The Narrative of Frederick Douglass


Frederick Douglass

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The Narrative of Frederick Douglass: Style 1 key example

Explanation and Analysis:

Douglass's narrative weaves together the style of autobiographical storytelling with the style of a rhetorical appeal. The narrative is structured around the events of his life, and it has many of the characteristics of a compelling story. For instance, the scene in Chapter 10 when Douglass fights Covey is suspenseful, action-packed, and important to the development of both the plot and Douglass's character. There are also many instances when Douglass describes the emotional impact of something that happened to him, such as what it felt like to witness Aunt Hester being abused. These moments contribute to the reader's sense of Douglass as a character who is learning and developing in response to trials and tribulations. Douglass is truthful about the events of his life, but he is good at recounting these events in such a way that they make up a cohesive narrative with all the hallmarks of a dramatic plot. When he escapes enslavement at the end, there is a narrative sense of payoff.

The moments of heightened drama contribute to the general pathos of the narrative, or the way it draws on the reader's feelings to convince them of a broader point the narrative is trying to make. When Douglass recounts the past, he often weaves in rhetorical devices such as logos as well, offering the reader facts about Christianity or the institution of slavery that challenge commonly-held notions about the ethics of enslavement. For instance, he describes his own mixed-race ancestry as proof that the Bible does not justify the institution of slavery on the basis of race.

Douglass wrote his narrative to corroborate his own claims that he had history as an enslaved person and thus had authority to lead the abolitionist cause. His combined storytelling and rhetorical style serves to convince the reader that his story is real and that it makes a compelling case for abolition.