Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
Douglass doesn't talk about women very often, and when he does, he usually associates them with suffering. Perhaps because the nineteenth-century South was a time and a place where women were supposed to be shielded from danger, Douglass makes a special point of describing the traumatic sight of female slaves being beaten and abused. The rape of female slaves by their masters was a common occurrence, as Douglass reminds us. The beating of Aunt Hester in Chapter 1, the neighbor whipping his slaves Henrietta and Mary in Chapter 6, and Thomas Auld's cruelty to Henny in Chapter 9 are all moments of ferocious violence toward women. Note, though, that Mr. Auld is not violent toward his wife when he catches her teaching the slaves to read. Only black women are the victims of violence in this story.