Reading Response – Abel

After the young Douglass loses his mistress as his teacher, what strategies does he practice to continue learning to read?  Who does he turn to for help?  How does he persuade them to help him?

A- After Douglas lost his Mistress as a teacher, he took almost every opportunity to continue his learning. His Mistress also tormented him by not allowing him to be alone because she knew he would try and read every chance he was alone. Douglas constructed a plan to communicate with the poor white kids on the streets so they could teach him. It was a better way to lean for him and all he needed was bread for them. Page 2, paragraph 5 states ”was that of making friends of all the little white boys whom i met in the street… for i was much better off in this regard than many of the poor white children in our neighborhood. This bread I used to bestow upon the hungry little urchins, who in return, would give me that more valuable bread of knowledge.”

What is the effect of Douglass’s own reading, in general, for him?  Reread paragraphs five and six.  In responding to this question, look carefully at how he describes his reading of both “The Columbia Orator,” and Sheridan’s speeches about Catholic emancipation.

A- Once Douglas was able to read, he spent time reading “The Columbia Orator”. Containing dialogue of a master and a slave who ran away 3 times. The slave was brought back the third time and fought for his freedom and had spoken truthfully to the master. In return the slave was granted emancipation. I believe Douglas reading gave him strength to want to fight back against slaveholders and to vocalize his thoughts that have been silenced for so long. Sherdians speeches had also done exactly that, give his thoughts a voice again after being silenced and tormented by his mistress and her husband. He read the lines in between and says ”The moral which i gained from the dialogue was the power of truth over the conscience of even a slaveholder. What I got from Sheridan was a bold denunciation of slavery, and a powerful vindication of human rights.” He was showed the truth of what was going on around him and he hated it, so much as to wish he was as clueless as the slaves that do not know how to read. He was filled with sadness, loss, anger, hatred, and wanted slavery to end.

What does Douglass mean when he says that “learning to read had been a curse rather than a blessing” (paragraph 5)?  Furthermore, what does he mean when he says that “freedom…was ever present to torment me” (same paragraph)?  In other words, is there a downside to becoming literate?  What might that be?

A- Douglas learning to read opened his world to understand the environment around him. Other peoples words being vocalized in newspapers or books that granted him the information he needed to push himself. At the same time he wish he has stayed as he was because the truth is painful, he envied slaves who did not know how to read because they do not know what he does. Douglas was happy to read but he felt unsatisfied because he did not know how to stop slavery. ”It had given me a view of my wretched condition, without the remedy.”

Reread paragraph 7 and describe the process Douglass goes through to learn the word “abolition.”  How does this process explain why the author’s mistress found his reading newspapers so threatening?

Douglas was intrigued with learning this word that others were afraid of, this world that was not in the dictionary for him to know why it was feared. He liked that is was a secret, so much so that as he heard it so much that he eventually put together the meaning. ”From this time I understood the words abolition and abolitionist, and always drew near when that word was spoken, expecting to hear something of importance to myself and fellow-slaves.” It made him realize that his mistress did not want him to gain hope from reading the news papers which would have contained information of an abolitionist movement.

Look carefully at the various strategies D used to learn how to write (final paragraphs). What are they, and what do they suggest about the relationships between literacy and social power?

Douglas was very observation, at the shipyard, he watched men write letters to indicate where each log would go on the ship. From this he learnt 4 letters and would compete with little white boys telling them he knew how to write, to get them to actually show him how to write. ”I would then make the letter which i had been so fortunate as to learn, and ask him to beat that.” As he did this, he wrote down whatever he learnt on anything in his surroundings, he also used a dictionary until he knew how to write the letter without looking on the book. This displays the relationship of communicating with others and how reading and writing go together. Reading and writing gave him a new world view and gave his thoughts voice. He was being social and helping kids as they helped return the favor.

Part 2

Douglas learnt that you can gain some sort of power in communicating properly to your extent, from his mistress. He then uses this knowledge to help poor kids but also gain some information about reading. I believe the deeper meaning is he learnt that the world is a give or take place. Meaning his mistress took advantage of him by teaching to read to force him to follow rules, but he knew that was wrong. He wanted to actually help these poor white kids by giving them food because he was a little more fortunate to be in a home and off the streets. He gave them food in return they gave him knowledge. ”For I was much better off in this regard than many of the poor white children in our neighborhood. This bread I used to bestow upon the hungry little urchins, who in return would give me that more valuable bread of knowledge.”

5 thoughts on “Reading Response – Abel”

  1. Please read, always read my instructions for the assignments super carefully!

    You were not asked to answer all the Qs in Part One. YOu did much too much work!

    Where is your Part TWO analyze your chosen significant quote part?

    1. Ah okay 🙁 I understand, I was rushing to do it before the deadline so that’s why. I promise I will CAREFULLY READ the instructions for the next and future assignments.
      but like not even like a .5 ? 🙂

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