Frederick Douglass

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Can you provide two examples where Douglass uses sentimentalism or emotion to manipulate readers in his Narrative?

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Douglass's appeal to sentiment and emotion is quite successful in the first chapter of his Narrative, as he describes being torn from his mother at a young age. Later, in chapter 10, Douglass also uses sentiment and emotion when he compares himself to sailboats that are free.

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One example in which Douglass appeals to sentiment and emotion is in the first chapter. In this excerpt, he speaks about being separated from his mother at a young age. He writes:

My mother and I were separated when I was but an infant—before I knew her as my mother. It is a common custom, in the part of Maryland from which I ran away, to part children from their mothers at a very early age.

His parting from his mother is tragic, and his retelling of this separation is intended to point out the evils of slavery to the white readership of his book. His appeal to sentiment is intended to convince the reader of the evils of slavery, which includes the practice of tearing vulnerable children from their mothers at a young age.

Later, in chapter 10, Douglass discusses the harsh treatment he receives as a field hand under the barbaric Mr. Covey. When Douglass is in chains, he is within sight of the Chesapeake Bay, and he sees the sailboats in the bay. He writes of this sight: "You are loosed from your moorings, and are free; I am fast in my chains, and am a slave!" He addresses the sailboats as if they are people and remarks that they are freer than he is. This is an emotional scene in which Douglass notes the ironic that sailboats are freer than he is. This scene, which is beautifully and lyrically written, is also intended to manipulate the emotions of the reader and convince the reader of the evils of slavery.

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Early in the narrative, Douglass described his Aunt Hester being cruelly whipped and his own terror as a seven year old who happened to be at the scene. He uses details to describe the violence in a way that raises the reader's emotion of horror against the evils of slaveowners having so much power over other human beings. After witnessing part of it, such as seeing her aunt's hands bound over her head, seeing the blood running down her bare back, and hearing her screams, he sneaks off. He wants to manipulate the reader's emotions, especially through choosing to show a woman (rather than a man) whipped and its effects on an innocent child. He is emotional as he writes:

I was so terrified and horror-stricken at the sight, that I hid myself in a closet, and dared not venture out till long after the bloody transaction was over.

Douglass expresses sentiment too when he discusses the woeful lamenting that characterizes the song of the slave:

Every tone was a testimony against slavery, and a prayer to God for deliverance from chains. The hearing of those wild notes always depressed my spirit, and filled me with ineffable sadness. I have frequently found myself in tears while hearing them. The mere recurrence to those songs, even now, afflicts me; and while I am writing these lines, an expression of feeling has already found its way down my cheek.

The adult Douglass cries as he remembers the slave's singing. In this case, he wants to most strongly to state that the songs the slaves sang were not happy because, as he mentions, the singing of the slaves was often used by whites to argue that the slaves were happy. Douglass wants the reader to know that these songs expressed anguish and pain, never joy.

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In Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Douglass uses emotional manipulation on a few occasions to affect his reading audience.  First, Douglass makes an apostrophe to the passing ships in Baltimore.  He compares his life to the "lives" of the ships, stating that the ships are free while he remains in bondage.  The apostrophe has a tone of remorse as Douglass makes a bid for freedom. 

In another part of the narrative, Douglass tells the reader about his grandmother and how she was expelled from the plantation and sent to live in a house by herself in the woods.  Douglass laments this treatment of his grandmother, a woman who spent her entire life rearing the slave children on the plantation only to be sent out into the wilderness to starve to death. 

These two passages present a shift in tone from the majority of the narrative which is written in a more objective tone and style.  The apostrophe to the ships and the description of Douglass's grandmother grab the hearts of the reading audience and sway favor for Douglass as the narrator.

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