The Narrative of Frederick Douglass

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Captain Thomas Auld Character Analysis

– Thomas, the husband of Lucretia Auld, is a very cruel owner who puts on airs because he hasn’t owned slaves from birth. Douglass lives with him after his first stint in Baltimore; by this time, Lucretia has died and Thomas has remarried to Rowena Hamilton. Thomas becomes deeply religious while Douglass works for him, but this only makes him a crueler master.

Captain Thomas Auld Quotes in The Narrative of Frederick Douglass

The The Narrative of Frederick Douglass quotes below are all either spoken by Captain Thomas Auld or refer to Captain Thomas Auld. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Self-Destructive Hypocrisy of Christian Slaveholders Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dover Publications edition of The Narrative of Frederick Douglass published in 1995.
Chapter 9 Quotes

“A great many times have we poor creatures been nearly perishing with hunger, when food in abundance lay mouldering in the safe and smoke-house, and our pious mistress was aware of the fact; and yet that mistress and her husband [Rowena Hamilton and Thomas Auld] would kneel every morning, and pray that God would bless them in basket and store!”

Related Characters: Frederick Douglass (speaker), Captain Thomas Auld, Rowena Hamilton
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:

While Douglass was living at St. Michael's, he and the other three slaves were each only allowed to eat "less than a half of a bushel of corn-meal" each week. As this depressingly exact description suggests, Douglass and the others were deprived of the variety and quantity of food necessary to comfortably sustain an individual. Yet, as they worked in this household, they were surrounded by abundance ("in the safe and the smoke-house"), and they were able to observe their owners' greedy and hypocritical prayers for further prosperity. Unlike slaves who work the fields, these slaves were in direct daily contact with their owners, and so could see the stark realities of their masters' hypocrisy.

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“In August, 1832, my master attended a Methodist camp-meeting held in the Bay-side, Talbot county, and there experienced religion…if it had any effect on his character, it made him more cruel and hateful in all his ways; for I believe him to have been a much worse man after his conversion than before. Prior to his conversion, he relied upon his own depravity to shield and sustain him in his savage barbarity; but after his conversion, he found religious sanction and support for his slaveholding cruelty.”

Related Characters: Frederick Douglass (speaker), Captain Thomas Auld
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:

As Douglass continues to describe his experiences under the service of Thomas Auld at St. Michael's, he describes how "adopted slaveholders" such as Auld, who acquired their slaves later in life through means such as marriage, were actually the worst sort. A similar contradiction applies for religious slaveholders; when Auld "experienced religion," this actually made him a more cruel (and, thus, less Christian) owner. Here, Douglass continues to unpack the paradoxes of slavery that might be unapparent to a reader in and from the North, as he also elicits questions about the significance of religion as a kind of "experience" rather than a doctrine, and as a phenomenon that is adapted to suit one's other interests and ideas. Douglass illustrates how fellowship, in particular contexts such as the religious communities which Auld joins, can paradoxically breed harshness and cruelty.

Douglass also provides the example of Mr. Wilson's "little Sabbath school," a religious undertaking which did indeed provide religious comforts to those in need (particularly, the slaves at St. Michael's). In dong so, Douglass situates the cruelty of slaveowners with slavery, not merely with religion. He is a Christian himself, but condemns the use of Christianity to uphold and justify slavery.

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Captain Thomas Auld Character Timeline in The Narrative of Frederick Douglass

The timeline below shows where the character Captain Thomas Auld appears in The Narrative of Frederick Douglass. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
The Self-Destructive Hypocrisy of Christian Slaveholders Theme Icon
...is made up of two sons, Andrew and Richard, a daughter, Lucretia, and her husband, Captain Thomas Auld . Together, they live on a single house on the plantation of Colonel Edward Lloyd,... (full context)
Knowledge and Ignorance Theme Icon
Fellowship Theme Icon
...to and from Baltimore in order to sell the goods. This ship is captained by Thomas Auld and manned by a small group of slaves. The slaves who worked on the ship... (full context)
Chapter 5
Knowledge and Ignorance Theme Icon
Truth and Justice Theme Icon
...Lloyd plantation in order to live in Baltimore with Mr. Hugh Auld, the brother of Captain Thomas Auld . Douglass leaves joyfully, and eagerly cleans himself up in order to receive a pair... (full context)
Chapter 8
Knowledge and Ignorance Theme Icon
Fellowship Theme Icon
Master Thomas remarries a woman named Rowena Hamilton. Thomas and Hugh have a falling-out, and as a... (full context)
Chapter 9
The Self-Destructive Hypocrisy of Christian Slaveholders Theme Icon
...St. Michael’s in March of 1832. It has been seven years since Douglass lived with Master Thomas Auld , and Douglass is soon reminded of the cruel spirit of Thomas and his wife.... (full context)
The Self-Destructive Hypocrisy of Christian Slaveholders Theme Icon
Knowledge and Ignorance Theme Icon
Truth and Justice Theme Icon
Thomas Auld is particularly mean and immoral because he gained his slaves by marriage. He attempts to... (full context)
The Self-Destructive Hypocrisy of Christian Slaveholders Theme Icon
Truth and Justice Theme Icon
Fellowship Theme Icon
In August of 1932, Thomas Auld goes to a Methodist camp-meeting and returns with strong religious faith. Douglass hopes that this... (full context)
The Self-Destructive Hypocrisy of Christian Slaveholders Theme Icon
Knowledge and Ignorance Theme Icon
Preachers routinely come to Thomas Auld ’s house, and eat well while the slaves starve. However, not all of the white... (full context)
The Self-Destructive Hypocrisy of Christian Slaveholders Theme Icon
Master Thomas is particularly abusive to Henny, whose deformed arms prevent her from doing any work but... (full context)
Knowledge and Ignorance Theme Icon
Douglass and Master Thomas do not get along, because Thomas thinks Douglass’s city upbringing has made him headstrong. Douglass... (full context)
Chapter 10
The Self-Destructive Hypocrisy of Christian Slaveholders Theme Icon
Truth and Justice Theme Icon
On January 1st, 1833, Douglass leaves Master Thomas ’s to work as a field hand for Mr. Covey. Douglass’s city upbringing makes him... (full context)
The Self-Destructive Hypocrisy of Christian Slaveholders Theme Icon
...demands he continue working. Douglass rises and resumes work, but he vows to complain to Master Thomas about Covey’s treatment. After work, a disoriented Douglass ignores Covey’s orders to stay put and... (full context)
Truth and Justice Theme Icon
While languishing in jail, Douglass abandons hope. His master, Thomas Auld , announces plans to send him to Alabama. However, Thomas decides instead to send Douglass... (full context)
Chapter 11
The Self-Destructive Hypocrisy of Christian Slaveholders Theme Icon
Knowledge and Ignorance Theme Icon
Master Thomas comes to Baltimore, and Douglass requests that he be allowed to work for pay. Thomas... (full context)