“Narrative Of The Life Of Frederick Douglass, An

745 Words3 Pages
“Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave”: The idea of self-making and “respect” When reading Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave written by himself, I certainly wasn’t thinking about the idea of “respect” and self-making. I was too busy focusing on all the horrible things happening to the slaves and all the terrible things the slave owners were doing to them to really look at the fine lines of the story. It wasn’t until I read "Bold defiance took its place"—"Respect" and Self-Making in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Vince Brewton that I really started to look into the story on a more personal basis. The reason why Brewton repeatedly throughout his essay puts quotations around the word “respect” is because he defines “respect” as “an exaggerated version of ordinary self-respect.” He goes on to clarify that “‘Respect’ does not tolerate disrespect, and as a form of identity utilizes active disrespect of others to lay claim to power and the boundaries of that power.” It’s clear to me that Douglass’s story is a fight to earn “respect” and in order to earn that, he believes he has to be free. Douglass has no “respect” because he is thrown into a world of slavery where he must tolerate the disrespect being shoved at him. It isn’t until his fight with slave-breaker Edward Covey that the beginning stage of “respect” starts to make its way to him. The fight is where I can see Douglass start to transform. He writes "You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man" (47). Brewton also brings to my attention that Douglass “devotes greater space in his first autobiography to the portrait of Covey than to any other character, black or white.” I think this is because the fight with Covey is a pivotal turning point for Douglass. We, the readers, need
Open Document