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Who is Frederick Douglass' intended audience in his autobiography, the Narrative of the...

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emilyywhitee | Student, Grade 11

Posted September 11, 2012 at 2:46 AM via web

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Who is Frederick Douglass' intended audience in his autobiography, the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass?

I'm doing a rhetorical for class. I assume his overall subject is about slavery, more specifically the cruelty and reality of what it is and what it causes. Furthermore, evidently, he is the speaker with a firm, reflective tone. However, I'm not positive if he's addressing specific people or just the general public.

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pirateteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted November 12, 2012 at 3:08 AM (Answer #1)

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In his narrative, Frederick Douglass seeks to educate an uninformed Northern audience.  Even in the book's preface, William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips express to the audience that this book is unlike any other slave narrative that has been published to this point.  This book has been written by an actual slave who lived and escaped from the horrors described in the book.  Douglass knows that before his book, the only side being lifted up to the North was the Southern Slave Master's side.  This biased point of view did not paint an accurate picture of life in the south.

In his letter of introduction Phillips says "the treatment of slaves in Maryland, in which State it is conceded that they are better fed and less cruelly treated than in Georgia, Alabama, or Louisiana."  This shows us that Douglass seeks to break down previous misconceptions that slavery is lessbad in certain areas or okay in any place.  By the end of this book, his northern, Christian audience will have to accept that slavery goes against God and the Constitution, and so they will have to join the fight against it.

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