The Narrative of Fredrick Douglass


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In the passage of the Narrative of Fredrick Douglass, the author masterfully conveys two complimentary tones of liberation and fear. The tones transition by the use of diction and detail. The passage is written entirely in first person, since we are witnessing the struggles of Fredrick Douglass through his eyes. Through his diction, we are able to feel the triumph that comes with freedom along with the hardships. Similarly, detail brings a picturesque view of his adversities. Since the point of view is first person, the reader is able to be a part of the Douglass’ struggles with his new freedom. With diction, detail, and point of view, the reader is able to get a rare glimpse into the past of Fredrick Douglass.Fredrick Douglass’ diction is powerful as he describes his life as a slave and with his new freedom. Fredrick Douglass calls being enslaved an act of “wretchedness,” yet he was able to remain “firm” and eventually left the “chains” of slavery. Fredrick Douglass expresses that being enslaved is a wretched act and that no man should ever deserve such treatment. Despite being a slave, he kept strong and eventually broke the chain of society. However, Fredrick Douglass experienced great “insecurity” and “loneliness” with his new freedom, and was upon a new “hunting-ground.” His new freedom brought other devastating factors, being a new state without any friends, which caused his loneliness. In this new state, he grew insecure for he was in a new danger zone where at any time his freedom could be rejected. With new freedom come new obstacles, which are described in the diction of Fredrick Douglass.
     The detail present in the narrative helps convey the tones of liberation and fear. Douglass recalls the “blessedness of freedom,” of not having to wonder if it will be a day of “life or death,” yet he was able to live and “succeed in reach{ing} New York without the slightest interruption.” Attaining freedom was the highest goal for Fredrick Douglass. As a slave each day he would wake up wondering if he would live to see tomorrow, due to his strength he was able to live on and succeed in reaching the safe state. However, once freedom was attained he felt as though he “had escaped a den of hungry lions” with “money loving kidnappers” causing him to “trust no man.” Douglass feels as though he is prey in this free state where kidnappers are awaiting to make some easy money and take him back to slavery.

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Due to his feeling of being no more than a piece of valuable meat, he feels that his only way to survive is to trust no individual. Unfortunately, for Douglass, freedom is not always bliss.
     The point of view of the narrative consistently remains constant in the passage. Fredrick Douglass remembers when freedom “{was} perpetually before {him}” and recalls the “means {he} adopted” and what direction “{he} traveled.” Fredrick Douglass had freedom at his feet, yet with each new direction in his life led to different obstacles. With his new freedom, Douglass is forced to adapt to his new hell. Similarly being free is the “highest excitement {he has} experienced,” yet states “I was liable to be taken back,” and was in the “midst of thousands of …strangers” Despite the excitement of his new freedom, he knew that at any moment he could be forced back in slavery. Being in a new environment he was surrounded by unknown faces causing him to fear the strangers. Using first person point of view, the reader is able to relate to jubilation of having freedom and witness the hardships that came with his liberation.
     Fredrick Douglass combines the three stylistic devices to produce a narrative using different, yet complimentary tones. The tone of liberation is present when he describes the joys of no longer having to bear the suffering society forced him to have. The tone of liberation is then transformed into fear, once he finds himself in a state amongst strangers willing to take him back to the world he escaped. Due to his fear, he is unable to make friends and thereby remains a loner. Due to the narrative being first person point of view the reader is almost part of the action, experiencing the hardships along with Fredrick Douglass. Fredrick Douglass experiences that freedom is not free and that with liberation comes new fears.



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