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    The Impact of Education on the Human Mind in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

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    In the novel, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Frederick Douglass approaches the impact of education on the human mind along with themes of slavery and freedom. Douglass utilizes his education to realize he does not deserve to spend his life as a slave. While Douglass recognizes that education leads to disappointment, he ultimately views it as an important necessity because education is what separates man from animal and leads to the road to freedom.

    When Douglass first moved to Baltimore, a window of opportunity opened for him to become educated. He at first was taught the alphabet and to read by Mrs. Auld, his owner’s wife, but once Mr. Auld saw Mrs. Auld teaching Frederick, Mrs. Auld was disciplined and no longer taught Frederick. A well taught black man threatened everything slaveholders believed in and was thought to make a slave ” at once become unmanageable and of no value to his master” (Douglass 41). Along with learning being a threat to the slaveholder, to Douglass “it would make him discontented and unhappy” (Douglass 41). As time progressed Douglass’s knowledge helped him understand the gravity of his situation. Simply, Douglass was to be a slave for life, and the more he learned, the more he realized there was no reason for him to be a slave. As he became educated, it started to become harder for Douglass to withstand his own enslavement, “In moments of agony,l envied my fellow-slaves for their stupidity. T have often wished myselt a beast. I preferred the condition of the meanest reptile to my own. Any thing, no matter what, to get rid of thinking! It was this everlasting thinking of my condition that tormented me” (Douglass 45). Since learning had become off limits, it became Frederick Douglass’s forbidden fruit.

    Not only does Frederick Douglas see education as a disappointment and a danger, but he viewed it as what separates man from brute. When a slave is owned, they are considered nothing more than property or as an animal. Once Captain Anthony dies, the slaves are brought together to be evaluated for selling. Douglass states, “we were all ranked together at the valuation. Men and women, old and young, married and single, were ranked with horses, sheep and swine. There were horses and men, cattle and women, pigs and children, all holding the same rank in the scale of being” (Douglass 49), showing the dehumanization of these slaves due to the fact that they were being priced along with animals. Since slaves were kept ignorant by their masters, they were easy to control just as animals and were thought of as nothing more.

    As Frederick continued his life as a slave and saw the darkness in slavery, he “found that, to make a contented slave, it is necessary to make a thoughtless one. It is necessary to darken his moral and mental vision, and, as far as possible, to annihilate the power of reason. He must be able to detect no inconsistencies in slavery; he must be made to feel that slavery is right; and he can be brought to that only when he ceases to be a man” (Douglass 87). No human being in the right mindset would ever want to be enslaved for life; however, with the brutal treatment slaves faced every day and their lack of intelligence, they began to believe that a life of slavery was what they deserved.

    Arguably the most important view Frederick Douglass had towards education was that knowledge was the road to freedom. One time Mr. Auld scolded Mrs. Auld for teaching Frederick Douglass by saying, “. if you teach that — how to read, there would be no keeping him. It would forever unfit him to be a slave” (Douglass 41). This lit a fire of desire for Douglass because it was proof to him that knowledge willead him to freedom. Through this statement Mr. Auld said, Douglass was able to understand that the only power white men had over black men was knowledge. After hearing this he did his best to read and write whatever he could in hopes that he would be headed towards freedom. Frederick Douglass struggled through many hardships in his life as a slave such as being brutally whipped and being completely broken in spirit. Through his desire to be freed, he realized that educating himself would be his way out. Though education at times caused Douglass disappointment, it led him to understand that education is what seperates man from animal and leads to the road to freedom.

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    The Impact of Education on the Human Mind in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. (2023, Apr 02). Retrieved from

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