Douglass and Blake – Voices of the Mute Tolerance of inhumane actions has occurred throughout the entire history of the world. From one place to the next, there has always been a single person or a group of persons that will claim dominance over another – this is simply how institutions such as government and social classes are formed. In some cases, there is little argument and much agreement and diplomacy between those who are in charge and those who are under dominance of the more powerful, as seen throughout both India’s and China’s histories with rigid caste systems and tightly stratified social lasses.
This is due to the ideals of the people in those places, as much of their dependence is upon things such as order and the spiritual understanding of where one’s life fits in among the others around them. However, it is often a more prevalent and common route to see that those who are under dominance are not able to live life as they please despite their status, but are instead held under an oppressive force that disables them from seeing life as anything but disappointing and burdensome.
In cases such as the latter, some people take the initiative to speak out n hopes that they will increase the chances of bringing Joy and a feeling of value to the people whom they defend. These people sometimes go on to become heroes among the underprivileged “rabble” and can make a difference for themselves and for later generations to come. In keeping with this tradition of stepping outside the social norm and speaking in defense of the people despite oppression and opposition, Frederick Douglass and William Blake were two heroes of two very different, but highly oppressed people groups.
Frederick Douglass was once a slave who had to endure a life of extreme isappointment in humanity as a whole. When he became a freed man, he wrote a narrative of his experiences from childhood to adult age entitled Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an autobiography that served to open the eyes of not only America, but also of nations such as England which were also engaged heavily in the buying, selling, trading, and mistreating of human beings.
He later went on to become a great orator and a politician who defended the rights of African Americans. William Blake was an English poet, painter, and printmaker in the nineteenth century nd, although he himself did not face much oppression directly, he noticed it preying upon the people in poorer social classes – particularly children from poor families. In his poem “The Tyger”, Blake uses elements such as imagery, tone, and allusion to show his belief that the poor in England were being treated inhumanely.
Both Douglass and Blake, despite any and all opposition, believed that it was their responsibility to speak out for the oppressed no matter the cost and they did so through their literary works. Blake wrote two collections of poems during the time of the Industrial Revolution n Europe which he entitled Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience. Songs of Experience seems, in a sense, like the evil twin to Songs of Experience. This is due to the fact that in Experience, Blake’s poems are indicative of a lack of innocence and an increase in corruption due to the constant growing of an overpowering darkness.
He uses imagery and symbolism to capture the essence ot Just now evil the world is and how corrupt his society was in the sense that young children were being forced to work long hours and many died due to the intensity of the work they had to perform n a daily basis, often with meager meals and hardly any rest. His poem, “The Tyger” uses the imagery of a tiger in comparison to that of a lamb. The Tiger represents experience itself through the means of the Industrial Revolution and severe child labor enforcement.
Blake contrasts the beauty and dreadfulness of the Tiger in the line that reads, “What immortal hand or eye/ Could frame thy fearful symmetry? ” (lines 3-4). He uses this contrast in order to display the Tiger as the prime example of the overall question he poses of “who could dare to create omething that is seemingly so beautiful, but is at the same time vicious and fearsome? ” The fact that the questions Blake poses in the poem are rhetorical helps point to the possibility that he doubts the complete perfection and goodness of God (Parsons 576).
The questions Blake poses contribute to his tone of skepticism and lack of security in the world around him. Blake utilizes vividly imagery that ties into the idea of the Industrial Revolution. Words such as fire, hammer, chain, furnace, and anvil bring to readers’ minds pictures of men hard at work in factories dealing in metalwork. Unfortunately, however, Blake is getting the idea across that these are not Just men working, but that they are also children – the lambs of society upon whom the Tiger preys mercilessly.
Throughout the poem, Blake makes several allusions to the Bible, concerning the fall of Lucifer from heaven. The lines, “When the stars threw down their spears, / And watered heaven with their tears, / Did he smile his work to see? ” (lines 17-19) are relevant to the rebellion of Lucifer and his fallen angels against God (Gleckner 538). By comparing the child labor force to a crafty tiger and to Satan imself, Blake clearly displays his defense against the dark side of the beneficial yet extremely harmful industrial boom in Europe.
It certainly wasn’t popular in Blake’s time to speak out against the conventional ideas of society, but he still did so despite criticism and to the apparent outrage of those who read his poetry and believed him to hold radical and contemptible ideals. Similarly to Blake’s style of blatantly criticizing his nineteenth century society and what it forced the less-powerful people into, Frederick Douglass exposed the slave ystem in America in the nineteenth century for what it truly was – a system that contributed to the overall dehumanizing and degradation of individuals of African descent.
Douglass begins his narrative as far back as he can remember, explaining that shortly after birth he was separated from his mother Harriet Bailey and was never truly sure of who his father was, although everyone suspected it to be his master, Captain Anthony. Douglass describes the horrible conditions by which slaves were forced to live, including intense labor and exhaustion, meager to no portions of ood each day, a few shabby articles of clothing, and the absence ofa bed.
He goes on to talk about the frequent whippings slaves received, whether they were guilty of breaking rules or their masters simply wanted to express and establish their dominance. Douglass tells of how he was sold to several different masters, one of whose wives (by the name of Sophia Auld) decided to teach him the fundamentals of reading an act that became the beginning of Douglass’s realization that he could change his circumstances tor the better.
He talks about his continuation to work hi ay through the learning process by gaining help from local boys who could read, and as he learns to read and write, he becomes aware of the actual evil nature of slavery and the existence and growing prevalence of an abolitionist movement. Douglass finally reaches his breaking point in dealing with Edward Covey, the slave “breaker”, as he is known to be.
The two men get in a physical fight, ending Coveys dominance over Douglass, and Douglass is soon sold to another master, where he gathers together with other slaves and teaches them how to read in a Sabbath school setting, much to the dismay of the masters, who had hoped the laves would sped their free time getting drunk and wreaking havoc. After attempting to escape and being thrown in Jail, Douglass is sent back to Hugh Auld where he learns the trade of ship caulking.
Eventually making enough money to pay off Auld for the rest of his time, he escapes to New York, where he changes his name from Bailey to Douglass and marries Anna Murray, a free woman he met in Baltimore while working for Hugh Auld. He ends his narrative with the news that he and Anna moved to Massachusetts, where he became involved in the abolition movement as both an orator and an author. After Anna’s death, Douglass married Helen Pitts, a white woman who was his secretary, showing that he was in full support of interracial marriage and, furthermore, his desire to see harmony among all types of peoples.
Douglass was a writer for the masses the words he wrote and the words he spoke reached a wide variety of people, including such minds as Harriet Beecher Stowe, Mark Twain, Henry David Thoreau, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. His literary technique largely resembles traditional spoken histories slaves. His Narrative of the Life… was truly able to work its way into the imaginations of readers. The vivid and starkly honest passages of the narrative contain within them some of the wit and rhetoric heard in his famous speeches.