Saturday, March 19, 2011

Frederick Douglass, Narrative, Day #2

--Douglass' comments about religion throughout the text were negative enough that he feels obliged to write an appendix qualifying and explaining his views. But does the appendix in your view minimize or, to the contrary, make his critique more general? Some scholars have argued that the appendix functions as a jeremiad: do you agree or disagree with this?

--Douglass describes his experience with the 'slave-breaker' Mr. Covey as central to his later escape, restoring his sense of manhood. Earlier, he described his witnessing of Aunt Hester being whipped as his entry into slavery. To what extent does Douglass present being enslaved as being feminized and being free as masculinized?

--Even before he escapes slavery, Douglass discusses the meaning of labor and the significance of being paid for work. How does his vision of labor function as a critique of the slave economy and the morality of slavery?

1 comment:

  1. As I brought up in my previous post, I did in fact find Douglass’s description of religion throughout his narrative very negative. After going back and reading the appendix, although Douglass does try to explain himself, I think that his explanation only makes the critique more general. Toward the beginning of the appendix he said, “What I have said respecting and against religion, I mean strictly to apply to the slaveholding religion of this land, and with no possible reference to Christianity proper.” (2125) He spends the majority of the appendix only discussing this “slaveholding religion,” with little focus on actual Christianity. I would completely agree with those who call this appendix a jeremiad. The fact that he is continuously pointing out how people have strayed from the original ideal of American Christianity shows that he recognizes the difference between what Christianity once was and what it is today in America. When Douglass states, “Dark and terrible as this picture, I hold it to be strictly true of the overwhelming mass of professed Christians in America,” (2126) reinforcing the idea that Christians would be shocked if they were more aware of this kind of slaveholding Christianity that was going on in America. With all of Douglass’s discussion of what Christianity was and is today, we completely lose any image of what Douglass might personally think of Christianity itself. He makes it clear that slaveholders today don’t practice Christianity correctly but he doesn’t really give us any way to fix or change this other than going back to what Christianity was before slaveholders changed it.