Fredrick Douglass Rhetorical Analysis
The Building Block of Slavery Beginning in the seventeen hundreds, America depended on slaves for free labor in order to make a considerable profit. These slaves were not treated as normal people though; they were sold into a life of no rights, cruel punishment, and rigorous work schedules. In his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, freed slave Fredrick Douglass shares his personal accounts with slavery in order to reveal the harsh truth slavery hides to the public.
The most uccessful strategy slaveholders used to maintain control of slaves was ignorance. Slaves were completely oblivious to the basic rights and privileges any person should have. Douglass uses a vivid yet detached tone to describe his disgust for the way slaves were treated through ethical appeals, emotionally grabbing anecdotes, and logic. Douglass evokes an ethical appeal to his audience by showing them Just how ignorant slaves were of simple facts.
Only $13.90 / page
He writes, “The white children could tell their ages.
I could not tell why I ought to be deprived of the same privilege” (35). Douglass reveals that slaveholders would make slaves ignorant of basic elements of their life. Through Douglass’ tone the reader can infer that slaves did know that they should be aware of something commonly known as age. Douglas also recalls, “The men and women received, as their monthly allowance of food, eight pounds of pork, or its equivalent in fish, and one bushel of corn meal” (23).
He describes the scarce amount of food each slave received in order to appeal to his audience’s ethical views because food is a basic need of all living things. Douglass challenges the reader to compare his or her food rations with that of a slave, and to realize that slaves were deprived of basic human needs. Douglass engages the audience’s emotions through emotionally involving recounts of the voids in slaves’ lives. He writes about his aunt being beaten to tears, “warm, red blood came dripping to the floor” (21).
This event is very emotionally grabbing to the reader, the use of vivid adjectives makes the reader cringe and imagine what it is like to be a slave. When describing horrific events he was forced to witness, the tone f Douglass’ voice becomes very detached, as if he is so used to witnessing beatings that it has become a normal event. Douglass also writes, “He was immediately chained and handcuffed; and thus, without a moments warning, he was snatched away, from his friends and family, by a hand more unrelenting than death” (34).
This quote is used by Douglass to infuse a feeling of disbelief in the hearts of the audience, for the man in the quote earned this punishment for merely speaking the truth one time. The audience feels sympathy towards this slave for being taken away or something that should not be punished. Douglass establishes his credibility of being an actual slave with the audience in Douglass writes, “l was saddened by the thought of losing the aid of my kind mistress… (46). A slave could once in awhile get a nice slave owner, as Douglass did, and they would cherish them because it was such a rarity. By establishing the fact that he was enslaved in his younger years Douglass proves to the reader that he is a credible source. Douglass also proves himself to be a reliable source as a slave by riting, “the children of slave women shall in all cases follow the condition of their mothers” (18).
Through this quote he tells the audience that by law he follows his mother’s condition: being a slave. This completely convinces the reader that he is telling of actual events and is a credible source. Through personal anecdotes Douglass brings to light the cruelty of ignorance being a tool of slavery by using ethos, pathos, and logos. When describing beatings slaves received, Douglass burns an image of the slave whippings into people’s minds o repulse people to the inhumane punishment.
He knows that the images will disturb people and that is part of his strategic rhetoric using an emotional appeal. Douglass does not want slavery to sound attractive, which is why he refuses to sugar coat real life situations. Throughout the book, Douglass’ rhetorical strategies are very successful in getting his point of ignorance fueling slavery across. Work Cited Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. New York, NY: Barnes & Noble Classics, 2003. Print.