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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave

by Frederick Douglass
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What quote from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave describes a cruel master, mistress, or overseer with details of a first observed whipping/beating and numerous subsequent whippings? What does this information accomplish in the larger narrative as a whole?

A quote from the book that describes a cruel whipping is

he commenced to lay on the heavy cowskin, and soon the warm, red blood (amid heart-rending shrieks from her, and horrid oaths from him) came dripping to the floor.

This information accomplishes the narrative purpose of establishing slavery from the start as a cruel, terrifying institution.

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Douglass begins his narrative with an account of the way the alcoholic overseer, Mr. Plummer, would cruelly use a cowskin and cudgel to

cut and slash the women's heads so horribly, that even master would be enraged at his cruelty.

Early on, too, Douglass tells of his horror as a...

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Douglass begins his narrative with an account of the way the alcoholic overseer, Mr. Plummer, would cruelly use a cowskin and cudgel to

cut and slash the women's heads so horribly, that even master would be enraged at his cruelty.

Early on, too, Douglass tells of his horror as a young boy at witnessing his Aunt Hester being whipped by his master, Captain Anthony, for going out without his permission. He offers a graphic description of the scene:

Her arms were stretched up at their full length, so that she stood upon the ends of her toes. He then said to her, "Now, you d——d b—-h, I'll learn you how to disobey my orders!" and after rolling up his sleeves, he commenced to lay on the heavy cowskin, and soon the warm, red blood (amid heart-rending shrieks from her, and horrid oaths from him) came dripping to the floor.

Douglass also emphasizes that this was not a one-time event:

I have often been awakened at the dawn of day by the most heart-rending shrieks of an own aunt of mine, whom he used to tie up to a joist, and whip upon her naked back till she was literally covered with blood. No words, no tears, no prayers, from his gory victim, seemed to move his iron heart from its bloody purpose.

This early information accomplishes the task of establishing a dark, terrifying context for the slaves' existence. They were not kindly treated on the farms where Douglass grew up, with an occasional beating if someone transgressed badly. Instead, violence was a frequent, repeated, almost daily occurrence that was exercised with little restraint. Slaves were beaten violently and with little provocation.

Showing Douglass's reaction as a young boy who thought he would be next for the cruel treatment his aunt received emphasizes how intimidating the beatings were. Slavery was not a benign institution in which slaves were part of the family, but one based on force and sadism.

By starting with these scenes, Douglass makes it easier for readers to accept his conclusion that slaves sing because they are unhappy, not happy, and that they lie when they are asked if are happy because they fear reprisals if they were to tell the truth.

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