Fredrick Douglass a Narrative to Remember

Reading, both The Narrative of the Life of Frederick and My Bondage and My Freedom, side by side is very interesting; mostly because while they are about the same person, Frederick Douglass, they reveal different things. In The Narrative of the Life of Frederick, we are given a narrative rather than an expository of his life. This is important to keep in mind because while the author’s point of view, the author being Frederick Douglass in this case, is implied it is not always explicitly expressed. That is to say, that the primary focus of the autobiography is the events themselves. In this autobiography the audience is invited to visualize the experiences that Frederick Douglass encountered. The tone allows the audience to sense what Frederick Douglass felt. The actual language used in the autobiography also gives the audience an insight on Frederick Douglass’ view points and perspectives. For example, Douglass pleads God to “Save me! God, deliver me! Let me be Free! Is there any God? Why am I a slave? I will run away”. Here this portion of the text is interesting because it shows his attitude rather than simply stating what happened. One could conclude that this Frederick Douglass wrote this piece with his audience in mind. Perhaps Fredrick Douglass did not want his audience to simply read a series of events; rather Fredrick Douglass wanted to evoke thoughts and emotions in his audience.  He wanted to bring to life his experiences and emotions in a way that would captivate the audience.

This is interesting because we see how Frederick Douglass’ approaches shifts in My Bondage and My Freedom. In this autobiography Frederick Douglass shares his experiences but is more concerned with explicitly sharing the details of the cruel events.  That is to say, My Bondage and My Freedom, resembles an expository rather than a narrative, even though both autobiographies are accounts of his life. This becomes more evident when comparing the same section used before as an example from The Narrative of the Life of Frederick, to the equivalent section in My Bondage and My Freedom: “During the night, I heard the step of a man in the woods. He was coming toward the place where I lay. A person lying still has the advantage over one walking in the woods, in the day time, and this advantage is much greater at night.” Notice how in this account the language used is more formal. Notice how there is no dialogue included and it completely leaves out what Frederick Douglass was thinking or feeling. Instead, this account simply provides the details of the events.

In general this is particularly interesting to me because it brings up many questions about the author. One could ask: why would this shift occur? One could begin to wonder, what type of response Frederick Douglass wanted from his audience? We could also begin to wonder if there was a different response from the readers, what was different, and why? There are endless possibilities!

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