Frederick Douglass Rhetoric | Teen Ink

Frederick Douglass Rhetoric

May 20, 2019
By stoma BRONZE, Park Ridge, Illinois
stoma BRONZE, Park Ridge, Illinois
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Abolitionism: the principle or policy of abolition, especially of slavery of blacks in the U.S. Author and former slave, Frederick Douglass, uses his strong voice and clever sentence structure to tell his story in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. In the autobiography, Douglass guides the reader through his early life as a slave and all the way up to his freedom in Massachusetts. Throughout his life, Douglass always sought knowledge; however, slaves were forbidden from learning, but Douglass found ways to sneak in reading and writing into his daily routine. Through his self-taught knowledge of writing, Douglass opposes the pro-slavery arguments that the people who supported slavery made. Douglass uses rhetoric throughout his narrative to oppose the socio-economic and scientific pro-slavery arguments of pre-Civil War America.

The socio-economic argument argues that slavery cannot cease to exist, since the only alternative is free enterprise and capitalism, but those that have tried capitalism have fallen. Douglass refutes this when he is in Massachusetts and gains his freedom by saying “I had somehow imbibed the opinion that, in the absence of slaves, there could be no wealth, and very little refinement” (96). Massachusetts is much better off economically than the South, yet slavery is not as prominent in the North as it is in the South. He uses logos to refute the argument by proving the economic soundness of Massachusetts. The argument that there is no real alternative to slavery without safety is opposed, as Massachusetts prospers without slavery. As a matter of fact, Douglass manages to find a job in Massachusetts, proving that even freed slaves can get a job in the socio-economic alternative to slavery. Furthermore, the socio-economic argument states both the master and slave are provided for, but on Douglass’ former plantation, he refutes this argument, saying “... the slaves of all the other farms received their monthly allowance of food, and their yearly clothing… their monthly allowance of food, eight pounds of pork, or its equivalent in fish, and one bushel of corn meal. Their yearly clothing consisted of two coarse linen shirts, one pair of linen trousers, like the shirts, one jacket, one pair of trousers for winter, made of coarse cloth, one pair of stockings, and one pair of shoes” (23). Douglass, using ethos and his credibility, refutes the argument by showing the slaves were not properly provided with food nor clothing. Assuming that this did not only happen on one of Douglass’ plantations, masters saved money by doing the same across the south. The slaveholder received free labor and the slaves were malnourished, not properly clothed, and not accounted for as equally as the slaveholder.

 The scientific argument states that “blacks are naturally inferior to whites” and “few blacks at the time were capable of participating in the ‘finer’ or more ‘civilized’ things in life…” Douglass’ obsession to learn was shown throughout his autobiography. Douglass spent all his free time learning to read and write; or he taught reading and writing to his fellow slaves at Mr. Freeland’s plantation; “I held my Sabbath school at the house of a free colored man whose name I deem it imprudent to mention… I had at one time over forty scholars, and those of the right sort, ardently desiring to learn” (75). Douglass, again, uses ethos and his credibility to show that even colored men can engage in more “civilized” activities, like teaching and learning. He also uses strong phrases to show that slaves had passion by saying they have a desire to learn, and that they are “of the right sort” of scholars. Finally, after Douglass is freed and the main part of his autobiography ends, he writes a parody of Heavenly Union. In this parody, Douglass uses pathos and ethos to revisit lessons and experiences of being a slave in the appendix. The well written parody opposes the argument that slaves cannot engage in “finer” activities such as writing. Douglass’ parody was so well written that most who read the autobiography, when it was published, did not believe that a former slave was the author. In fact, many thought it was written by a ghost-writer.

In conclusion, the socio-economic and scientific pro-slavery arguments of pre-Civil War America were disproved by Frederick Douglass, a former slave and, now, an illustrious author who used ethos, pathos, and logos to disprove such theories. Douglass’ use of rhetoric and his strong voice along with the use of different literary writing strategies, like parallel structure, helped the abolitionists oppose slavery and free slaves like Douglass. Freedom is the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint and the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved.

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A Frederick Douglass Rhetoric by Shmoan Toma

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This article has 1 comment.

on May. 27 2019 at 7:08 pm
vlonesoldier29, Park Ridge, Illinois
0 articles 0 photos 1 comment
this is straight fire slatttttttt+_--**