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Framing: Violence and Mindset in Douglass’s Narrative
One observation that people make about Douglass’s Narrative is that he presents two major aspects of the slave system: one that emphasizes the brutally violent character of this system and another that illustrates its mentally debilitating structure and effects. He shows that rebellion against enslavement occurs along similar lines: as violent resistance and as a rebellion of the mind that is closely linked to education, particularly literacy. These features of enslavement, and how to escape from it, could be seen as contradicting each other or working together. On the one hand, we might see these ways of depicting enslavement as in conflict. We might ask, does the picture Douglass wants to paint of slavery tell us a story of physical brutality that can only be opposed by physical violence or is it about the power of the mind to determine whether one is enslaved or not? On the other hand, we might see these ways of depicting enslavement as complimentary: both physical violence and mental confusion work hand-in-hand to create the conditions of possibility for enslavement to work and only a combination of violent resistance and mental strength can create possibilities for freedom.
I would like you to address the concepts from Douglass’s Narrative sketched above through a 1000-word essay that discusses how they bear on Douglass’s depiction of “freedom.” Some questions you might address in your paper: Is Douglass calling for a violent uprising to overthrow the slave system–or, at the very least, so that groups of enslaved people can attain their freedom? Or, is he describing freedom as something one attains through cunning and education? Or, is it some combination of the two? Furthermore, how does your answer to these three questions apply to more general ideas about freedom? Is it something people in the 21st century have to fight for or does it come with an education?
This should be a thesis-driven essay and you should use at least three textual examples from the Narrative to make your point.