An Analysis on Frederick Douglass’s “A Narrative on the Life of Frederick Douglass” Essay
Time after time in the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, the author shows horrific and grotesque experiences that Frederick Douglass went through in his time as a slave. In his book, Douglass reveals to a Christian audience the evil corruption of slavery upon a Godly society. Douglass shows how slavery turns people who are good and kind, into things of pure evil. Douglass shows in his book how slavery is corrupting and changes people, and he shows this through Master Hugh’s wife, Mrs. Auld. Mrs. Auld was a woman who “never had a slave under her control previously to [Douglass],” and “[Douglass] was utterly astonished at her goodness. ”(Douglass 19)
Douglass shows how she was pure and had a good heart that was in the right place and Douglass compares her to an angel, but the “fatal poison” of slavery was “in her hands,” and she soon her “cheerful eye” because of the “influence of slavery, soon became red with rage” and her “angelic face gave place to that of a demon. ”(Douglass 19) Change was inevitable because of her need to conform to the way people treated slaves.
According to her husband the way she treated slaves was “unlawful and unsafe,” (Douglass 20) and she needed to treat them like others treat slaves, which she did. She went against her beliefs, and “[conformed] to the patterns of [the] world” (Niv Bible, Rom. 12:2) and treated slaves like dirt. She was transformed into something different once she tasted of that poisoned apple that is slavery, and turned from who she was, a good person, into some new creation of evil, a demon and a devil, which is the image of pure evil and trickery.
Douglass shows how the power of slavery spoils people of religion. Douglass shows how when the “fatal poison” (Douglass 19) of slavery, which is caused by “irresponsible power” (Douglass 19), is put into the hands of religious people, they change for the worse. One example Douglass uses is Mr. Covey. Mr. Covey “was a professor of religious…and a slave breaker,” (Douglass 34) who had a reputation for being cruel amongst the slaves. Douglass tells of how Mr. Covey mercilessly beats him many times, despite him being a Christian.
Mr. Covey was infected with the virus slavery is, how the “infernal character,” (Zeitz) serves its “infernal purpose,” (Zeitz) to corrupt people with its “infernal work,” (Zeitz) holding on with its “infernal grasp. ” (Zeitz) The power of slavery corrupted Mr. Covey, who was a professor of religion, and turned him into something horrible. Douglass referred to Covey as “the snake” (Douglass 36) to show how even though he was a Christian he was still the devil in his eyes.
Douglass “associates Covey with Satan” (Zeitz) because of his deceptiveness, “[an] ability which is always associates with Satan” (Zeitz), and uses it to show how another person was turned from good to evil. Douglass makes it very clear how slavery corrupts the very image of Christianity itself. In the slavery days there were many religious debacles on whether slavery was right. A major argument was that “God cursed Ham,” (Douglass 3) and his sons, “therefore American slavery is correct. (Douglass 3) Douglass though doesn’t agree with this argument and says because so many slaves had “white fathers” (Douglass 3) that this argument didn’t justify slavery anymore. But people still kept on argument it and justifying their actions using religion as crutch. Douglass tells of Thomas Auld, who after “experiencing religion” (Douglass 32) became a much worse slaveholder than before. He found sanctuary in his beatings in whippings through the scriptures he would read.
Auld would misinterpret the bible, like many other slaveholders like him, and find justification. Most of “the slaveholder’s justification” for their actions, “is founded on misreading the Gospel. ” (Zeitz). The Christianity that is turned by slavery, Douglass calls “Christianity of the land,” (Douglass 71) and is a “corrupt, slaveholding, and hypocritical” (Douglass 71) religion practiced by slaveholders like Thomas Auld or Covey.
With the “Christianity of the land” at hand, Douglass shows how, to the slaveholders, it is justifiable to go on with the whippings, beatings, deprivations, and all the other hardships that the slaveholders put on their slaves. Slavery totally turned Christianity from a religion all about love and the good for all man, to a Christianity all about selfishness and hatred. Douglass is very clear on his hatred against the all-corrupting slavery and wants to let it be known why the slave holders were so horrible and evil. He gave many examples on how slaveholders willingly gave in to the toxic slavery and how the felt justifiable in their actions. Douglass showed how the corrupting poison that is slavery killed Godly societies
Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. New York: Dover Publications, Inc. , 1995. 76. Print. Lisa Margaret Zeitz, ‘‘Biblical Allusion and Imagery in Frederick Douglass’ Narrative,’’ CLA Journal, Vol. XXV, No. 1, September 1981, pp. 56-64. The Holy Bible. New International Version. Colorado Springs: Biblica, 2011.