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

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What is Douglass' attitude toward slavery in his Narrative?

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From the scene in which Douglass learns how to read and encounters the printed word for the first time, we find that Douglass' attitude toward slavery is one of profound hatred.  Furthermore, he couches his critique of slavery in the Enlightenment rhetoric of human rights.  After recruiting the local white children to help him attain literacy, Douglass reads a book entitled "The Columbian Orator."  In the book, he tells us:

I met with one of Sheridan's mighty speeches on and in behalf of Catholic emancipation. These were choice documents to me. I read them over and over again with unabated interest. They gave tongue to interesting thoughts of my own soul, which had frequently flashed through my mind, and died away for want of utterance. The moral which I gained from the dialogue was the power of truth over the conscience of even a slaveholder. What I got from Sheridan was a bold denunciation of slavery, and a powerful vindication of human rights.

Douglass, here, identifies his own situation ("interesting thoughts of my own soul") with that of oppressed Catholics in Europe through the text's "speeches on and in behalf of Catholic emancipation."  From Catholic oppression, Douglass gains the "moral" of both the "denunciation of slavery" and a celebration and "vindication of human rights." 

From this rights discourse and critique of slavery, Douglass gains the desire to emancipate himself, as his own enslaved situation becomes intolerable:

The more I read, the more I was led to abhor and detest my enslavers. I could regard them in no other light than a band of successful robbers, who had left their homes, and gone to Africa, and stolen us from our homes, and in a strange land reduced us to slavery. I loathed them as being the meanest as well as the most wicked of men.

His reading leads Douglass to believe slavery is immoral, calling those who hold and traffic in slaves "successful robbers" and "the most wicked of men."  Further, from this passage we can see that Douglass' attitude toward slavery is one of hatred; he "abhor[s] and detest[s]" slaveholders and the peculiar institution for which they stand.

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