Frederick Douglass: providence

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            The life of a slave is something that is not favored. It is a life ordinary people would not want to have. However, in paragraph ten of Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, Douglass described his life to be marked with the kind providence of receiving so many favors (p. 36). Many people will not agree because, from the start of the narrative until the end, Douglass remained a slave, a condition that people will not be considered as favorable. However, “favor” is used in the narrative in a relative sense. It is “favorable” compared to other people similarly situated. Douglass received more favors than other slaves. This essay will list some of these favors that Douglass received in his life.

            His first favor is that things tend to turn out well in his life despite being in its deepest points. This turning out well often comes in the form of being sent to Baltimore where slaves are treated better than in other places and where treating slaves with cruelty will gain a master a bad reputation (See p. 39). Baltimore is, at one point in his life, the beginning of his enlightenment and, at another point, his relief. He first went to Baltimore to be the personal slave of another boy. There, he finds his condition greatly improved and learned things that made him, and not only his life, different. His first favor is finding a good mistress in the person of Mrs. Auld. Even when he first saw her, Douglass knew the kindness that rule Mrs. Auld’s soul. He can see this kindness in her face and affected him in a way that is new and good (p. 35). This proves to be true as time goes by, and thus bestowed upon him a better life than before. She does not treat slaves with cruelty and even started to teach him the alphabet. Unfortunately, this was stopped by Mr. Auld who believes slaves should not be taught because this will plant upon them the seed of discontent and the desire to rebel and be free (pp. 37-38). As a result, Mrs. Auld started to treat him differently and with more cruelty. However, the first seeds have already been planted. The fact that he already knew some of the alphabet and his accidental overhearing of Mr. Auld telling Mrs. Auld that education will make keeping a slave more difficult propelled him to aim for new goals—which is that of learning and becoming free. Later on in his life, going to Baltimore again became a favor that made his life better than its current condition, this time as a relief. It was when he was kept in jail for being suspected as the architect of a plan among the slaves of Mr. Freeland to escape—a plan that was turned into failure before its execution even began (See pp. 52-57). His fate was then turning bleak because he was to be sold as a slave to a man in Alabama. For them, being sold is one of the worst fates a slave can have. However, his master changed his mind, sent him back to his old home in Baltimore and permitted him to learn a trade, an opportunity that very few slaves receive. Due to the prejudice that existed against him at that time, his master sent him away for fear that he may be killed. (p. 57) Most slaves will either be sold or punished, but his master took the opposite course and instead decided based on considerations for his life and safety.

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            His second favor is that his fate is not the worst among all slaves. His life is filled with little blessings that make huge differences in his life. This little blessings fit together to make simple tasks, which help fulfill his plan of educating himself easier to accomplish. For example, the fact that he has more liberty than other slaves to get bread from the house allowed him to have a resource he can use to bribe white boys who are more educated than he is to teach him as a favor. (pp. 41-42)While there is no mention in the narrative that this bribe is absolutely necessary in exchange for the white boys to teach him, the fact that he has something to give them make friendship and favors easier to obtain. Also, he has access to books and other reading materials. How he had access to these, he did not explain. Newspapers may easily be left lying around, but books such as those he read cannot ordinarily be found in places where a slave like him have access to. Moreover, some of these books are not ordinary reading. There are some, like the Columbian Orator, whose contents are exactly what he is looking for—a justification for the liberty he sought for, and which added fire to his desire to be free, and thus his desire to learn. (pp. 42-43) Everywhere he is, he tends to be surrounded by people who are capable of giving assistance such as Mrs. Auld, the white boys who taught him how to read and the slaves who planned an attempt to escape with him. In addition to this, he knows that he is blessed with favors. This is a favor itself because knowing one’s blessing makes life better. He admits that others may find his belief that his life is marked with favors as an object of ridicule, but he does not care. Instead, he uses his faith to cheer himself up and believe that he will someday be free, even during the most despairing moments of his life. (p. 36) The hope that he will be free is still there despite the negative thoughts that run through his head.

His third favor is that he is gifted with a natural intelligence to comprehend the information left around him. Moreover, this natural intelligence is coupled with a strength that comes in the form of a determination to do what he wants to be done. He learned about how education can help him by accidentally overhearing his masters and processed this information to know what has to be done. He studied on his, own without a teacher and learned to read books by himself. He is very resourceful in finding tools that can help him and took advantage of any means he can find to learn. For example, he learned to write by observing how letters were used by people in the shipyard to mark the parts of a ship (p. 46). He made friends with white boys on the street, conscious of the fact that it is not just friendship that he will gain, but tutors. (p. 41) He sees hindrances on his way, but he has the determination to overcome them. In fact, when he and other slaves planned for an escape, even patrols, sentinels and guards did not stop him from creating a plan (p. 49).

These are his blessings. He was born in a life doomed from the start. His future is to be someone who is forever bound to slavery. However, this did not last. Unlike others, he got educated and found ways to make his life better. In finding ways to make his life better, fate seemed to always smile at him and give little assistance along the way. His life is marked with so many favors because things happen to change his fate and make his life a better one.

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Frederick Douglass: providence. (2016, Dec 13). Retrieved from

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