Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave By Frederick Douglass Summary and Analysis Chapter V

Summary

Douglass further describes the conditions of slave children on Colonel Lloyd's plantation, telling us that his own experience was typical of slave children. Although he was seldom whipped, he was constantly hungry and cold. Even in the dead of winter, he was given nothing but a long shirt to wear, and, at night, he would steal a bag, crawl into it headfirst, and sleep. His exposed feet developed deep cracks from the frost. Children were fed cornmeal mush from a trough on the ground, and they ate from it, like the pigs did.

When he was about seven or eight years old, he was given to Captain Anthony's son-in-law's brother, Hugh Auld, who lived in Baltimore. Douglass was instructed to clean himself before going to Baltimore, and he took great pride and joy in washing himself. He looks upon this event as a turning point in his life and claims that it was the hand of Providence which offered him this opportunity. In Baltimore, Mr. and Mrs. Auld and their child, Thomas, received him kindly. His duty was to take care of young Thomas.

Analysis

Once again, Douglass illustrates how slaves were treated like animals. Because he never really knew his mother (who was already dead, at this point) nor felt connected with his grandmother, who lived far from him on the plantation, he felt he wasn't leaving anything of value behind when he left for Baltimore. Douglass again indicts the practice of breaking up slave families.

Baltimore was a revelation for Douglass. For the first time in his life, he encountered "a white face [Mrs. Auld] beaming with the most kindly emotions." He realized that he no longer need be always afraid of all whites, that there were some whites who would be kind to him. Douglass considers the move to Baltimore a turning point in his life, one which he attributes to divine providence; we should not overlook the fact that Douglass' religion frames the entire Narative. As we shall see later, the Narrative presents a battle of two religions — between Douglass' religion and the Christianity of slaveholders. Douglass shows us that the latter is characterized largely by hypocrisy.

Glossary

manifestation a show, or demonstration.

aft toward the back of a boat.

bow the forward end of a boat.

sloop a single-masted sailing boat.

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

After Douglass fights with Covey, Douglass is




Quiz