In the passage “Learning to Read and Write”, Frederick Douglass talks about his experiences during slavery while living with his master. He describes his struggle to learn how to read and write. Frederick Douglass becomes a very good writer, and reformer. Fredrick Douglass uses strong diction, symbolism, imagery and good use of tone to show many people from the late 1800’s the realities of the evils and lack of education that African Americans faced during slavery. Through strong emotion to his audience he wants to inform African Americans of the importance of an education. This is a piece of work that shows how severe it was for him to face many kinds of obstacles while pursuing something he loved to do.
When Fredrick Douglass is describing his master’s wife helping him to learn to read and write, Douglas wrote that she was “kind enough” to agree to help him to become educated. This is an example of diction not specifically but hidden because it gives us an idea of a situation where allowing someone to become educated was a kind of kindness but, this was supposed to be one of the basic rights of each human being. Douglass’s diction used in his piece of writing was formal with nothing special to it because of how long ago this was written and because he was just a child who worked hard to educate himself as a slave.
The diction changed from complex wording to long complex sentences throughout the story. Based off the writing Douglass used many forms of complex sentences to completely show us the relationships he had with his masters and himself. In the second paragraph we can see a great example of the unique complex sentences Douglass uses where he says “My mistress was, as I have said, a kind and tenderhearted woman ; and in the simplicity of her soul she commenced, when I first went to live with her, to treat me as she supposed one human being ought to treat another”. Instead of just saying this sentence nice and easy he changes it too complex with the many added words and commas. Throughout his essay just like this sentence Douglas includes many complex sentences and words to add to his essay. Without these complex sentences and use of diction it would be much harder for the audience to feel the true emotion of his stories.
Throughout this writing, we can consistently feel strong tone mixed with pride, seriousness and inspiration. These allowed Douglas to be kind towards those who played a big role throughout his journey to learn to read and write. He used a very emotional relaxed tone throughout his writing which gave us a clear idea about the level of his feelings and skills that would be shown to us (the audience) successfully. Even though Douglas had a very emotional tone throughout this essay he still wrote this passage feeling very good about the effort and accomplishments he had to overcome. In the essay his tone stays at a consistent serious feeling but does mix in a dark tone as well. Douglass writes specific things like “I often found myself regretting my own existence and wishing myself dead; and but for the hope of being free, I have no doubt but that, I should have killed myself, or done something for which I should have been killed”.
And writes things like “The more I read, the more I was led to abhor and detest my enslavers. I could regard them in no other light than a band of successful robbers, who had left their homes, and gone to Africa, and stolen us from our homes, and in a strange land reduced us to slavery. I loathed them as being the meanest as well as the most wicked of men”. I noticed these two quotes from the text to be very similar yet different pieces of tone from Douglass in his essay. The first quote shows a tone of a stronger dark emotional appeal. We as an audience can feel this sadness as it hurts to read. The second quote is a very hateful tone. These two quotes show us how Douglass’s writing can be very serious but in his essay his tone changes based off what he is specifically talking about in a certain section of his essay.
The use of symbolism is also very much portrayed throughout his essay. For example, in one paragraph he talked about how he managed to convince the white poor boys to teach him to read and write. In exchange for their lessons, he would give them some bread. To him what he was getting in exchange was more valuable than the bread. This was a good use of symbolism as it showed how he perceived education and learning to be more important than bread or food. The symbolism is very important because it represented who Douglass was as a person. An achiever, a fighter, and most importantly someone who would reach his goal no matter what.
This symbolism set a message for how Douglass would go on in his life. Besides slavery itself the mistress symbolized adversity and obstacles. Douglas could have given up after the mistress turned on him and treated him as poorly as she did. But instead he did not give up. Symbols don’t always have to symbolize good but in this case the mistress symbolized bad and he did not run away from it but instead overcame it. These symbols show the audiences what it takes or how much you must value something in life to make it a reality.
Frederick Douglass does a really good job in showing us imagery, which was used especially through the first parts of his essay. In the beginning he describes how sweet and kind hearted the master’s wife was to him, even describing it as the way a human being should be treated. We begin to get images in our head of Douglass enjoying himself as a slave. Then suddenly, he describes how she changed and was as evil as his master.
Douglass paints these dark images of the reality of what he was facing. The strongest piece of imagery portrayed in the essay was when Fredrick Douglas runs into the Irishmen who tell him to run away. Not only does this give us emotion but it also has us imagining him escaping and being free at last. Throughout this piece Douglass gives us many signs of imagery to help us see and understand how his childhood was like much better.
In conclusion, it is safe to say that Fredrick Douglas through this piece “Learning to Read and Write” did not only share his thoughts about how he went through a struggle to get education but also showed his skills by using diction, tone, imagery and expressing thoughts through symbolism. This has really given an idea to the audience the feelings of knowledge and education that Douglass thrived for. As well as informed us all a small taste of the effects of slavery ad inhumanity.