Black and white illustration of Frederick Douglass

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave

by Frederick Douglass
Start Free Trial

Describe one cultural aspect in "A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass."

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

One cultural aspect that Frederick Douglass illustrates in his narrative concerns Christian beliefs and ideals. Douglass spends a considerable amount of time at the end of his narrative criticizing cruel, unforgiving slave masters, who brutally whip their slaves and even murder them, while claiming that they are saved Christians. Frederick...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

One cultural aspect that Frederick Douglass illustrates in his narrative concerns Christian beliefs and ideals. Douglass spends a considerable amount of time at the end of his narrative criticizing cruel, unforgiving slave masters, who brutally whip their slaves and even murder them, while claiming that they are saved Christians. Frederick Douglass elaborates on how slaveowners corrupt and pervert the Christian religion by using the Bible to justify their oppressive, abusive actions. Douglass chastises these self-proclaimed Christians, who treat their slaves like subhuman beings and violently abuse them on an everyday basis, ostensibly in the name of the Lord. As a Christian, Frederick Douglass provides a cultural insight into America's most popular religion by exposing how slaveowners pervert Christianity for their own benefits.

Another cultural aspect that Douglass addresses throughout his narrative is the harsh realities of institutionalized slavery. Douglass gives in-depth access to the severe, brutal treatment of slaves at the hands of their callous, authoritative masters. He even provides insight into how institutionalized slavery negatively affects the slaveowners. Douglass also examines the importance of education in his narrative, which is another significant cultural aspect that he addresses. Douglass states that learning to read and write dramatically changed the trajectory of his life and influenced him to escape the bonds of slavery. Becoming literate offered Douglass important insight into his oppressive situation and motivated him to seek a better life.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

"A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass" is an autobiographical memoir of Frederick Douglass' life as an enslaved African and of his eventual escape.

Douglass makes some important observations about masculinity in the book. He recounts an early memory in which he saw aunt savagely beaten by the white master. This experience instilled in him the reality that the Negro could never be a "true man" under slavery, because a true man has the ability to protect his female family members.

Later in life, Douglass gets into a fist fight with his master. He discusses how this incident "restored his manhood." Douglass thus reflected the common belief that masculinity is something mediated and proven by physical violence. His narrative retains numerous cultural assumptions about gender, masculinity, and manhood.

Posted on