How Does The Declaration Of Independence Of Frederick Douglass Define Happiness

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Happiness exists not only as an emotion, but as a state of mind. Before Adam and Eve sinned, they are said to be happy and content because they lived in a world where emotions such as envy and greed did not exist. Because they sinned, the world they knew fell, and humans have lived in the world of non-happiness from then until the present. In the 18th Century, people began to think of happiness not as something that is only in the afterlife, but as something that can be obtained on Earth as well. The Declaration of Independence, one of the most well-known works of the 18th century, states that everyone has the undeniable right to pursue happiness. The Declaration of Independence is far from alone in the writings of happiness. All of the books …show more content…

One aspect that Gulliver’s Travels and Narrative of Frederick Douglass have in common is that they were both warned that knowledge would not bring them happiness. Frederick Douglass was warned when Mr. Auld, his master, catches Mrs. Auld teaching Douglass how to read. Mr. Auld warns, “[Reading] would make him discontent and unhappy” (Douglass, 43). Frederick Douglass finds that this is true because once he reads about freedom, he wants it more than ever, and he is more upset that he must live a slave forever, so he moves on to a new pursuit of happiness which is being free. Gulliver is given a similar warning when he describes being a struldbrug, someone who lives forever, would make him the happiest, “That the question therefore was not, whether a man would choose to be always in the prime of youth, attended with prosperity and health; but how he would pass a perpetual life under all the usual disadvantages which old age brings along with it” (Swift, 156). Gulliver thinks that eternal life means happiness because he would be able to discover everything that is to be discovered, yet he learns that an immortal life still goes through the same trials and a mortal person which would make him …show more content…

The History of Rasselas: Prince of Abissinia describes this perfectly. In this book a prince discovers that just because he has everything in the world, it does not make him happy. He states, “I have already enjoyed too much; give me something to desire” (Johnson, 6). In this scene he is speaking to an old man who is confused why the prince is complaining about being unhappy when he has everything. In this sense, the old man is like Gulliver who believes that he would be his happiest having riches and knowledge. The prince has riches and whatever he wants, so he knows that tangible objects do not bring all the happiness in the world. When he meets a poet later in the story, he discovers that traveling outside the Valley of Happiness would make him the happiest because the poet describes great places with a abundance of knowledge. The prince asks if the knowledge makes the countries happier. To this the poet replies, “I am therefore inclined to conclude that, if nothing counteracts the natural consequences of learning, we grow more happy as our minds take a wider range” (Johnson, 24). It might look like this contradicts Narrative of Frederick Douglass where knowledge makes Douglass less happy, but the poet is not saying that knowledge makes someone happier; he states that learning makes people happier. This does not contradict Frederick Douglass because Douglass is happiest when he is

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