Why do you think it was important for slave owners to keep slaves ignorant about their birthdays and parentage?
The very first chapter of the novel produces the first example: Many slaves had absolutely no concept of time, in terms of factual dates.
Slaves were kept "ignorant" as to the facts of the real world, in most cases not even knowing the year of their birth, preventing the knowledge of a captive's true age. A birthday is something with which people can identify, as they are a celebrated part of our culture, especially to youth.
Douglass here identifies himself as a human being lacking what we may consider a normal childhood simply through the use of dates. We identify ourselves by the dates which surround the events of our lives. Part of our identity is formed from dates and this was a privilege he was denied. He is, however, provided with a general idea as to how old he truly is, " I come to this from hearing my master say, some time duringI was about seventeen years old" Douglass 1.
Adding to this already tarnished identity is the status of his parental figures. While Douglass somewhat got to know his mother, he never really had a father. His father, according to practically everyone, was a white man.
Although it is true that he knew his mother, it must be noted that they were separated while he was an infant and thereafter only met a total of four or five times.
The consequences of not knowing who you really are may not have phased Douglass much during his childhood. However as he grew older and began to understand how the politics of slavery work, there is no doubt that this lack of principle human right to which everyone should be entitled certainly motivated Douglass towards achieving his goal of freedom.
A major fear amongst slave owners is that their slaves will learn to read and write. One reason is because the less they know they better off the owner would be.
The slave would then realize he was an equal to his master and question why his master has the right to enslave him.
Douglas stated this saying, "The more I read the more I was led to abhor and detest my enslavers. He saw everything as a citizen and not a slave.
He then began to envy the illiterate slave because they did not completely understand the terrible condition in which they lived. Douglass, however, now did, and could not bear the thought of remaining a slave.
Moving to Baltimore and thus becoming illiterate proved toNarrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave: Written by Himself study guide contains a biography of Frederick Douglass, literature essays, a complete e-text, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.
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Frederick Douglass: Literary Analysis Essay “Narrative Life of Frederick Douglass: Literary Analysis” In Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Douglass explains, in great detail, how slave master would use a variety of methods to dehumanize slaves located on their plantation - Frederick Douglass: Literary Analysis Essay introduction.