Narrative Of Life Of Frederick Douglass Essay Sample
The journey to read and write for Frederick Douglas started when he went changed his master from Colonel Lloyd to Mr. and Mrs. Auld. Masters never allowed slaves to learn how to read or write. Masters combined the slave’s illiteracy and physical abuse to oppress and manage their slave with ease. When Frederick went to live with his new masters, Mrs. Auld started teaching him A, B, C. after learning how to write these his mistress started teaching him spelling words of few letters. However, his master, Mr. Auld found out and instructed Mrs. Auld to stop teaching Douglass how to read or write.
It was this quote by Mr. Auld to his wife, "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," Mr. Auld continued, "if you teach that nigger (speaking of Frederick) how to read, there would be no keeping him. It would forever unfit him to be a slave. He would at once become unmanageable, and of no value to his master. As to himself, it could do him no good, but a great deal of harm. It would make him discontented and unhappy," (Chapter 6, pg 1). That brought entirely new thoughts in Frederick about reading and writing. He felt as if it was a revelation of many dark as well as mysterious things and held it as a great achievement. Douglass suddenly understood the road toward freedom. He learned that with knowledge of reading and writing, he could easily cross the bondage of slavery.
Frederick set out his high hopes and fixed his purpose to learning even without a teacher. He had an objective of setting himself free by learning how to read and write. He knew that learning how to read would give him the results that his master uttered when he was instructing his wife to avoid teaching Douglass. Only education could save him from the deplorable state of slavery. Frederick used several methods to learn how to read. The most effective method that he used was to make friends with many little white boys. They became his teachers. Frederick also used to make use of newspapers and books and dictionary to learn how to read. One book that Douglass acknowledges in his narrative is the book entitled "The Columbian Orator." He could carry breads with him and gave the poor white children who could in turn teach him to read.
After Frederick learned to read, he wished to learn how to write. At the time when he thought of running away from his master’s house, he had to wait a little much longer to give himself time to learn how to write. The motivation of learning how to write originated from Durgin and Bailey’s ship-yard carpenters. The carpenters could write the name of every part that they made from timbers. For instance, for a timber intended to be used as larboard, it was given letter "L". From the ship-yard lettering, Douglass started copying and after a short time he was able to write words of four letters. When they meet with his boys teachers, he would get many other writing lessons. When learning how to write, he used brick walls, board fences and lump chalks as his copybooks and pens respectively. He also used Webster’s Spelling Book to copy italics until he learned to write without having to refer to the book.
The knowledge of how to read and write assisted Frederick in many ways in his journey toward freedom. First, he once read a newspaper that states needed to stop slavery within their boundaries and across the borders. This is something that other slaves who lived in ignorance could not have been able to do. It also added to the idea that he could run away to the north. His continued reading exposed him to new thoughts as well as experience that assisted him in understanding and condemning slavery and its perpetrators. It was learning how to read and write that made him become self-aware and he says in his narrative, "freedom now appeared, to disappear no more forever." This was after he successfully learned how to read and write.
Frederick’s learning enlightened him. He slowly realized the injustices that went around him and it aroused a feeling in his heart that he should no longer wait to remain a slave. He felt that years were passing, he was becoming a man and he needed to secure his freedom. He also did not want to benefit from learning alone; he needed his fellow slaves to cherish together with him his determination. With his knowledge, he was able to device a way of escaping and convinced his fellow slaves about the inhumanity of slavery. Therefore, they were eager to listen to him as well as ready to act on any feasible plan proposed by Frederick Douglass.
Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1999. Print.