Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Embracing the In-between: The Double Mental Life of Frederick Douglass

In Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself, the mental life of the narrator is both a complex voice and a powerful tool. Douglass is consumed by seemingly contradictory roles. His literacy and eloquence cast him outside the group he attempts to represent. Therefore, he must craft his character and narrative voice in a state of constant duality. This duality is in the space between his slave life and his free life, his ignorance and his education, his story and his purpose. He needs to communicate an authentic slave life to qualify as a representative of the slave community. But to appeal to his white audience, he must retain this authenticity despite the intellectual growth that will set him apart from his fellow slaves. The separation from the group is both dangerous for his legitimacy and necessary for observation. Douglass must be detached from his slave history without losing his connection to it. He also lifts himself closer to his white audience while remaining an obviously separate entity. He is simultaneously narrating a story, acting as protagonist, and defending an argument. He embraces this complex voice in establishing a narrator stuck between two distinctly separate...

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