A.P. Lit. & Comp.
November 7, 2013
Dehumanization: The act of depriving others of the human qualities. There is nothing more degrading to a person than to taking away their humanity. In 1776, the declaration of independence was what some might say “the start of formal U.S. slavery”. This was the start of the upcoming 100 years of devastation for the African American people. Until the north finally came into the realization of the horrifying effects of slavery enough to do actually act upon, it was much too late. Slavery was the prime example of the dehumanization of a person. Frederick Douglass, an African American who has been through and seen every scenario of the unimaginable acts of cruelty targeted at African Americans, escaped slavery and eventually got to write about his journey to freedom. Douglass uses various forms of writing in his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, to fully emphasize the aspects of slavery and how it directly tied into dehumanization. Douglass intelligently managed to balance his use of rhetorical and stylistic devices as he wrote his narrative. Without the use of these two types of appeals, his book would not have convinced his audience during the 19th century. The use of Douglass’s rhetoric was not only to elaborate his meaning behind his writing, but it was to persuade his audience to side with him. Douglass’s use of rhetoric, having in mind that whoever could afford to purchase this book during this time was most likely a white American, made many grasp more of Douglass’s purpose behind his writing. One of the most effective ways on having an audience be able to understand what they are trying to explain is to have them visualize it. The purpose of imagery is to present a vivid and descriptive language to the authors writing. When Douglass states, “My feet have been so cracked with the frost that the pen with which I am writing might be laid in the gashes” (Douglass 29), it really created an image and feel of what his condition was like. It is vital to have the reader be able to read the writing and to be able to picture a detailed visage in their head. At a controlled amount, Douglass uses the description of the slave’s conditions after the usual abuses that they received as a form of imagery in order to show the reader that there was no sense of humanity. “The head, neck, and shoulders of Mary were literally cut to pieces” (Douglass 38). Without the reader being able to relate to Douglass’s language, the reader would never be able comprehend the extremity of slavery. Certain words and ideas are repeated over and over again to show the reader the emphasis and severity of it. Repetition is used in Douglass’s writing to help show the critical aspects of his context. “His airs, words, and actions were the airs, words and actions of born slave-holders, and being assumed, were awkward enough” (Douglass 55). Although it might appear to unnecessary for the repetition of this sentence, the key words that he used aided Douglass to catch the attention of the reader and make them focus on more deeply into his intended meaning. Another example of repetition would when Douglass states, “No words, no tears, no prayers, from his gory victim, seemed to move his iron heart from its bloody purpose” (Douglass 57). Douglass’s repeated use of the word “no” emphasized that nothing at all could ever change that man’s cruel intentions and desire. Douglass ability to elaborate on his writing with the use of repetition is a key factor of his success on defining slavery and it’s act of dehumanization. There are always some things that occur that just do not make one bit of logical sense. Douglass took that information and used it to his benefit. The use of irony Douglass shows in his writing emphasizes the inhumane ways that the slaves were treated. One example being, “They were frequently whipped when least deserving, and…