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A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass in an American Slave by Frederick Douglass: a Critique

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This book was written by Frederick Douglass, about his own life and the hard ships he endured as a slave. This book provided a unique view of how slaves were treated, throughout the book; we are given exclusive insight into Frederick’s life as a slave. The way he wrote the novel he made it interesting by adding his insight on events, as an adult who is no longer a slave. This book was well written and I enjoyed reading it a lot, I would definitely recommend reading it.

In the first chapter of the book we are given the basic information about Douglass. We find out that he knows little of his father; he only knows that he is a white man, and he was separated from his mother at birth. Douglass knows little of his own age as well, he assumes that he was born around 1818, based on what he heard in conversations. Towards the end of the chapter we are told that his first master’s overseer was very cruel and that Frederick was scared by witnessing one of the beatings he gave out. In the second Douglass shares the clothing and food conditions the slaves were subjected to. Douglass gives more information about the plantation he worked on in chapter three, he talks about a fence that the master tarred and anyone with tar on them would be punished. In the next chapter we are told of how slaves were beaten and killed but no one was punished or cared about it for that matter. One slave was beaten by Frederick’s new overseer, and when he ran to a lake to sooth the pain and wouldn’t come out he was shot. In the next two chapters Douglass is sent to Baltimore to work for Thomas Auld. He mentions that his new master is very kind because he did not own slaves before. He compares slavery to a corrupting disease, that his new master quickly fell victim too. When he first moved there he was taught a little bit of the alphabet and some words. He also mentions slaves in the city are given more freedom to protect the owner’s reputation with the non-slave holding whites. Next Douglass continued to peruse learning how to read, he learned by giving food to poor local kids and in return they would teach him. He learned to write by watching sailors form letters to mark wood. In the next chapter Douglass’ original master died, and now he along with whatever other property his master own was divided between his children. Douglass ended up back in Baltimore, but was later taken back by Thomas Auld. In the next few chapters we learn that Douglass did not like living with Thomas because he was a horrible master and gave them little food. Douglass was then sent away to be “broken” after continuously running away to another farm to get food to eat. Douglass later gathers a group of slaves who, planned to run away, they were caught and he was sent back to Baltimore where he eventually became one of Hugh Auld’s apprentice.

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I would highly recommend reading this book, I myself enjoyed it. I liked the insight it gave on the life of an individual slave. Often we are told about slaves as a whole but not very often are we given a chance to view an individual slave’s life. I liked the way the book was written and the way Douglass inserted little bits of information he obtained, as an adult, into the text. Another thing that caught my attention was he put information like his religious views in the appendix. This was something I had never seen before. So over all I would recommend that you read this unique piece of literature.

This autobiography of Frederick Douglass was a uniquely written book. I enjoyed reading it and I feel as though others would too that’s why I would recommend this book to others. The view on the life of a slave that this book gave along with Douglass’ views are pieces of information I am glad I now posses.


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