Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass Chapter 4 Summary
Mr. Hopkins doesn't work out as overseer, so Colonel Lloyd replaces him with a Mr. Gore. (Hmm, Mr. Severe, Mr. Gore – we're detecting a pattern here.)
Being an overseer is a line of work that demands a sadistic personality. Mr. Hopkins wasn't sadistic enough, but Mr. Gore excels at his job.
When it comes to slaves, the rules are very simple: the slave is always wrong. Mr. Gore really, really believes in this rule, and the only way to avoid being convicted of a crime and punished for it is to not be accused in the first place.
Again, and we can't stress this enough, Mr. Gore is really good at his job. For example, Douglass tells the story of a slave named Demby who tried to escape from a beating Mr. Gore was giving him by jumping into a stream and refusing to come out. Mr. Gore warns Demby that he will shoot him if he doesn't come out of the water.
Demby doesn't come out of the water.
Mr. Gore shoots him.
Douglass notes that Mr. Gore wasn't punished for the murder in any way, not even for having destroyed valuable "property."
The lesson, it turns out, is that an overseer can be fired for not being cruel enough, but an occasional murder is just part of the job.
More than occasional, in fact; Douglass recounts three more times when an overseer murders a slave – for reasons that range from completely unjustified to completely unnecessary – to make another very simple point: the life of a slave can come to an end at any time, for no reason at all.