The narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, one of the most eloquent indictments of slavery ever recorded, depicts the horrors of slavery and racial prejudice. His unparalleled determination to escape bondage and to be respected drove him to do almost anything. Born into slavery, the autobiography portrays his life from his own eyes and tells of his experiences on the plantations and in the city. .
Frederick Douglass was exposed to all the bloodshed and atrocity of the white man from the very beginning. When he was a child, he had seen fellow slaves severely whipped by their master. These had instilled in him a horror of the white man, and had taught him to fear them. Douglass describes several of his masters, some of whom were merciless, possessed with "savage barbarity" (p. 39), who also seemed to take pleasure in whipping the slaves; some, to the contrary, were relatively heavenly. Douglass" childhood was comprised mostly of being sold to different masters, being separated from his family, and learning of the inhumanity of the slave masters.
The turning point of Douglass" life was caused by a chance overhearing. In Baltimore, his new mistress, Mrs. Auld, "a woman of the kindest heart and finest feelings" (p. 48), had been "in a good degree preserved from the blighting and dehumanizing effects of slavery" (p. 48). She had taught him the alphabet and how to spell simple words. As soon as Mr. Auld, Frederick's master, discovered her teaching him the alphabet, he forbade her to teach Frederick any more. Frederick overheard his master say that learning how to read would make him unmanageable, of no value to his master, and do him great harm. "From that moment, [he] understood the pathway from slavery to freedom. It was just what [he] wanted Whilst [he] was saddened by the thought of losing the aid of [his] kind mistress, [he] was gladdened by the invaluable instruction which, by the merest accident, [he] had gained from [his] master" (p.