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    The Similarities and Differences Between the Memoirs of Douglass and Stockton

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    Memoirs are a great method of literature expression that many people have utilized for Over hundreds of years. They can be used as a way for the individual writing it to evaluate themselves and/or display their story for others to read and thus, learn more about them. Sometimes, orally delivering our stories can become difficult and is seen as more of a useless chore than a fulfilling experience. By writing out these memoirs, people can learn a lot from the words used to the stories that are being told. Douglass and Stockton both wrote notable memoirs that many people today can benefit from reading them. The writing styles of both must be greatly considered, along with how these two individuals grew up. While Douglass and Stockton have many similarities, there are also several differences that set these two apart.

    Both of these memoirs begin with an introduction of another individual that they have conversed with at some point in their lives. Stockton’s memoir begins with introducing Sid Bolkosky, his colleague. Douglass’s memoir begins with a letter written from Wendell Phillips. Both of these individuals are seen as good friends of Douglass and Stockton, respectively. Phillips writes this letter to Douglass as a way of showing his respect to his anti-slavery views. In his letter, he mentions the parallels that be drawn from the Declaration of Independence (Douglass xvi). Basically, Phillips is agreeing that Douglass’s memoir can be used to move people and change their ways of thinking, if they do not already agree with Douglass’s ways. The purpose of Sid Bolkosky’s role in Stockton’s memoir is a little bit different than Phillips’s role; he serves as an important component for conversation. Deeper in Stockton’s memoir, we see the two engage in conversation, as Bolkosky is starring as the interviewer and Stockton is his interviewee. Also, throughout Stockton’s memoir, Bolkosky is more involved, as Phillips in Douglass’s memoir is only seen at the beginning.

    At the start of both memoirs, Douglass and Stockton introduce with how their Iives were like growing up, starting with “I was borm in…” Douglass goes on to mentioning details about his family, “I never saw my mother, to know her as such, more than four or five times in my life; and each of these times was very short in duration, and at night.” (2). Stockton on the other hand held a close relationship with his whole family growing up, always spending time and going to various places together. Both individuals describe the racial aspects of their lives though. Stockton says, “Scholars call us Scots-Irish but we just called ourselves Americans. We are the only ethnic group in the country without an ethnic label or an ethnic identity” Douglass says, “My mother was of a darker complexion than either my grandmother or grandfather. My father was a white man.” (2) They both introduce their racial background, which says a lot about how they initially define themselves. Stockton uses it to show that his family did not want to be defined as the country they came from, and thus inhibit them from becoming more productive citizens.

    Douglass brings in his racial background to further identify the relationship he had with his father, after his mother passed away. He calls it a cunning arrangement on his father’s part: “for by this cunning arrangement, the slaveholder, in cases not a few, sustains to his slaves the double relation of master and father.” (3) When Bolkosky asks Stockton about his dad, Stockton says, “I admired my dad in some ways even though he was not very mature and it was not easy being his son.” His relationship with his father was not severely impaired, like Douglass’s was, but both individuals still found their difficulties when it came to seeing them fully as their father figures. Douglass’s experience with these types of slaveholders, among others, has been him hiding away because of the violent occurrences that would take place on the plantations.

    Douglass goes into great detail, describing the gore that he had to bear witness to. The point of doing this is to provoke emotion into the reader and showcase how slavery can affect the slave and the slaveholder simultaneously. Stockton obviously has not grown up in slavery-like conditions, but his childhood consisted of him going through various limitations. He calls it a humbled life, as his parents limited certain resources for him to use. Douglass also grew up, living on rations of basic needs given to him by his slave-owners, though these rations were much more severe than what Stockton got. There were also harsh consequences for when these rations were used up: “When these failed them, they went naked until the next allowance-day.

    Children from seven to ten years old, of both sexes, almost naked, might be seen at all seasons of the year.” (9) Despite Douglass going through harsh conditions, he did end up having a nicer and calmer slave-owner named Mr. Hopkins. This is seen as the ‘good times’ for Douglass, which Stockton also has his share of good times in his memoir; though for Douglass, this would later be replaced with the witnessing of yet increased harsher punishments he endured and witnessed. Songs were important elements for both of these individuals. Douglass viewed the songs that the other slaves would sing as almost useless, when it came to how they addressed the current conditions. “I have sometimes thought that the mere hearing of those songs would do more to impress some minds with the horrible character of slavery, than the reading of whole volumes of philosophy on the subject could do. I did not, when a slave, understand the deep meaning of those rude and apparently incoherent songs.” (11) Stockton says the song, Gotta Travel On, has an impactful meaning on him, as his family had to relocate many times during the war. In other words, this song holds certain significance to Stockton.

    Death was an important part for both Stockton and Douglass. The differences lie in the extremities from how both individuals witnessed death. As a slave, Douglass would see slave owners chopping off the heads of their slaves and understanding that he might be the next one to be given up just like that on any given day. Stockton has visited graveyards with his family and has been to a number of funerals for his deceased relatives. They both understand that dying is a part of life and never quite mourned publicly when hearing of a person who had passed away recently.

    Religion played a significant role for both Stockton and Douglass. Stockton grew up with Christianity being the central religion. His father was a deacon and many of his childhood friends were the ones who went to Church. Stockton did have a positive experience with religion, with the more Sunday school classes and trips that he attended. “We would read Bible passages and discuss the passage. The purpose of the discussion was to make sure we understood in a correct way. My Uncle Clarence […] was a very admirable person so that made the lessons better” After a while Stockton grew apart from that style of religion, however, he saw this as one of the more beneficial parts of his childhood. Douglass was surrounded with religion, as all of his slave-owners were Christian. He did notice a perversion of the religion though, unlike Stockton. He sees the distinction between true Christianity and false Christianity. Douglass shows that slaveholders’ Christianity is not evidence of their innate goodness, but merely a hypocritical show that serves to bolster their self-righteous brutality.

    Among the similarities of stockton and Douglass, there are smaller differences that set these two apart. Both of these memoirs dealt with sensitive topics and had explored these topics in great detail. They both did an admirable job with showcasing the reality of things and why it’s imperative that other people know the details rather than have them be always sugar-coated. Personal Reaction: I did read a good portion of Douglass’s life in high school, so his memoir did not come as a huge revolutionary shock to me. I was expecting it to be chock filled with details of the events of his life. I did enjoy reading his memoir, overall. Stockton’s memoir was a great read in my opinion. The events of his early childhood came off as surprising to me. I guess there are certain details of someone’s life that can come off as hard to process sometimes. I did like how the style of this narrative was in an interviewer format. To me, that shows a more personal connection that the autobiographer has with his memoir.

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    The Similarities and Differences Between the Memoirs of Douglass and Stockton. (2023, Apr 02). Retrieved from https://artscolumbia.org/the-similarities-and-differences-between-the-memoirs-of-douglass-and-stockton/

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