Black and white illustration of Frederick Douglass

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave

by Frederick Douglass
Start Free Trial

In Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, what attitude does Frederick Douglass have about slavery?

Expert Answers

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

In the narrative, Frederick Douglas reveals his deep hatred of slavery. To Douglas, slavery was both dehumanizing and degrading in nature. He confesses that, after learning to read, he came to see his pitiful position in its true light. It was then that he began to despise all slave owners.

His earliest memories of slavery were of his Aunt Hester being flogged with a whip by Captain Anthony. Douglas contends that Captain Anthony increased the intensity of his whippings in accordance with Aunt Hester's screams. The flowing blood and the blood-curdling screams left an indelible impression upon Douglas.

Later in the narrative, Douglas relates how Mrs. Auld taught him the alphabet. Unfortunately, Mrs. Auld's husband soon discovered what his kind-hearted wife had been up to, and he ordered her to cease teaching Douglas. According to Douglas, slavery is a corrupting influence. He contends that it changed Mrs. Auld from a warm, tender-hearted woman to one of "tiger-like fierceness."

All in all, Douglas thought of slavery as a contemptible institution and a corrupting influence on the entire human race.

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

In Narrative of the Life of Frederick DouglassDouglass clearly believes that slavery degrades the humanity of both slaves and slave masters. Douglass relays the story of his experience with Mr. Covey, and how during his time on Covey's plantation, Douglass lived in fear of Covey's temper and abuse. Douglass says that in his eventual fight with Mr. Covey that he became a man, which implies that before this event, Douglass did not regard himself as a man. The reader may infer that the horrors of slavery degraded his sense of self and his humanity. Similarly, Douglass says that slavery not only hurts slaves, but also slave masters. Douglass points out the hypocritical whites who use religion as a way to justify keeping slaves, and Douglass says that these people have lost their way in terms of their religious faith. Douglass argues that white slave masters misinterpret the Bible to support their cruel behavior, which is degrading to their sense of humanity and decency.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial