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Frederick Douglass: Freedom's Ethos

  • Date Submitted: 04/19/2010 09:20 AM
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Christopher Goodwin
April 11, 2010
ENGL 1011
Douglass Paper
Freedom’s Ethos
      At the beginning of chapter ten Frederick Douglass composes the dramatic chiasmus: “You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man.” In making this statement Douglass highlights the irony of seeing how a slave has to become a free man in a country based on the moral ideas of freedom and free rights. This sentence serves as the turning point and the climax of Douglass' narrative and life. When I read this quote I envision the burden bestowed upon a man trying to establish his freedom, but also establish himself. Douglass, unlike free people, had to recreate a fundamental base upon which freedom can grow, recreate human value.   Douglass uses half his narrative to explain to the reader the loss of his freedom and manhood. He then asserts that “you shall see how a slave was made a man,” and sequentially explains the steps employed to recreate his human worth and regain his liberty. Douglass called upon intellectual, spiritual and physical devices and experiences to build his stairway to regain what slavery had been so busy working out of him for most of his young life.
      Douglass illustrates the importance of the intellectual ability to read as the groundwork to freedom. He chooses to highlight the afternoon when his education was halted in order to explain the significance of reading to the foundation of his freedom. He explains the magnitude of his ability to read when he states that, “what [Mr. Auld] most dreaded, that I most desired. What I most loved, that he most hated. That which to him was a great evil, to be carefully shunned, was to me a great good, to be diligently sought." (41) On this day, Mr. Auld’s dramatic resistance to Douglass’s learning to read made him realize reading's great importance.   The sense of urgency given to the situation of Mr. Auld’s wife teaching in front of Douglass showed him how masters were inclined to keep...

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