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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Although the initial intention and development of the slave narratives was to reveal and examine slavery and justify its subsequent abolition, they contain important personal facts and judgments as well as folklore that not only assist in description of the actual historical picture but frame readers personal reflections through emotions and self-positioning. In other words, on the individual level, the audience comprehends not only the system of slavery, but the personal life of the slave, attitudes, emotions and judgments. Addressing to this point, Blassingame affirms that in the autobiography, more clearly than in any other source, we learn what went on in the minds of black men. It gives us a window to the inside half of the slaves life which never appears in the commentaries of outsiders (Hazel V. Car, Reconstructing Womanhood: The Emergence of the Afro-American Woman Novelist, Boston Books (1993), p. 79). Throughout the narrative, future abolitionist Frederick Douglass expresses his yearning to be free and his loathing of being trapped into a life of slavery.
Through the kindness of one of his mistresses, Douglass learned to read and write. He maintained that being literate through constant learning, either from traditional methods or through life experience, would eventually lead him to freedom. Douglass observed that his fellow slaves were capable of tender love, which unified them in their struggles. Douglass eventually acquired his freedom and acknowledged the love shared among slaves that helped him endure. From the very beginning, audience comprehends the depicting picture of atrocious discomfort in slaves lives, since Douglass does not have a proper starting point for his narration. Young Frederick had no accurate knowledge of his age, paternity and very slight remembrance of his mother.
From the critical point of view, the audience understands that ignorance of ones origin was treated like a norm, and moreover was deliberately enforced by masters. The situation of a child contrasts significantly with the life of his master, the chief overseer for Col. Edward Lloyd. However, even Aaron Anthony and his family, hired employees, own 30 slaves. Douglas first real encounter of slavery and its consequences for every enslaved individual was the eating of his aunt Hester. The audience observes the picture of a woman of noble form, and of graceful proportions, stripped to the waist, with her wrists bound and suspended from a ceiling hook.
Thus, there is an opposition of noble old master and beaten woman with the blood-clotted cowskin, which in particular case represents an image of Afro-American class in the eyes of the readers. Subsequently, Frederick Douglas clarified the situation with her aunt: Had he been a man of pure morals himself, he might have been thought interested in protecting the innocence of my aunt; but those who knew him will not suspect him of any such virtue (Douglas, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. 1845. The Classic Slave Narratives. Ed. Henry Louis Gates Jr.
New York: Penguin (1987), p. 131). The opposition of white and black culture remains pressing and finds it logical continuation in the episode when Martha home is ransacked by white pa trollers. Motivated and encouraged by their newly acquired status as pa trollers, white men exulted in such a chance to exercise a little brief authority, ransacking homes and inflicting harm on people (Jacobs, Harriet. Incidents in The Life of a Slave Girl. 1861. Cambridge: Harvard University Press (1987), p. 65). Showing no compunction while tearing into precious heirlooms and store of preserves, pa trollers captain found a letter, and being surprised with Lindas ability to read, swore and raved, and tore the paper into bits.
However, still white pa trollers captain remained unsatisfied, asking Who writes to you? half free niggers? Simultaneously, Lindas answer o, no; most of my letters are from white people. Some request me to burn them after they are read, and some I destroy without reading revealed the audience the contradictory ethics in the white mens treatment of slaves in general and slave women in particular. From practical point of view, slaves were not permitted to learn to read, however some white men insisted on individual slave women to do so, just in order to make their immoral selfish dishes known to the slave women without being caught by others. Harriet Jacobs resumed the encounter with white pa trollers as an exclamation of surprise from some of the company put a stop to our conversation (Harriet, op cited, p. 66).
Although picture depicted in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl has many common images and trends regarding slavery, Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs employed different perspectives. Thus, Douglass reviewed the path to individuals freedom through literacy and education, however, its approach should be distinguished from freeman in fact, while a slave in form. On the other hand, Harriet Jacobs questioned the essence of slavery and opposition to it, to the some degree, through Afro-American folklore and cultural significance. As Jacobs described, secular songs were sung during the little leisure time and accompanied by musical instruments, hand clapping or foot tapping. Moreover, the spiritual, combined with traditional African performance rituals, helped slaves both practice and preserve parts of the African aesthetic. In addition, practiced spirituals aided the slaves significantly in terms of reconciling African religions with the teachings of Christianity.
Through repositioning themselves into depicting circumstances, the readers comprehend Lindas emphasis on the secular songs and spirituals as the need to perform and preserve tradition. Jacobs showed the audience how slaves were able to carve out their own distinct forms of spirituality and communication, those forms ignored by slaveholders as merely forms of entertainment.
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