A closer reading of Douglass's narrative brings out more intricate details about slavery.
As a child, he suffered from abuse, starvation, and cold. He recounts how slaves would be forced to sleep together in the same room. This clearly points to the miserable conditions that slaves were kept under—a fact that many slaveowners at the time denied. He further states that this experience was quite typical and not unusual.
He also points to the extremely dehumanizing experience of slavery. First, he states that he does not know exactly when he was born. He recalls being separated from his mother at an early age and only ever seeing her four or five times throughout his life. Furthermore, he has no knowledge of who his father was, other than rumors that it was a former master. This gives historians an idea of the real brutality of slavery and how it stripped African Americans of their identity and family.
Douglass makes it clear that slavery was also a mechanism to take away a man's identity. After his fight with Covey, where he beats down a slave-breaker in defiance of the violence being carried out against him, he writes the famous quote, "You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man." This shows that by resisting slavery, Douglass saw himself as regaining his masculinity.
Finally, Douglass provides us with a complex picture of masters. He argues that while slavery in itself was brutal, and if forced people to become monsters, not all masters were inherently cruel and some could afford their slaves more freedom than others. This is seen when Douglass recalls being allowed to work in Baltimore for wages—an act which eventually prompted him to hatch a successful escape plan.
Overall, as said, Douglass's arguments provide us with an accurate picture of slavery as a terrible, dehumanizing institution.