Study Guide

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass Chapter 5

By Frederick Douglass

Chapter 5

  • As a child, Douglass didn't have much to do. He was too young to work in the fields, but there was no school for him, so mostly he just wandered around. (Thrilling.)
  • Children didn't get much in the way of clothing, but modesty wasn't the problem. Sometimes Douglass's feet were so frostbitten, he tells us, he could have put a pen in the cracks in his skin.
  • The food he remembers eating was similarly horrible. It consisted of a varied and nutritious diet of corn boiled into mush and served on a tray.
  • Douglass is excited when he gets a chance to leave the plantation and go somewhere else.
  • When Douglass discovers that his old master (Anthony) will be taking him to Baltimore, he immediately starts working to wash the "plantation scurf" off his body, so that people in Baltimore will not laugh at him.
  • We don't really know exactly what "plantation scurf" is, and we're not sure we want to. We'd venture to guess it has something that happens to people who work all day in the fields and then sleep on the ground.
  • In addition to higher standards of cleanliness, it turns out that going to Baltimore will also require that Douglass start wearing pants. No one is more pleased than the young Douglass himself, who celebrates by spending the day working to scrape off his mange, a skin condition common in pigs. You can learn more than you ever wanted to know about mange at this website.
  • The young Douglass takes a few minutes to count all the things he'll be sorry to leave behind when he leaves Colonel Lloyd's plantation forever. It doesn't take long.
  • He's psyched about going to the big city. In his entire life, he's never seen anything more exciting than the plantation's Great House, and from the stories he's heard, Baltimore is filled with stuff to see and do.
  • Looking back, Douglass sees this moment as another turning point in his life. If he had never left the plantation, he might never have had a chance to escape from slavery. Instead of writing this autobiography, he might still be a slave in Maryland.