Earlier in the semester, I glanced over the syllabus to look over what material we would be reading throughout the year. I immediately noticed Fredrick Douglass’ name, and assumed we would be reading his famous work, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. I was surprised, however, when the required reading was in fact a different piece; My Bondage and My Freedom. I was not familiar with this piece of literature, as in high school, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass was required reading. While reading My Bondage and My Freedom, however, the differences soon became quite evident. Where Narrative in the Life of Frederick Douglass seemed to be a factual recounting of events, Bondage seemed to evoke more emotional and personal qualities. This, I believe, ties in with our earlier lecture on the idea of internal and external focalization. Narrative in the Life of Frederick Douglass seemed to better represent external focalization, as it was similar to Venture Smith’s work, as he simply told his story, devoid of much emotional attachment. My Bondage and My Freedom, however, more closely resembled internal focalization, as it focused heavily on Douglass’ own thoughts. In addition to this, it seemed to feature a larger emphasis on Douglass’ emotions. Dr. May also brought up an issue I had often pondered myself; the idea of racism from abolitionists. Many slave narratives or historical stories tell of the better conditions African Americans received in the North as opposed to the South, and how the abolitionists fought to end slavery, however, the idea of racism coming from abolitionists, directed at African Americans, is often overlooked. Many assume that abolitionists treated slaves just as they treated their own. However, this was often not the case. This ties in somewhat with my 3340 American Literature course, in which we were studying the writing of Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson was a known abolitionist, however, he was known to have slaves himself. In fact, it is known that Jefferson only freed two slaves in his life. This, of course, brought upon a heated debate on whether Jefferson was a true abolitionist, and whether his actions were racist. This, of course, leads to the larger idea of widespread racism coming from abolitionists towards African Americans. Of course, it seems that these possible acts of racism are often overlooked in history due to the abolitionist’s ultimate goal, which was of course to end slavery. However, this opens up yet another question: Should these actions be overlooked? This, I think, is ultimately too broad, and too complex of a question, as many factors and information must be looked at throughout history. I am interested in Dr. May’s view on this subject, however. Moving back to Frederick Douglass, though, I think it is quite interesting that Narrative in the Life of Frederick Douglass seems to be the more popular and widely read work. I think both works are important, but I believe My Bondage and My Freedom should be taught alongside the earlier work. Whereas the factual representation of the events are important, it is also crucial to learn more about the writer himself.
Work Count: 518