|Focus questions on Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
1. How does Douglass portray the effects of slavery on masters and slaves? What happens to his own relationship with his mother? What happens to Mrs. Auld when she "learns" to be a slaveholder?
2. According to Douglass, how are slaves made? What are the "tools" of the master? In other words, how do the masters keep the slaves enslaved?
3. Perhaps one of the most famous quotes from the narrative is "You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man" in Chapter 10. Why does Douglass see his confrontation with Covey as a turning point? Is the fight with Covey a kind of rite of passage? If so, how and why? How are freedom and manhood connected in the narrative?
4. What is the role of religion in slavery? Be specific. What kind of master/Christian is Covey? Why does Douglass choose to discuss the effects slavery had on white families and Christians?
5. How does Douglass contrast the "free" North and the "slave" South at the end of his book? What had he been led to expect by his masters in the South? What kind of prosperity does he find in the North?
6. How are the different white masters portrayed in the narrative? Mistresses? How do they differ from one another? How and why does Douglass show the effects of slavery on white people as well as on the slaves? Compare Douglass's portrayal of slaver on plantations (Lloyd's), farms (Freeland's and Covey's), and in the city (childhood and work at Fells Point shipyard). What are the most important differences? Are there any similarities?
7. How does Douglass portray the family life of the slaves? How are his mother, aunt, grandmother, and wife portrayed? How are black women in general portrayed (or not portrayed) in the narrative? What concepts of maleness and femaleness are embedded in the narrative? How does the narrative reflect a male perspective? .
8. Some scholars see Douglass’ narrative as a quintessentially American story. What do you think they mean by this? Do you think its true?
9. Douglass, of course, argues that slavery is dehumanizing. What conception of what it means to be human underlies his argument?
10. How does he contrast justice for whites and justice for black slaves?