Frederick Douglass Rhetorical Questions

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In The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, in 1845, Douglass is reflecting on his experiences as a slave, as well as the known experiences of others, following his escape from bondage. He is making a plea to the Northerners who do not have a complete knowledge or understanding of the conditions of slavery in the South or are otherwise unopinionated in relation to it. In a later passage of the narrative, he focuses on the common beliefs of slave owners through a description of Mr. Hopkins, a former overseer he reported to. He reflects on this ideal that any problematic actions, or “misbehavior,” of slaves is awarded with abuse and punishment. Douglass includes concise and sarcastic rhetorical questions and responses in order to shed…show more content…
He utilizes exceptionally aggressive reactions that seem way over the top to show how ridiculous the typical responses to these very questions are. Douglass follows up a simple question of unhappy facial expressions with, “It is said, he has the devil in him, and it must be whipped out” (Douglass 67). In the same sense, he follows up a slave making an honest mistake by breaking a tool with a common response of, “It is owing to his carelessness, and for it a slave must always be whipped” (Douglass 68). Douglass is making a mockery of these ludicrous responses while still drawing awareness to their intense reactions to normal actions and sentiments. He is again utilizing this over-the-top, though incredibly typical, reaction to engage the audience. Douglass has shown the slaves humanity through the questions and now he is working to emphasize the level of insanity displayed by the top tier of the Southern hierarchy. He successfully works to mock this class, fueling the Northern audience to make an effort to disassociate from these Southerners or otherwise become opinionated on the matter. This mocking helps to convince the audience of the terrors of slave society through the voice of the slave owners, showing the absurdity of the excuses for abuse of
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