Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave Questions and Answers
by Frederick Douglass

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Does Frederick Douglass use figurative language in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave?

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Marietta Sadler eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Douglass does use a range of figurative language devices throughout his writing. In the first quotation below, for example, Douglass uses a series of vivid metaphors to compare the plight of a slave with the plight of a free man.

"You are loosed from your moorings, and are free; I am fast in my chains, and am a slave! You move merrily before the gentle gale, and I sadly before the bloody whip! You are freedom's swift-winged angels, that fly round the world; I am confined in bands of iron! O that I were free!" (49)

When Douglass writes that he is "fast in (his) chains" and "confined in bands of iron," he means this both literally and figuratively. As a slave, he would have been often in chains and bands of the literal, physical kind. He also would have been in metaphorical chains and bands at all times. In other words, as a slave, he would never be free to move as he might want to move. He would always be bound by his status as a slave. Douglass also describes the free men in metaphorical...

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