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"He can only understand the deep satisfaction which I experienced, who has himself...

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beautifulsuns... | Student, Grade 10 | Salutatorian

Posted March 18, 2013 at 9:53 PM via web

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"He can only understand the deep satisfaction which I experienced, who has himself repelled the bloody arm of slavery." What is the figurative language in Douglass' thoughts?

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akannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 19, 2013 at 10:55 AM (Answer #1)

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In Douglass' thoughts, the figurative language is evident in the image of "the bloody arm of slavery."  Such language helps to bring out much in Douglass' vision of slavery.  The blood can refer to the people of color that have suffered greatly under the whip and the brutality of slavery.  At the same time, the blood can refer to the slave owners that have delighted in causing such bloodshed and pain to those chained to the institution of slavery. The figurative phrase is a variation on the other figurative phrase "long arm of the law." This refers to the power of authority. The imagery of "bloody arm" means that the authorities, the slave owners and legal authorities, are guilty from having shed innocent human blood.

Yet another interpretation of the figurative language that Douglass employs regarding slavery would be how the hold of "the bloody arm of slavery" is so pervasive and difficult from which one can extract themselves.  Its grasp on those who are in its clutches is "bloody" and contains a powerful grip.  The use of imagery conveys the powerful hold of the institution of slavery. At the same time, it highlights how compelling it is to break free of such an institution.  Douglass' primary motivation is to communicate the "deep satisfaction" felt at breaking free of slavery.  In doing so, the use of figurative language helps to communicate this reality.

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