Frederick Douglass Realism in Text: “The Battle With Mr. Covey” “The Battle With Mrs. Auld” Sarah Sanneh, Kevin Stamps, Michelle Kancheva
Ties to Realism: “The Battle with Mr. Covey” Follows the daily struggle of a middle class slave. Lacks romanticism, idealism, and personal feelings. Douglass faces a moral dilemma in which he utilizes his free will and moral values to reach a satisfactory conclusion. -This is shown in the quote: “I will not censure her harshly; she cannot censure me, for she knows I speak but the truth” (Douglass 502).
Ties to Realism: “The Battle with Mrs. Auld” “The Battle with Mrs. Auld” provides a “faithful representation of reality” (verisimilitude) as it is an account of the life of Frederick Douglass that lacks romanticism, idealism, and excessive personal feelings. Douglass faces a moral issue that he must resolve using his free will and moral values. - Douglass is lawfully bound to obey all the demands of his owners, however, the demands of his owner go against his moral values. Douglass decides– with his free will– that he will stick to his moral values and exercise the same natural rights exercised by whites.
Christian Imagery in “The Battle with Mr. Covey” Sadly, “The Battle with Mr. Covey” is lacking in obvious Christian imagery. However, it does serve to subtly suggest– through Douglass’s actions– that slavery is a hypocritical institution and serves as an antithesis of what Christianity is about. In addition, through his frequent statements concerning the equality of all men, Douglass suggests that all men (and women) are created equal, no man has the right to degrade this equality, and it is natural/right to fight for one’s rights.
Christian Imagery in “Battle with Mrs. Auld” Christianity and Christian imagery is used to promote the idea that everyone is equal and it is not nature’s way for men and women to be slaves or slave owners. - Nature has done almost nothing to prepare men and women to be either slaves or slaveholders (Douglass 498). Douglass subtly illustrates how the beliefs of Christianity conflict with the institution of slavery and reveals the hypocrisy of slave owners. - Slavery soon proved its ability to divest her of these excellent qualities, and her home of its early happiness (Douglass 499). - Her abuse of me fell upon me like the blows of the false prophet upon his ass; she did not know that an angel stood in the way; and- such is the relation of master and slave- I could not tell her (Douglass 501).
Douglass’s Transformation in “The Battle with Mr. Covey” At the start of the factual account, Douglass is a somewhat passive fellow, in that he takes Mr. Covey’s abuse without striking back. At the conclusion of the first person account, Douglass confidently backs up his moral values (physically) and, rather than accepting severe treatment at the hands of Mr. Covey, demands to be shown equality and fights for his natural God-given rights. White audiences greatly affected the content and style of Douglass’s writing. Douglass’s writing lacks the cadences and dialect of the typical slave and is instead presented in an educated and intelligent way. Basically, Douglass wrote like white people, or at least catered to their patterns of speech and presented himself as a learned man. The content of Douglass’s narratives are also affected by white audiences, as they include many references to Christianity. Douglass uses the beliefs of his white audience to bring credibility to his beliefs. By showing his white audience their hypocrisy and by using Christianity as the basis of his proof, Douglass has the ability to sway their thinking.
Douglass vs. Mrs. Auld Douglass and Mrs. Auld have a “battle” concerning literacy and the education it brings. At first, Mrs. Auld is happy teaching her slave (Douglass) to read and write. Mr. Auld, however, is not partial to this idea and forbids Mrs. Auld from teaching Douglass to read and write. Mrs. Auld goes out of her way to make sure Douglass does not read and write. However, Douglass is determined to learn and does everything in his power (even giving away bread in return for lessons) to do so.
Victims of Slavery: Slave and Mistress Mrs. Auld is a victim of slavery because she is controlled by the same people who “own” Douglass/slaves in general. Mrs. Auld also falls victim to slavery through society, which robs her of her “excellent [Christian] qualities” and leaves her bitter and unhappy (Douglass 499). Society deems that Douglass should be a slave, and it also decides that Mrs. Auld must be subservient to her husband and the males around her. This is significant to Douglass’s central purpose for writing the autobiography because it shows that society is responsible for much of the oppression and inequality in the world, and people must change as a whole for a real difference to be made. It also suggests that even if some people are kind-hearted (like Mrs. Auld), a great difference still won’t be achieved until people stand up for themselves actively.
Slave Narratives Slave narratives focus on finding freedom in or out of slavery (much like Douglass’s stories). The account is told by a slave (Douglass, a former slave, narrates his stories). The primary focus is the nature of slavery and the meaning of captivity and inequality faced by enslaved peoples.