Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Humanization of a Murdered Girl in Douglass's Narrative

In Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave,Douglass tells many anecdotes to illustrate the horrors of slavery. One of these recounts the murder of his wife's cousin. Douglass uses several strategies to gain our sympathy when describing the incident.

First, Douglass does not hesitate to voice his disapproval of the whole affair with a very emotionally-charged report. Douglass starts the paragraph by calling Mrs. Hicks’ action “murder.” He then attracts our pity with the phrase “poor girl.” These words clearly distinguish the villain from the victim. Douglass further highlights Mrs. Hicks’ ferocity, saying that the victim was “mangled” in a “horrible” manner. He also uses the words “breaking” and “broke” to emphasize that the slave was shattered brutally. This diction urges us to, like Douglass, become enraged by Mrs. Hicks’ action.

When telling the event, Douglass humbles the girl by leaving her nameless. He refers to her as "my wife's cousin" and "this girl," thus emphasizing her lower status as a slave. Another interpretation of her anonymity is that it allows her to represent other nameless slaves who suffered similar fates. The girl transcends the individual. She died an...

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