Sunday, August 4, 2019

Slavery of African Americans :: Literary Analysis, Fredrick Douglass

When considering the slavery of African Americans, few will deny the negative impact it had on the African slaves. However, in his Narrative, Fredrick Douglass makes it clear that several of the slaveholding characters are undermined by slavery—regardless of being unaware of this. By examining the characters of Edward Covey and Sophia Auld, it can be seen that Douglass feels that slavery has a negative effect on the white slaveholders as well as the black slaves. A particular character that is undermined by slavery is Sophia Auld. When Douglass first meets Sophia, he finds her to be â€Å"a woman of the kindest heart and finest feelings.† (Douglass 43) He states that he â€Å"saw what [he] had never seen before†¦a white face beaming with the most kindly emotions.† (41). Douglass emphasizes the fact that â€Å"She had been a good degree preserved from the blighting and dehumanizing effects of slavery.† (43) In fact she does not respond well to â€Å"the crouching servility, usually so acceptable a quality in a slave†¦she seemed to be disturbed by it.† (43) Ultimately, â€Å"slavery proved as injurious to her as it did to [him].† (48). Douglass showcased Sophia’s drastic change in character by using hyperboles, at first describing her as heavenly and angelic, then as harsh and demonic. He notes that, â€Å"she became even more violent than her husband.† (48) So, it can be seen that slav eholding greatly changed the character of Sophia in a negative way. It can additionally be seen that Douglass finds this to be an important fact to make note of by his use of dramatic and somewhat exaggerated language. Unlike Sophia, Edward Covey is consistently portrayed in a negative way throughout his sections of the Narrative. Covey ultimately does himself a disservice by putting significant effort into keeping his slaves in line. The first account Douglass gives of Covey’s behavior—when he sends Douglass â€Å"very early in the morning of one of [the] coldest days in the month of January, to the woods, to get a load of wood† (66) with â€Å"a team of unbroken oxen† (66)—displays Covey’s intent to devise impossible tasks which a slave cannot possibly complete; giving Covey the excuse to beat his slave. Covey had to have known that leading untamed oxen through the woods on a bitterly cold day would be an immensely difficult task for any average individual to complete. He undermines himself in the sense that he spends unnecessary time using his intelligence to devise these plans instead of putting it to more constructive use.

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