Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

how would you describe douglass's style? how does he show emotion in recounting the horrible sights he has witnessed?


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Douglass's autobiography has attracted critical attention in the way it deals with the realms of public and private. Scholar Donald Gibson attempts to articulate how Douglass displays concern for the pubic and social as well as the personal and private. He discusses the facts of slavery in a supposed civilized and Christian country and recounts the experiences of his own individual life. Every word of the Narrative is written with the public in mind and for an important political purpose, but they are also words that express the "unique, unusually intelligent, and talented man," Frederick Douglass.

The public and the private in this work are, as Gibson sees them, perpetually at war. One is "supporting and lending authority and significance to the other." At stake here is how "the personality of the narrator seeks a larger role than the public purpose of the book can allow" while at the same time "the public perspective aims to dominate, to suppress all about the narrator except his representative qualities..." Gibson provides several textual examples for his assertion. In this chapter in particular, the discussion of Gore and the particularities of life at the Great House Farm are part of a larger discussion on slavery in Maryland and the country as a whole. This inability to separate public and private makes Douglass's autobiography compelling as well as didactic and important.