Throughout If I could have died in their

Throughout the centuries of time,  American literature has been
characterized  and shaped by the writers
of the then present time. Each century seemed to have its own rules of what the
concept of literature was. In the early years of American writing, the literature
standards were strict; focusing more on the structure and content. This strict
way of writing soon gave way to a type of literature that was allowed a looser
form and focused on the individual and their feelings rather than the social
aspect of life. This time period of literature came to be known as the Age of
Romanticism. Throughout the Age of romanticism many new literary elements were
introduced. One such element was Theme. Writers that typically used theme to
their advantage during the age of Romanticism were the abolitionists. Writers
,such as Frederick Douglass, used theme in their works to express to the reader
how they felt during slavery. By using certain structure and points of view,
the author plays to the readers emotions by giving them a picture  through the first person point of view.  From a formal standpoint, Romanticism
experienced a steady loosening of the rules of artistic expression that were
saturated during the earlier times. The high-flown language of the previous
generation’s poets was replaced with a more natural intonation  and verbiage.

First reason for theme

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Frederick Douglass was a 19th century
abolitionist and writer whom’s narratives played an important role during the
Age of Romanticism. One of Frederick Douglass’s most famously known narratives
is Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, an American slave. As I
mentioned before, theme played an important part in his narratives. Douglass
uses theme as a part of his narratives for a couple of reasons. One of these is
to counter the idyllic depictions of slavery that often came from
slaveholder.  Slaveholders had interests
of their own in mind. They wanted to portray to the world that, life as a slave
was a happy one. Many times white southern writers portrayed their slaves in a
way that romanticized and defended the institution of slavery.  One such writer was Caroline Lee Hentz, a
white Southern writer, published the novel The Planter’s Northern Bride. She
quotes an elderly enslaved woman speaking about her master:

“Oh!” said she, her eyes swimming
with tears, and her voice choking with emotion, “I loved my master and
mistress like my own soul. If I could have died in their stead, I would gladly
done it. . . . All on us black folks would ‘ave laid down our lives for ’em at
any minute sic(Hentz, Caroline Lee.).”

 
Douglass, on the other hand, details the cruel, heartless and true,
interactions between the slaveholders and the slaves. In the first chapter of
his narrative he depicts the following scene to the reader:  “I have often been awakened at the dawn of
day by the most heart-rending shrieks of an own aunt of mine, whom he used to
tie up to a joist, and whip upon her naked back till she was literally covered
with blood. No words, no tears, no prayers, from his gory victim, seemed to
move his iron heart from its bloody purpose sic” ( Douglass’
Narrative). Douglass’s purpose in using scenes such as this one is
to bring to the reader’s attention the demeaning and dangerous conditions that
slaves faced. 

 

Second reason for theme

Another reason Douglass uses theme in his
works is to show the outside world how white slaveholders control slavery by
keeping the slaves ignorant. During the time Douglass wrote this narrative, the
majority of society believed that slavery was natural. Many of the people had
not ever known slavery not to exist. From a young age, whites were taught that
blacks were incapable of learning and engaging with the civil society. In
chapters five through seven, Douglass narrates his experience as a recipient of
this kind of thinking. At the young age of eight, he was moved to the home of a
new family and placed under the care of the mistress. Upon arrival he describes
Mrs. Auld as  ” a woman of the kindest
heart and finest feelings”. During the start of his new life with the Auld’s he
is taught by the mistress the basics of reading and writing. This soon comes to
an end as Mr. Auld finds out and in his words states that,  “Learning would spoil the best nigger in
the world . . . if you teach that nigger . . . how to read, there would be no
keeping him. It would forever unfit him to be a slave.”  This brings about Douglass’s point that he is
trying to make to the reader. Douglass knows that knowledge is power, as do the
slaveholders.. Most importantly, by keeping slaves illiterate, Southern
slaveholders maintain authority over what the rest of America knows about
slavery. If slaves cannot write, their side of the slavery story cannot be
told. Douglass uses the structure of his narrative to bring this concept into
the light. The following quote from Mr. Auld sums up in a sentence of what
Douglass is trying to portray. “If you give a nigger an inch, he will take an
ell. A nigger should know nothing but to obey his master–to do as he is told
to do”.   

CONCLUSION

Writers during the Age of Romanticism focused
on using elements to help further their works for the better. Writers wanted to
enhance one’s creative potential. They loosened the rules of former literature
to bring about their own take on it which was by creating a sense of fantasy.
Some focused on adding literary elements to their works to use as an advantage
to the their view. Writers such as Frederick Douglass used elements like theme
to portray to the world the truth of slavery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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