What style of writing did Frederick Douglass use in his autobiography?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Douglass is confronted with a challenging task in writing his narrative.  On one hand, he is driven by the need to represent his experiences in a manner that will prove compelling to a larger audience who have little idea as to what he endured.  At the same time, he is driven by the social need to advocate abolitionism in a setting where there is not widespread acceptance of it.  In this, Douglass recognizes that both ends could be met through the style in which his narrative is written.  Douglass' style is one that is honest enough to bring forth the pain and moral repugnance towards slavery.  Douglass uses the personalized account of his own life and experiences to make very clear why slavery is abhorrent and the need for its abolition from American society.  This involves placing the reader in the middle of brutality, such as his aunt's whipping or the abuse that he suffered himself.  In utilizing the first person narrative style, Douglass is able to convince the reader in fairly direct terms that slavery is wrong.  In this process, Douglass is able to display to the reader that White slaveowners viewed slaves as animals or something not human, and employs animalistic imagery to bring this point to the reader, suggesting again the need to abolish slavery.