How does the use of diction and structure help achieve the purpose of chapter 7 in The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass? How does it illustrate the concept of intellectual freedom?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Having been taught to read by Sophia Auld, Frederick Douglass furthered his skills on his own after her husband forbade her to teach a slave. Douglass also taught himself to write, and he wrote with a certain "figurative capacity," as demonstrated in this well-constructed sentence:

...however long I might remain a slave in form, the day had passed forever when I could be a slave in fact. (Ch.7)

Douglass repeats certain words in this sentence for emotional effect, such as slave. In addition, he uses parallelism in order to present ideas equally; the symmetry here emphasizes his meaning.

The diction which Douglass employs is rather formal, perhaps because of the age in which he lived and also because he worked hard to educate himself despite the almost complete lack of opportunity he experienced as a slave.

When Douglass is denied educational opportunities once given to him, he remarks,

The first step had been taken. Mistress, in teaching me the alphabet, had given me the inch, and no precaution could prevent me from taking the ell. (Ch.7)

Here again, Frederick Douglass employs figurative language and parallel structure. He also establishes a tone of dramatic power, self-determination, and intellectual freedom. 

In all of these examples from Chapter 7, Frederick Douglass demonstrates that he has educated himself well, and that he is a man who has attained intellectual freedom mostly through his own efforts. With moving rhetoric he writes of his intellectual freedom:

...the silver trumpet of freedom had roused my soul to eternal wakefulness. (Ch.7)

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