'Literacy In Frederick Douglas's Narrative'

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Aside from gender-related differences such as their distinct emphases on the importance of literacy and relationships, narratives written by men and women share many common characteristics. In all slave narratives, the fugitive or former slaves relate their trials as slaves, their flight to freedom, and, finally, their dedication to helping others flee slavery . As in other slave narratives, Douglass's Narrative makes this pattern explicit; but in addition, Douglass further organizes his narrative around the theme of increasing control over his life as a path toward personal independence. A major instrument in his quest is language, and in particular, literacy. Perhaps the paramount virtue in his Narrative is the individual's courage, and the crucial weapon—in a struggle where armed conflict would be suicidal—is the word. Throughout his career, Douglass was preoccupied with language, and the preeminence he gives language and especially literacy in the Narrative reflects this preoccupation. Douglass first gained a reputation in the North as a orator. William Lloyd …show more content…
When Sophia Auld first taught him to read and then when Hugh Auld showed him—by objecting to his lessons—the importance of literacy, Douglas began on his road to freedom. Even as a young child, Douglass realized that knowledge represented power. Words provide access to the power of communication, and the route to long-term control of the message is through literacy. As an adult Douglass, writing his Narrative, had literate and articulate language at his command. He used his command of language to reflect on the presumably inchoate insights of the barely lettered child he once was. Douglass's musings make his readers aware of the contrast between his polished adult abilities and his preliterate juvenile state when he listened to Hugh Auld's comments to his wife