Posted: June 21st, 2021
True Freedom: Peace of Mind In A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave, Frederick Douglass sees true freedom as more than being a free man. Just because you are not owned by someone does not mean you are free; just because you are owned by someone does not mean you are enslaved. Douglass states, “I endured all the evils of a slave, and suffered all the care and anxiety of a freeman. I found it a hard bargain. But, hard as it was, I thought it better than the old mode of getting along. It was a step towards freedom to be allowed to bear the responsibilities of a freeman, and I was determined to hold upon it” (221).
Douglass is referencing the time in his life that he was working for Master Hugh shortly before his escape into a free state. To Douglass slavery was not being owned by someone; freedom was not being able to work for your own wages; nor was freedom given to you by your master. Freedom is crafted by ones own willpower and inner self. Though Douglass is still a slave he is able to make his own living by hiring himself to Master Hugh. Even though he is still enslaved to Hugh Douglass has his own freedoms in the form of being able to do the work as he pleases as long as he makes enough to pay his master every week.
He is on the line of being free and being a slave at the same time. Douglass exemplifies his freedom of working on his own accord by saying, “I was ready to work at night as well as day, and by the most untiring perseverance and industry, I made enough to meet my expenses, and lay up a little money every week” (221). This is not the true freedom that Douglass wishes but it is a degree of freedom that must not be overlooked easily. The little freedom he is allocated allows him to make enough money to escape from his enslavement. Generating ones own profit and working to live has its own freedoms, but it is not truly being free.
Douglass claims, “Rain or shine, work or no work, at the end of each week the money must be forthcoming, or I must give up my privilege” (221). He is expressing the fact that at any point in time the few freedoms that he has can be ripped from him like a lion stealing meat from the bones of its prey. He may not fight back against his master, he can only sit there, letting everything he worked so hard to achieve be taken from him as he watches it disappear. If at any point in time your freedoms can be stripped of you, then you are not truly free at all. To be truly free one must allow themselves to desire that freedom at any cost.
Douglass is able to endure the hardships of this labor because it provides a means, in the form of currency, to escape. His wish to be free is not as much a desire for physical freedom as it is a desire of inner peace of mind. Douglass comes to this realization after he has escaped and is at an anti-slavery meeting. He says, “The truth was, I felt myself a slave, and the idea of speaking to white people weighed me down. I spoke but a few moments, when I felt a degree of freedom, and said what I desired with considerable ease” (235). It is not until the moment he allows the freedom the seep into his soul that he truly becomes a free man.
He is able to open up his mind and express his views and experience only after his desires to be free are accepted by himself and he truly sees the meaning of being free. Slavery and freedom are more alike than one would presume. As in this day and age, a family living in the ghetto is similar to a family securing only enough money to pay for their housing; both are living similar lifestyles of poverty and without any luxury. The difference is that one family is working on their own to earn and provide that housing while the other is just being given it.
Slavery, in itself, is being dependent on a higher power to provide for you while you do what they tell you to do. Freedom is the ability to earn what you receive and having the peace of mind that you deserved it. Douglass worked hard to earn his freedom and supply for his own family on his own accord. To Douglass slavery was not being owned by someone; freedom was not being able to work for your own wages; nor was freedom given to you by your master. True freedom is what Douglass earned through his trials and deserved as a man who achieved his goals and finally has achieved freedom and peace in his own mind.
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