helps the reader to feel more connected and emotionally involved with the piece. Douglass describes how an innocent slave is beaten for every action he made, no matter if it was right or wrong.
This also is made even more powerful by a continuation of repetition throughout his description. Sharon see’s strength in Douglass writing when he describes the beauty of freedom as a ‘glorious resurrection from the tomb of slavery to the heaven of freedom. ’ During this time, the dominant religion was Christianity, therefore Douglass made a spiritual connection with the majority of his readers by making biblical references to the joy of being a free man. Although Sharon sees that Douglass, who is a Christian himself, hates any Christian who owns slaves.
Douglass does a good job of hiding this fact from his readers due to his knowledge that a vast majority of his audience would indeed be slave owning Christians. Sharon agrees that Douglass is regarded as one of the greatest anti-slavery works ever written in American history. Through his use of repetition, his emotional and spiritual connection, and his confidence, Douglass was able to get people thinking about right and wrong. His clever writing made it clear and easy for the reader to fully understand his message, leaving no room for doubt about the way Douglass feels about what is going on around him.
No fancy tricks, no crazy words, just quick and to the point. The reader gets a up-close and personal look at the unfair treatment of slaves and is allowed to fully understand why slavery should be abolished. I agree with everything that Sharon mentioned in her critique. I would have liked for her to focus more on Frederic Douglass himself and really dig deep into the kind of person he was. I believe, as a reader, that if I felt more acquainted with Frederic I would have connected with her analysis even more. But, Sharon stuck to her job and did a critique on the literary piece and not the author!