Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave is structured as an autobiographical narrative by Frederick Douglass that incorporates rhetorical devices and personal narrative to make a searingly potent condemnation against slavery, and to encourage all people to fight against enslavement.
Douglass recounts the horrors he faced enduring slavery, and his ensuing brave and determined fight for personal liberation. The structure of the text may not be considered solely an autobiographical narrative, due to the amount of persuasive arguing, rhetoric, and calls to action against slavery that Douglass makes throughout the text. Douglass recounts the details of his life not merely to publish a captivating story or to self-aggrandize, but to create a personal testament to the horrors of slavery and continue his project of disseminating anti-slavery literature in the hopes of creating a social shift against slavery.
Through telling his personal story of escape and rebellion against enslavement, Douglass also essentially published a method of escape and liberation from enslavement. He hoped that enslaved people could potentially access and read his story as a kind of map to freedom. The text provides readers with both a chronological account of Frederick Douglass's life as well as a compelling and searing argument against the worst of man-made institutions.