Chapter 1 Study Questions

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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Literature Notebook Chapter Study Questions and Vocabulary Chapters 1-3

Chapter 1
Study Questions:

  1. Why does Douglass begin his narrative by focusing on the fact that most slaves do not know their birthdays?

  2. Why does the whipping of his Aunt Hester affect Douglass so deeply? What insights does it give him about the nature and psychology of slavery?


impertinent deference infernal

intimation cudgel

odious(ness) conjecture

Chapter 2
Study Questions:

  1. What does it say about the effect of slavery on the moral development of its victims that slaves could regard as “good” an overseer who “whipped but seemed to take no pleasure in it”?

  2. What does Douglass mean when he says that “the same traits of character might be seen in Colonel Lloyd’s slaves, as are seen in the slaves of the political parties”?

  3. Why does Douglass believe that hearing the slaves “sing most exultingly” of going to the Great House Farm “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”?

  4. Why does Douglass describe slaves who go to the Great House Farm as “peculiarly enthusiastic”?


sloop privation diligent(ly) ineffable

misdemeanor commence(d) exult(ingly) obdurate

evince(d) Providence woe

Chapter 3
Study Questions:

  1. Why does Colonel Lloyd go to extreme lengths to protect his “finely cultivated garden” from the “hungry swarms of boys” intent on stealing its fruit? What does Douglass mean when he says that few slaves had “the virtue or the vice to resist it”?

  2. Why does Douglass say that the willingness of slaves to “suppress the truth rather than take the consequences of telling it” proves that they are “a part of the human family”?

  3. When Douglass notes that slaves “seemed to think that the greatness of their masters was transferable to themselves,” does he consider this tendency a normal part of human psychology or a peculiar effect of slavery?


virtue brook (not water) imbibe

stratagem(s) ascertain(ing) execrate

defile(d) sunder(ed)

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Literature Notebook Chapter Study Questions and Vocabulary Chapters 4-6

Chapter 4
Study Questions:

  1. Why does Mr. Gore do “nothing reluctantly, no matter how disagreeable”?

  2. Does Douglass believe Gore’s murder of Demby is motivated more by evil intent or by a genuine belief in the necessity of his action?

  3. Why does Douglass note that Gore’s “horrid crime was not even submitted to judicial investigation”?

  4. After making the point that, in Maryland, slaves are murdered with impunity, why does Douglass then present additional examples?


impudence homage consummate arraign(ed)

immutable servile expedient

debase(ing) reprove(ing) perpetrator

Chapter 5
Study Questions:

  1. Why does the prospect of moving to Baltimore, where he will remain a slave, inspire Douglass with “the highest hopes of future happiness”?

  2. In saying that going to Baltimore was “the first plain manifestation of that kind of providence which has ever since attended me,” is Douglass saying that his own actions and character traits were not primarily responsible for his fate?

  3. Why does Douglass say that his belief in “a special interposition of divine Providence” may be “deemed superstitious, and even egotistical”?


leisure endure manifestation sentiment(s)

mush rapture egotistic(al) incur

infer(red) galling interposition abhorrence

Chapter 6
Study Questions:

  1. Is learning to read what makes Douglass “forever unfit” to be a slave?

  2. Why does Mr. Auld claim that learning will make Douglass “discontented and unhappy”? When is Douglass more discontented and unhappy, before or after he starts to educate himself? Why?


blighting perplex(ing) odium

discord vestige mangle(d)

discontent(ed) lacerate(d) emaciate(d)

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