Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Slavery: Degrading or Encouraging?

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Slavery Degrading or Encouraging?

Slavery has played a big part of our histories past. Slaves were people who were involuntarily chosen to become property of another human being. Their jobs were to perform various deeds that their master chose for them. Slave’s lives were basically run by their master and they had to do whatever it was that their master wanted them to do or their consequences were anything from no food or water to beating to near death. Not only was there a degrading effect on the slaves lifestyles and feelings, but it also debases the ones who own the slaves, the masters. This degrading effect of slavery is made more apparent in Frederick Douglass’ Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. Through reading parts of his writing, one gets a better feel on how the lifestyles of the master differed and how his actions changed from being a slave owner.

Frederick Douglass talks about his life in his own Narrative. Through reading his Narrative you get a better feel of what went on if his life, how he was treated, and how it shaped him into what he became. You also get a better understanding on how the master’s lifestyles change. Frederick Douglass’ mistress was the first to start to change. In the Narrative, Douglass writes, “My mistress was a kind and tender-hearted woman; and in the simplicity of her soul she commenced, when I first went to live with her, to treat me as she supposed one being ought to treat another.” When Frederick first met his mistress, she began to teach him how to read and write. But after her husband found out he became angry because it was against the law to teach a slave and it made them more dangerous. Soon after she began to change. “Slavery proved as injurious to her as it did to me. When I went there, she was a pious, warm, and tender-hearted woman. Slavery soon proved its ability to divest her of these heavenly qualities. Under its influence, the tender heart became stone, and the lamblike disposition gave way to one of tiger-like fierceness” (Douglass). From being a slave owner, she went from a kind hearted woman to a person filled with rage and a stone heart. This was only one change. The worse came with beatings.

Later in life Douglass got a new master, Master Andrew. This master was harsher then Mr. and Mrs. Auld. Master Andrew clearly took advantage of the ownership of slaves. He liked to beat them and beating someone is clearly not in a normal lifestyle of a normal person. “…sample of his bloody disposition, took my little brother by the throat, threw him on the ground, and with the heel of is boot stamped upon his head till the blood gushed from the nose and ears” (Douglass). This attack on Douglass’ brother is clearly an act because slavery has made Master Andrew a little power hungry and has degraded his lifestyle. It is even made clearer when Master Andrew looks at Douglass and says “that was the way he meant to serve me one of these days” (Douglass). Clearly another way slavery is doing its part on degrading the slave owner.


The changing of the attitudes and the actions of the masters are made emminent through slavery. Not only did slavery degrade the slave but it took a toll on the masters too. Because of slavery, everyone’s lifestyle changed, it was sometimes for the better, but as you can see through reading Douglass’ Narrative a lot of the time it was for the worse. “That cheerful eye, under the influence of slavery, soon became red with rage; that voice, made all of sweet accord, changed to one of harsh and horrid discord; and that angelic face gave place to that of a demon” (Douglass). The changes were that of the masters and that is why I agree that slavery degrades not only the slave but the slaver owner(master).

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