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Why does Douglass make the point that a slaveholder who has fathered a child is likely...

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luisgabriel | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 11, 2009 at 3:25 AM via web

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Why does Douglass make the point that a slaveholder who has fathered a child is likely to be tougher on that child?

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mkcapen1 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted December 11, 2009 at 5:36 AM (Answer #1)

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Slave owners often considered the slaves to be their property and held little respect for them.  Many of the men slept with the slave women and girls for sexual release, to show domination over them, and/or to create additional slaves.  The act of sleeping with a slave was considered to be the owner's right.  However, to have look at a child whom he had created with a being that the owner actually held in contempt meant that every time he saw the child he was reminded of his act.  The reaction of the owner was often one of anger and hatred towards the child as he projected his own feelings of shame or degradation upon the child who had done no wrong.  Fredrick Douglas recognized this behavior in slave owners.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted November 12, 2011 at 10:46 AM (Answer #1)

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I think that Douglass' primary motivation in pointing this point of view about the slaveholder's child is to reflect the psychological destruction that is so intrinsic to slavery.  Douglass shows slavery to be both bad and psychologically damaging to everyone.  On one hand, the child who has a slaveowner father, yet is a slave is one who suffers intense psychological trauma.  Their lives are in bondage, yet they were brought into this world by one parent who is not a slave.  This creates a divided consciousness, which, on many levels, is destructive to one's psyche.  Douglass points this out in bringing out more opposition to the nature of slavery as one that yields destruction and suffering on a personal level, something not as readily evident by the outsider.  Additionally, Douglass brings out the psychological confusion of the master.  Douglass illuminates how emotionally discombobulated and fragmented the slaveowner is.  On one hand, they fathered a child out of their own choice.  Yet, their own self- hatred is what compels them to mistreat this child and treat them even worse.  In this, the slave owners are shown to be as psychologically fragmented, if not more, than the slave.

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