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Frederick Douglass’ autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass an American Slave, demonstrates how power corrupts Sophia (his mistress), the overseers, and even himself. Power is obviously a controlling thing. It also easily can corrupt people. Sophia, the overseers, and Frederick Douglass were all corrupted by power and in this essay; I will prove this to you.
The Age of Reason refers to the age in which people used their heads. They thought things out thoroughly and made mostly wise decisions. The Age of Romanticism refers to the age in which people thought not only with their brains but also with their heart. It was very important in this time to do things the way that you thought was right in your heart. Sophia, the overseers, and Frederick Douglass were all corrupted by power. Because of power, they all changed in one way or another, whether it was for the better or for the worse. Sophia started out as a nice lady and changed for the worst. Overseers aren’t born as cruel as they are; they are changed that way. Finally, Frederick Douglass is corrupted by power for the better.
Sophia Auld was corrupted by power and changed for the worst. When Frederick Douglass first moved in with the Olds, she was very nice to him and treated him well. He was “utterly astonished at her kindness”. (Page 48) To Frederick Douglass, Sophia Auld was one of the nicest white people that he had ever met. He thought of her as “a woman of the kindest heart and finest feelings”. (Page 48) He was very surprised of her actions and kindness towards him. She was so unbelievably nice to him that he didn’t know how to act towards her. “She had bread for the hungry, clothes for the naked, and comfort for every mourner that came within her reach.” (Page 52) “The meanest slave was put fully at ease in her presence, and none left without feeling better for having seen her.” (Page 48) She had never had a slave under her control before and prior to her marriage, she was dependent of her own industry for a living. She spent time with him and even started to teach him how to read. This didn’t, however, last long. As soon as Master Auld found out about Sophia teaching Frederick how to read, he scowled her and told he how wring it was. She started acting like a master, or mistress, and all of her kindness seemed to just disappear. “The fatal poison of irresponsible power was already in her hands, and soon commenced its infernal work.” (Page 48) Mr. Auld told her “If you give a nigger an inch, he will take an ell. A nigger should know nothing but to obey his master - to do as he is told to do. Now if you teach that nigger (speaking of Frederick Douglass) how to read, there would be no keeping him. It would forever unfit him to be a slave.” (Page 49) She stopped teaching him how to read after that and things only got worse from there. She learned from her husband that treating a slave like a human being was “not only wrong, but dangerous”. (Page 52) She wasn’t satisfied with doing what her husband commanded; she had to do better. She enforced the rule of not teaching slaves how to read more than Mr. Auld did. The thing that made her the maddest was seeing Frederick Douglass with the newspaper. To her, “education and slavery were incompatible with each other” (Page 53) I think that Mrs. Auld was the most corrupted by power than any one else in this narrative. She started out as a nice lady with only nice things to say or do and then, after given the power of owning a slave, became cruel and stopped all of her nice doings. The next example of people who were corrupted by power is the overseers. Next to Mrs. Auld, they were corrupted greatly by power.
The overseers are considered the meanest of all men during slavery, but they were not born as cruel as they are. Overseers are born just like everyone else: with no knowledge of life therefor no opinion or goal to
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Slavery in the United States, African-American literature, American slaves, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Frederick Douglass, African diaspora, United States, Douglass, Memphis, Tennessee
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