In Chapter 3, Douglass describes the lush and fruitful garden on Colonel Lloyd's plantation, a tourist attraction that white people come from all over to see. The garden and the social dynamics surrounding it are an allegory for the Garden of Eden in the Bible:
The colonel had to resort to all kinds of stratagems to keep his slaves out of the garden. The last and most successful one was that of tarring his fence all around; after which, if a slave was caught with any tar upon his person, it was deemed sufficient proof that he had either been into the garden, or had tried to get in. In either case, he was severely whipped by the chief gardener. This plan worked well; the slaves became as fearful of tar as of the lash.
In the Bible, Adam and Eve live in the Garden of Eden. They are forbidden to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Satan comes to Eve in the form of a serpent and convinces her to try eating the fruit. Eating the fruit is an enlightening experience, and Eve is generally accused of tempting Adam to eat the fruit as well. As punishment, God evicts Adam and Eve from the Garden. They now know about good and evil, and they are punished with mortality and a life of labor. An angel with a flaming sword stands guard at the entrance to the Garden, keeping Adam, Eve, and their descendants from reentering.
Douglass describes the garden like paradise. It contains bountiful fruit, and enslaved people are "tempted," like Adam and Eve, to eat this fruit: "Its excellent fruit was quite a temptation to the hungry swarms of boys, as well as the older slaves, belonging to the colonel, few of whom had the virtue or the vice to resist it." The words "temptation," "virtue," "vice," and "resistance" all evoke the story of Adam and Eve and their expulsion from their own garden. The tar functions like the flaming sword at the entrance to the garden. Like Adam and Eve, enslaved people are boxed out of the earth's bounty, and they are punished for trying to partake of it.
Although the Bible describes Adam and Eve as disobedient children, they are nonetheless sympathetic characters. Especially since John Milton's reworking of Genesis in Paradise Lost in the 17th century, Adam and Eve have represented resistance to tyranny. Milton's epic poem used the story of Genesis as an allegory for political revolution. In this context, God represented an overbearing monarch. In Douglass's allegory, enslaved people are Adam and Eve, while Colonel Lloyd is a powerful authority who denies them access to the beauty and good the earth produces. Good white Christians and liberty-obsessed Americans would recognize the enslaved people not only as rebels, but also as the epitome of humanity, trying to take what should be theirs.