Reader Response to Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass

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            It is very rare in the field of published literature that a work such as an autobiography receives such acclaim and popularity. In order for an autobiography to be successful, it must be very well written and hold relevant meanings to the people and have timeless appeal. Such is the case with the autobiography of Frederick Douglass entitled Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass. This paper would be in response of the said work. I find that the narrative is, overall, a very powerful piece of literature that is a must for not just blacks but also anyone that would like to find out a very realistic account of how life was before the Emancipation proclamation of Abraham Lincoln. It is a powerful work because it uses strong and graphic imagery that revealed truths about the conditions of the black people then. My reactions could be summed up into three words—powerful, disturbing, and sickening,

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Reactions to the Work

            On its way to leaving a powerful impression on me, the narrative provided disturbing and even sickening descriptions of how the whites tormented the blacks in the United States. The first disturbing behavior of the whites that caught my attention is the deprivation of knowledge of the blacks when it comes to their birth dates and the identity of their fathers.  From the first chapter, the whites have already established themselves of being a cruel race then, by not keeping records of the date of births of the blacks. The whites meanwhile, have a strong reason not to reveal the identity of the fathers; because it is they themselves who have sired the mixed-black children. White men raping black women were very common event in the past but society did not want to accept that white men were sexually attracted to black women. Very few white men would acknowledge their children with black women slaves.

            While reading the narrative, I found a disturbing and surprising piece of information that the whites, after their black slaves have given birth, the white masters would often separate the child from his or her mother like a puppy being given away. What’s even more disturbing that it was considered a common practice then, treating the blacks like animals incapable of deep, sentimental feelings. When I say common practice, I mean that it is socially acceptable to the whites. It is one thing for slavery to be accepted in society, but a whole lot of different from slavery being promoted by the government. The law then stated that even mixed race children from one slave parent were law bound to be slaves too. Because of this rule, yet another disturbing behavior the whites did, as described by Douglass, was they deliberately raped their slaves in order to keep the slave population up. It just makes me sick to my stomach that the whites treated the blacks more like animals than people. I thought of livestock when I have read the actions that can be compared to how people today treat animals in a farm. The only difference is that farmers don’t rape their animals in a farm in order to keep their numbers up. The whites, were hypocrites because they considered the blacks more like animals than people and yet they rape them, like in the narrative where the master raped Douglass’ aunt Hester.

            In chapter III, a practice done by Colonel Lloyd was disturbingly similar to what the Aztecs did to their slaves—the Aztecs marked their slaves by coloring their skins, in the narrative, Colonel Lloyd did not really color his slaves’ body but he used tar in order to identify who have stolen from him. The brutality of the whites to the slaves have created a saddening behavior from the blacks. Still in chapter III, Douglass recalls that some slaves argue over who’s master is more kind even if their masters were not really kind at all. They were pretending or bragging the “kindness” that their masters practice but they were just doing it to just have a little decency even if it just in front of other slaves.

            My feelings toward the complacency of the laws that permit or even encourage white people from oppressing the blacks is still the same, but I would keep on saying and giving examples of it to emphasize how serious it is. In chapter IV, Douglass mentions stories that tell readers that he has heard stories of slave owners bragging about murdering slaves, and the law allows it because they the slaves were blacks.

            Another thing that has made the narrative powerful to me is the use of strong visual imagery. In chapter IV, Douglass’ description of how the weather has taken its toll on his body is very graphic. Douglass described how the cold have made cracks on his body so wide that the pen he is using in writing the narrative can fit in the wound. The imagery is powerful because it is effective—the wound can be seen vividly and even gives an idea of how big the wound was by comparing it to a tangible object easily available to the readers. The comparison to lives stock again disturbs me. In the same chapter, the way the children ate was described as something like “eating in a communal trough” which is how pigs are fed in farms.

            I felt a slight feeling of optimism at the end of Chapter IV when Douglass came into conclusion that he would not be a slave forever.  It was also inspirational for me because despite experiencing very difficult times, Douglass was still able to look at life in a positive way.

            In chapter VI, there are some saddening things like Douglass being so used to cruelty in his life that he becomes bewildered by the kindness he initially received from the new family. Fortunately (or unfortunately) for him. He need not to get used to this kindness because Mrs. Auld, from his new family, would be corrupted easily by her husband. She was, at first, kind to Douglass and does not punish Douglass as often as other masters would have, had Dogulass was working for them. Another saddening part in relation to this issue is the change of attitude of Mrs. Auld, at first he was trying to help Douglass but the influence of her husband has made her cruel too. It is saddening really because even the innocent has been corrupted by the crooked. This only shows that slavery is not only bad for the blacks but also for the whites because they become corrupted by following slavery. What makes me sick to my stomach in chapter VI is the whites pretend that they do not want their slaves to be unhappy but almost everything the whites did was not in the intention of making the slaves happy. What’s disturbing in Chapter VI is while Douglass is fighting for equality himself, he himself deprives Sophia equality because he preferred more the masculine lessons that were taught to him by Hugh Auld.

            In Chapter VII, dividing the slaves among the family is sickening because black people were treated like animals again. The slaves were to be valued along side animals. It was bad enough that a price is being put at the top of the slave’s head but apprasing the slaves along side other animals is just insulting.


            I am just still in chapter VII and yet I have talked about numerous disturbing, sickening, and saddening things that I found in the narrative that has made it a powerful piece of work. There are other disturbing, sickening, and saddening things in the narrative but would be very difficult to put my reactions in all of them into writing. These are just some of the parts that.

Works Cited

Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. (Provided by client).


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Reader Response to Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass. (2016, Nov 13). Retrieved from

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