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What does Frederick Douglass' narrative reveal about the treatment of slaves at the...

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tylarfeller | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 10, 2012 at 10:41 PM via web

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What does Frederick Douglass' narrative reveal about the treatment of slaves at the hands of slave holders?

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

Posted June 11, 2012 at 1:12 AM (Answer #1)

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Douglass' narrative clearly states the case that the relationship between the slave and the slave owner is not "accidental."  Douglass' narrative clearly states that slavery is not incidental or something that just happens.  Douglass' narrative reveals that the treatment of slaves at the hands of slave holders is deliberate, executed in full understanding of what is being done.  It goes very far in eliminating the argument that there are "good slave owners" and that those who did what they did were "ignorant" about how bad things are.  Douglass points out that there is a clear balance of power between the slave owner and the slave, a balance that is reaffirmed through the use of violence and cruelty on the part of the former over the latter.  The reference point of the Auld family goes very far here in making clear that slave owners knew what they were doing to the slaves and did so with distinct intent and calculation.  Douglass' discussion of "false Christianity" is another element used to bring out how the treatment of slaves at the hands of slave holders reflects hypocrisy and deliberate intent behind the treatment of slaves.  Douglass' point here is to suggest that slave owners were desperate to justify why they do what they do and the notion of using the Bible as part of this process reflects such desperation.  In the narrative itself, the examples probed and brought out are reflective of how slave owners were willing to use any means in order to continue their brutal exercise and the consolidation of power over slaves.

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