Saturday, November 17, 2007

Blood-Stained Gate

Journal No.7
English 48A

Dr. Scott Lankford
Author I chose: Frederick Douglass

I. "It was the blood-stained gate, the entrance to the hell of slavery, through which I was about to pass."

II. Frederick Douglass is recounting to his audience the first occurrence of cruelty that he saw bestowed upon a slave - his aunt - by his owner.

III. Douglass is vividly describing the moment in time in which he left boyhood and crossed over into the "hell of slavery." This was not only the first time that he observed such great acts of cruelty, but this was also the first time that he had witnessed cruelty to someone that he loved. This occasion left unseen scars that ran deeper than any physical scars ever could. Douglass uses very bold and effective images of blood and flames to remind his readers of how "wrong" these actions (and slavery itself) are. His audience may have consisted of mostly white, male slave-owners, but they would have had some conscience within them to even listen to his speech or to read his book. There would have been something compelling them to listen and/or read what he had to say in the first place. Douglass needed to write and speak of the truth bluntly but still keep his standing with this somewhat skeptical and reluctant audience. Douglass' ability to master this fine balance plays out well even by today's standards.

Douglass literally went from being a young, innocent child who had witnessed hardly any cruelty or violence first-hand to becoming a tainted, oppressed young man. He no longer had the ability to believe in the naievete that he had understood for so long. He now knew that slavery was something that turned ALL people involved - slaves and owners both - into creatures that had to fight to survive. These were no longer people, they were creatures. In Douglass' own words, his master "was a cruel man, hardened by a long life of slave-holding" (2074). "He would whip her to make her scream, and whip her to make her hush." Mr. Plummer had succumbed to a world of eternal hatred and misery. In order to become a slave-owner, you had to sell your soul to the devil.


drscottie said...

20/20 That last paragraph was especially well-written :)