Frederick Douglass Essay Thesis

Frederick Douglass Essay Thesis-7
Harriet Jacobs, on the other hand, was never well-known.

Harriet Jacobs, on the other hand, was never well-known.

(See also "How to Read a Slave Narrative" in Freedom's Story.) A comparison of the narratives of Douglass and Jacobs demonstrates the full range of demands and situations that slaves could experience.

Some of the similarities in the two accounts are a result of the prescribed formats that governed the publication of their narratives.

In adapting her life story to this genre, Jacobs drew on women writers who were contemporaries and even friends, including well-known writers Lydia Maria Child and Fanny Fern (her employer’s sister in law), but she was also influenced by the popularity of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which appeared in 1851.

Stowe’s genius lay in her ability to harness the romantic melodrama of the sentimental novel to a carefully orchestrated rhetorical attack against slavery, and no abolitionist writer in her wake could steer clear of the impact of her performance.

The fugitive or freed or “ex” slave narrators were expected to give accurate details of their experiences within bondage, emphasizing their sufferings under cruel masters and the strength of their will to free themselves.

One of the most important elements that developed within the narratives was a “literacy” scene in which the narrator explained how he or she came to be able to do something that proslavery writers often declared was impossible: to read and write.

White abolitionists urged slave writers to follow well-defined conventions and formulas to produce what they saw as one of the most potent propaganda weapons in their arsenal.

They also insisted on adding their own authenticating endorsements to the slaves’ narrations through prefaces and introductions.

Both Douglass and Jacobs included some version of all these required elements yet also injected personalized nuances that transformed the formulas for their own purposes.

Some of the differences in the readership and reception of Jacobs’s 1861 narrative and Douglass’s first, 1845 autobiography (he wrote two more, in 18, the latter expanded in 1892) reflect simply the differing literary and political circumstances that prevailed at the time of their construction and publication.

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