A Comparison


A Comparison Essay, Research Paper

The Comparison of the life of Frederick Douglas and the life of Harriet Jacobs throughout is enslavement; Frederick Douglass recollected specific events and tragedies. These events stuck with Douglass only enhancing his quest for freedom. After receiving his freedom as a young adult (supposedly for he didn t know his real age), Frederick

Douglass went on to write this book where he tells us of these events, which fuelled his quest for freedom, the ultimate goal for every slave. In the beginning of the book we find out several things about Douglass, he was under the care of his first master, Mr. Plummer, as a child he witnessed the brutal whipping of his aunt. “He would whip to make her scream, and whip to make her hush”(18). Douglass promised himself that he would never forget the incident as long as he remembered anything. As a child, the constant beating of his aunt was the first of many heinous acts to which Douglass would be a witness too. Douglass saw that this was the fate of all if not every slave recognising it as the eventual outcome that would befall him he knew he had to escape by any means. Douglass also identifies the first realisation of the dehumanising effects of slavery upon his people with the songs, which the slaves sang. The songs “breathed the prayer and complaint of souls boiling over with the bitterest anguish”(25). The slaves used song, intended for joy, to express the unimaginable pain they felt with the stripping of their god given freedom. They used songs to brighten up the dim dark life they had to live. It was not the words that so agonised Frederick s sprit but the underlying tone of distress that these very songs covered up. Hence, Douglass was deeply affected by the depressing, and sorrowful sentiment in these songs. They became a part of his very being and his determination to escape such a disheartening atmosphere increased even more.

The debasing nature of a slave’s life was further stress when Douglass again witnessed a particular incident while under the care of Mr.Gore, decided Demby, Douglas s fellow slave, had become “unmanageable” because he failed to comply with a simple command. Gore, without any provocation shot Demby in the head, His mangled body sank out of sight, and blood and brains marked the water where he had stood. (33) Although Mr. Gore committed murder, he was able to justify his deed merely by admitting that Demby had not set a “good example” by the disobeying of his orders. The gunman however was unpunished for the crime he committed was not seen as a crime. Mr. Gore went “unwhipped of justice, and uncensored by [his] community”(33). The incident forced Douglass to realise that the murder of a black man was seen as less of a crime than a black man’s refusal to obey a white man’s orders. This clearly demonstrated the extent of the white man’s disregard for the black race and the total lack of power by either a single slave or a group of slaves who could have witness the horror firsthand, but were without the power and fearful of the consequences which would precede if they were to speak out to, prevent or punish it. For further infuses of the total lack of respect for blacks It was a common saying, even among little white boys, that it was half-cent to kill a nigger, and a half-cent to bury one.

It was against the law to educate slaves. It was thought that if slaves were educated, there would be no restraining them and they would realize that they don t have to be slave and revolt. As stated by Douglas s next

master, “if you give a nigger an inch, he will take an ell”(42). Mrs. Auld,

the wife of Douglas s next master, despite strong objection from her husband, taught Douglass the fundamentals of reading. Mr. Auld believed that education was unsafe for a slave, and would furthermore make him ill suited as a slave. The prevailing thought was that educated slaves would threaten the control of the master exerted over the slaves thereby lessening their value. It was under the enslavement of Mr.

Auld that Douglass realised that “wit” was the white man’s power to enslave the black man. After struggling in vain, came Douglas s revelation that instruction was the pathway from slavery to freedom. Just as the master thought would happen indeed did with Douglass. He retained the knowledge he gained from Mrs. Auld sought to increase it.

At the age of twelve Douglass got hold of The Colombian Orator, which

offered a bold denunciation of slavery and education on human rights.

“Reading these documents enabled [Frederick] to utter [his] thoughts, and to meet the arguments brought forward to sustain slavery (48). As an adult he came under the care of Mr. Covey, he was beaten

frequently. One day, after Frederick had escaped a beating Mr. Covey tried take hold of Douglass, but he fought back seizing him by the throat. For two hours they wrestled he says. Then he had no more problems with Mr. Covey, normally though a slave who would fight back that was considered a death wish but due possibly to embarrassment Mr covey never reported it. Douglass proved, for the first time, that he was not going to stand and be the victim without a fight. “It was a glorious resurrection, from the tomb of slavery, to the heaven of freedom”(73). Douglas s action against Mr. Covey ultimately marked a major turning point in his view of himself as a slave.

Although the Harriet Jacobs and Frederick Douglass shared a common bond of long-lived suffering due to the trials of slavery. Jacobs had a very different focus she, too was intent upon educating herself even as she went through the mental anguish of slavery. Jacobs is tough from the very beginning striving to convince people that the actions that slaves were forced to endure were immoral, inhuman, and unnatural. Also one must point out the fact that women endured a great deal more

emotional trauma than male slaves, they were forced by their master in to have sexual relations with them, and were also forced away from their own children upon a certain age.

As Jacobs tells her story it seems that she mostly talks about the

suffering of females, this is understandable because she being a female can give first hand knowledge of their trials. As Jacobs grew older she became more aware of the gender differences, and what male slaves never endured like a master violating the sexuality of one of his young women slaves. There is one quarrel with her master that might prove that he is waiting for her to reach a desirable age, “I have never allowed you to be punished, I told him he had reasons of his own for screening me from punishment.”(140). It was an unjust and undeserving fate to the slaves by which their master could govern all aspects of ones existence. Both Jacobs and Douglass poured their hearts and souls into their personal narratives; they both had almost an equal share of suffering caused by their relations with whites and their families. Although black men suffered a great deal, black women suffered that much more. The similarities are clear both were slaves both were black. True they give different points of view and different instances of the terrible injustice that was done to them. Jacobs it could be said had a rather easy life as far as a slave was concerned she was liked perhaps maybe too much be her master. Although she never says it its hinted that her master want to have sex with her that is something Fred never had to deal with. These two slaves were lucky enough to be some of the very few black who ever met the likes of at least one nice master or mistress, and even more lucky to have been taught somewhat how to read and write. Therefore giving them the ability to record their life stories. The sense of being raped of your god given right of freedom, not, not animal merely property. Treated like a rug being walked all over they still had the ability to succeed and survive as well as reclaiming what was unjustly taken from them there



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