Frederick Douglass uses many persuasive techniques to convince his audience of his humanity and his intellectual abilities. Early in the essay , he uses cause and effect to explain how he came to read in the first place. The mistress of the house he labored in was originally teaching him...
Frederick Douglass uses many persuasive techniques to convince his audience of his humanity and his intellectual abilities. Early in the essay, he uses cause and effect to explain how he came to read in the first place. The mistress of the house he labored in was originally teaching him to read.
I succeeded in learning to read and write. ... My mistress... in compliance with the advice and direction of her husband, not only ceased to instruct, but had set her face against my being instructed by anyone else.
Douglass uses cause and effect to show how his mistress's change of heart influenced his thoughts about education. Originally, she was educating him, teaching him the alphabet and treating him as a human. She was, initially, "a kind and tender-hearted woman; and in the simplicity of her soul she commenced . . . to treat me as she supposed one human being ought to treat another." Later, she became upset when she caught Douglass reading:
Nothing seemed to make her more angry than to see me with a newspaper. She seemed to think that here lay the danger.
His mistress's change of heart caused Douglass to see the power of education. Like his mistress, Douglass learned that "education and slavery were incompatible with each other." Educated people grew in their sense of their own humanity. These people wouldn't allow themselves to be treated like animals. Douglass grew determined to learn to read.
Douglass then explains how he learned how to read from little boys (who were innocently unaware that education ruined slaves). He would give these young boys bread, and they would give him "that more valuable bread of knowledge." Here, he compares education to bread, saying that both are essential to human life.
As he tells his story, he gives very specific details and even offers an explanation about why he did not provide the names of the little boys who once helped him learn to read. He says this might "embarrass them; for it is almost an unpardonable offense to teach slaves to read in this Christian country." The word "Christian" is likely intended to be ironic. Christians claim to be selfless and loving to others, but the Christians that Douglass is referring to forced educated people (like himself) into slavery.
The details in his story cause readers to feel sympathy for Douglass. He was an educated man who was being forced to labor for others, without pay or sufficient compensation.
Douglass uses cause and effect, comparisons, and specific descriptions to show that he is an educated human being. Arguably, he seeks to convince others that education is the means to empower past slaves and help other slaves get out of slavery.