The Narrative of Frederick Douglass

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The Whipping of Aunt Hester Symbol Analysis

The Whipping of Aunt Hester Symbol Icon
Aunt Hester is Douglass’s aunt and a slave of Captain Anthony’s. She receives a merciless whipping from her master, accompanied by degrading slurs, because she spends time with a male slave. Douglass witnesses this beating at a very young age, and it affects him greatly. The assault was Douglass’s first view of the cruelty of slavery, as well as the irrational jealousy and sexual greed that characterizes male masters’ relations with female slaves.

The Whipping of Aunt Hester Quotes in The Narrative of Frederick Douglass

The The Narrative of Frederick Douglass quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Whipping of Aunt Hester. 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 1 Quotes

On watching Captain Anthony whip Aunt Hester: “I remember the first time I ever witnessed this horrible exhibition. I was quite a child, but I well remember it. I never shall forget it whilst I remember any thing. It was the first of a long series of such outrages, of which I was doomed to be a witness and a participant. It struck me with awful force. It was the blood- stained gate, the entrance to the hell of slavery, through which I was about to pass. It was a most terrible spectacle. I wish I could commit to paper the feelings with which I beheld it.”

Related Characters: Frederick Douglass (speaker), Captain Anthony, Aunt Hester
Related Symbols: The Whipping of Aunt Hester
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

As Douglass recalls his life under his first master, he describes how  the overseer Mr. Plummer was "hardened" by his "long life of slaveholding"; slavery damages its slaveholders as well as its slaves. Captain Anthony, the master himself, was such a malicious individual that he whipped Douglass's Aunt Hester, drawing blood and screams from her, until he was too tired to continue. For Douglass, this anecdote is the first of a lifetime's worth. By only detailing one of these whippings, Douglass suggests how the horrors of slavery evade easy comprehension; even readers of his narrative can only ever be partial witnesses to the wholly unChristian and torturous behavior of the individuals who enforce the systems of slavery. 

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The Whipping of Aunt Hester Symbol Timeline in The Narrative of Frederick Douglass

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Whipping of Aunt Hester appears in The Narrative of Frederick Douglass. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Knowledge and Ignorance Theme Icon
The Inexpressibility of Enslavement Theme Icon
...and had a still more barbarous overseer named Plummer. Douglass cannot forget witnessing Anthony brutally whip one of Douglass’s aunts, Hester. Seeing the master draw blood and screams until he is... (full context)
The Self-Destructive Hypocrisy of Christian Slaveholders Theme Icon
Aunt Hester was being whipped by Anthony for spending time with a slave from a nearby plantation, named Ned. Douglass... (full context)