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Frederick Douglass Narrative Essay, Research Paper

Frederick Douglass s Narrative

In Frederick Douglass s Narrative, Douglas himself narrates the novel using story telling to bring both the reader into the story, and the theme into focus. Through his narration, Douglass also uses narrative strategies like anecdotes, and plot twists. Even with it being a true story, Douglass brings the readers attention to a peak with these techniques making the story interesting and appealing.

The most influential technique used by Douglass is story telling. He uses little stories, or stories-within-a-story, to make the reader pay attention. With descriptive tales of the plantations he worked on, the beatings and torture of slaves, and learning to read and write, he not only gets the attention of the readers, but he gets them to understand his point of view. For example at the beginning of the narrative Douglass tells a story of his aunt being beating, I have often been awakened at the dawn of day by the most heart-rendering shrieks of an own aunt of mine, (3). He goes on and gets even more graphic and descriptive, The louder she screamed, the harder he whipped; and where the blood ran fastest, there he whipped longest. (4). Also early in the novel, Douglass writes of the plantation he grew up on, There were no beds given the slaves, unless one coarse blanket be considered such, (6). Soon after being sold to Mr. and Mrs. Auld, he was taught the alphabet. He uses this experience to show to his audience that he is very literate despite his masters wishes, If you teach that nigger how to read there would be no keeping him, (20). So this story shows some more cruelty from his master. Just for reading he would be sold, which shows unfair treatment to the reader.

Another similar technique used by Douglass very effectively is anecdotes. He uses anecdotes throughout the story to bring a humorous or interesting little side story into the readers minds. One good example of this is when he is talking about slave songs, I have often been utterly astonished, since I came to the north, to find persons who could speak of the singing, among slaves, as evidence of their contentment and happiness. (9). This shows the readers of his concerns by just adding a brief story in to interest the reader. Another good anecdote used by Douglass was with his move to Baltimore. She was going to give me a pair of trousers, which I should not put on unless I got all the off me. (17), this is a little story, nothing big in his life but he uses it to show an aspect of his move to Baltimore.

Finally, he uses great plot twists to keep the reader on the edge of his toes. At the beginning of the novel you don t really know where he is going with the narrative. With some writers their use of foreshadowing, gives you the narrative 10 pages into it. Douglass however keeps the reader involved in the story because they need to think of what is next. This is shown when he gives no forewarning of his move into the Auld house. He starts chapter five (16) by telling of his treatment on Colonel Lloyd s plantation right into I was probably between seven and eight years old when I left Colonel Lloyd s plantation.

These narrative techniques used by Douglass give the reader an in depth look into his life, and persuade the readers it was directed to in the north to join his abolitionist cause. The narrative is a great piece of literature, not only for his day, but for ours because we can learn so much about slavery from it.

Work Cited:

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Frederick Douglass, Dover Publications, Inc. New York 1995.


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