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compare contrast essay two authors

compare contrast essay two authorsCompare contrast essay two authors -Douglass was a publicly acclaimed figure from almost the earliest days of his career as a speaker and then a writer.Douglass also reflected the Emersonian idealism so prominent in the 1840s, as he cast himself in the role of struggling hero asserting his individual moral principles in order to bring conscience to bear against the nation’s greatest evil.Can they show students how to imagine their own selfhood and circumstances through writing personal stories that takes them, through trials and struggles, on a journey to freedom and fulfillment?Like all slave narratives, Jacobs’s and Douglass’s works embody the tension between the conflicting motives that generated autobiographies of slave life.The most important of these early historians, Ulrich B.Both Douglass and Jacobs included some version of all these required elements yet also injected personalized nuances that transformed the formulas for their own purposes.The resulting lead character of his autobiography is a boy, and then a young man, who is robbed of family and community and who gains an identity not only through his escape from Baltimore to Massachusetts but through his ability to create himself through telling his story.As historians began to study the institution of slavery in the early twentieth century, they unfortunately tended to dismiss the slaves’ life writings as unreliable propaganda or as too heavily edited to be considered valid testimony from the slaves themselves.Douglass’s title is front and center, announcing his “Life” as an “American Slave.” Given his clear affinity for “antithesis” (the juxtaposition and balancing of contrasting words and ideas), the words “Slave” and “American” placed up against one another dramatize his untenable position in the “home of the free.” Jacobs’s title immediately offers a contrast.Their titles alone can show students that both writers are making highly conscious decisions about self-presentation and narrative strategy.Jacobs’s brief gender transformation through cross-dressing, followed by her long “retreat” into total physical concealment, is telling evidence of how differently an enslaved man and an enslaved woman responded to the challenges of their lives as slaves as well as autobiographers.Like Douglass, Jacobs was determined to fight to the death for her freedom.Slave narrators also needed to present their credentials as good Christians while testifying to the hypocrisy of their supposedly pious owners.In this new era, Douglass’s 1845 narrative, given its first full, modern publication in 1960, was considered the classic example of the genre.She began working privately on her narrative not long after Cornelia Grinnell Willis purchased her freedom and gave her secure employment as a domestic servant in New York City.In these arenas, what do the narratives show us when compared to other works of their time? Has an understanding of slavery from the perspective of the slave him/herself become irrelevant?Changing Approaches to the Study of the Narratives After the Civil War ended, the narratives written by fugitive slaves inevitably lost much of their attraction for most readers.Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl disappeared from notice soon after its publication, without a large sale, while Douglass’s first book went through nine editions in its first two years and eventually became the standard against which all other slave narratives—even his own later ones—are measured.It announces that this will be not the story of one person’s full life, but a selection of “incidents.” Students can think about what this selectivity on the part of the author might mean, with its intimation that she reserves the right to withhold as well as reveal information.In our time, can they bring the past alive in ways that invigorate students’ understanding of history?compare contrast essay two authorsStowe’s genius lay in her ability to harness the romantic melodrama of the sentimental novel to a carefully orchestrated rhetorical attack against slavery, and no abolitionist writer in her wake could steer clear of the impact of her performance.Some of the differences in the readership and reception of Jacobs’s 1861 narrative and Douglass’s first, 1845 autobiography (he wrote two more, in 18, the latter expanded in 1892) reflect simply the differing literary and political circumstances that prevailed at the time of their construction and publication.Phillips, indicated in his authoritative American Negro Slavery (1918) that the slaves’ narratives as sources were untrustworthy, biased accounts, and assessments such as his helped to keep them in relative obscurity until the 1950s.Authenticity was paramount, but readers also looked for excitement, usually provided through dramatic details of how the slave managed to escape from his/her owners.In adapting her life story to this genre, Jacobs drew on women writers who were contemporaries and even friends, including well-known writers Lydia Maria Child and Fanny Fern (her employer’s sister in law), but she was also influenced by the popularity of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which appeared in 1851.They also insisted on adding their own authenticating endorsements to the slaves’ narrations through prefaces and introductions.“Discovered” and hired to lecture on the abolitionist circuit by William Lloyd Garrison in 1841, three years after he had made his escape from Baltimore, Douglass developed rhetorical devices common to sermons and orations and carried these over to his narrative, which abounds with examples of repetition, antithesis, and other classical persuasive strategies.Thus throughout her narrative, Jacobs is looking not only for freedom but also for a secure home for her children.What power does the claim of being the “Writer” of one’s own story give to a slave author?The need to accomplish the form’s most important goal—an end to slavery—took narrators back to the world that had enslaved them, as they were called upon to provide accurate reproductions of both the places and the experiences of the past they had fled.Jacobs is of necessity much more deeply concerned with her own family, with the community that surrounded her as a “town” slave, with the wellbeing of the children and grandmother who depended on her.Yet for the writers themselves, the opportunity to tell their stories constituted something more personal: a means to write an identity within a country that legally denied their right to exist as human beings.Harriet Jacobs, on the other hand, was never well-known.The fact that the title page singles out “women” to be the hearers of a prophetic voice, and that just such a voice, identified as a woman’s, precedes Isaiah’s words, can help students see Jacobs manipulating her position through concealment and secrecy, as she will throughout her narrative.One of the most important elements that developed within the narratives was a “literacy” scene in which the narrator explained how he or she came to be able to do something that proslavery writers often declared was impossible: to read and write.(See also "How to Read a Slave Narrative" in Freedom's Story.) A comparison of the narratives of Douglass and Jacobs demonstrates the full range of demands and situations that slaves could experience.She was literally a “domestic” in her northern employment, as well as a slave mother with children to protect, and one from whom subservience was expected, whether slave or free.They functioned in their own time as propaganda as well as autobiography, as Jeremiad as well as melodrama.In his first narrative, Douglass actually refused to give any details of his escape, insisting on his power, as narrator, to withhold or reveal information as he saw fit, so his sailor disguise emerged only in later versions of his story.Finally, one of the most important questions that both title pages raise concerns the claim “written by himself” and “written by herself.” Many of the narratives attest to the slave’s authorship in this way, but why was such an announcement necessary? compare contrast essay two authors In this dismissal of Jacobs’s authorship he ignored the fact that Child, in her introduction to Jacobs’s work, stressed that she had made only the most “trifling” editorial changes and that “both ideas and the language” were Jacobs’s own.Douglass was a public speaker who could boldly self-fashion himself as hero of his own adventure.Jacobs’s manuscript, finished around four years later but not published for four more, reflects in part the style, tone, and plot of what has been called the sentimental or domestic novel, popular fiction of the mid-nineteenth century, written by and for women, that stressed home, family, womanly modesty, and marriage.They each appeared in their city’s streets wearing the outfit of a merchant seaman.Jones calls in her article (sited below) “the forking path of gendered binary oppositions.” Do Douglass and Jacobs, in their lives and in the stylistic features of their writing, conform to our stereotypical expectations regarding how men and women respond, speak, and act?Once she was a mother, with “ties to life,” as she called them, her concern for her children had to take precedence over her own self-interest.An ironic factor in the production of these accounts can be noted in the generic title “Fugitive Slave Narrative” often given to such works.Beginning in the late 1970s, book-length studies began to stress the importance of the fugitive slave narratives, including prominently both Douglass’s and Jacobs’s, as literary works valuable not only as historical evidence but as life writing that employed a wide range of rhetorical and literary devices.His narrative was the culmination of his speech-making career, reflecting his mastery of a powerful preaching style along with the rhythms and imagery of biblical texts that were familiar to his audiences.Students can begin to think about what “degradation” means, and whether it means different things for a man than for a woman who have been enslaved; they can also address matters of speaking, having a voice, and being forced into silence as these issues relate to men and women—in the mid-nineteenth century as well as in their own time.Pregnant with the child of a white lover of her own choosing, fifteen year old Jacobs reasoned (erroneously) that her condition would spur her licentious master to sell her and her child.Beyond gender and circumstances, students can see the narratives of Jacobs and Douglass as remarkable works of both literature and history.Like most other women of her time, her life was more private, her sphere of action more limited to the home, her relationships with others more interdependent, less autonomous, than men’s.Is it believable, given all the prefatory matter by white sponsors that accompanies the narratives?For her, the question of how to address this “unmentionable” subject dominates the choices she delineates in her narrative—as woman slave and as woman author.Yet while Douglass could show “how a slave became a man” in a physical fight with an overseer, Jacobs’s gender determined a different course.Harriet Jacobs, on the other hand, began her narrative around 1853, after she had lived as a fugitive slave in the North for ten years.Yellin has continued to lead in the reclamation of Jacobs’s work, publishing her own Harvard University Press in 1987.So which of the two slaves’ opportunities were related to gender, and which to time, place, class, or other forces?What might students make of these remarks, especially if they know that the author (who is not going to reveal her true name or identity anywhere in the narrative) is herself “a woman of North Carolina? compare contrast essay two authors Gender considerations account not only for many of the differences in style and genre that we see in Douglass’s and Jacobs’s narratives, but also for the versions of slavery that they endured and the versions of authorship that they were able to shape for themselves in freedom.Jacobs’s title page contains other references that raise the issue of gender contrast in relation to Douglass: she includes two quotations, one by the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, in which he exhorts “women” to rise up and hear his voice.What do they make of the fact that Jacobs refers in her title to a “slave girl,” not an “American slave,” even though the voice that will be telling the story is unquestionably that of a woman who has survived a horrifying girlhood and identifies herself most often as a slave mother.Among historical studies, works such as John Blassingame’s The Slave Community: Plantation Life in Antebellum South used the fugitive slave narratives, Douglass’s works prominent among them, to provide much needed credibility for the slaves’ perspective on bondage and freedom.Jacobs used the devices of sentimental fiction to target the same white, female, middle-class, northern audiences who had been spellbound by Uncle Tom’s Cabin, yet her narrative also shows that she was unwilling to follow, and often subverted, the genre’s promotion of “true womanhood,” a code of behavior demanding that women remain virtuous, meek, and submissive, no matter what the personal cost.Few writers illustrate better, through more powerful voices, the threat to as well as the promise of the American dream of freedom.Jacobs, and also Frederick Douglass in his second autobiography of 1855, took advantage of Stowe’s successful production of a work of fiction that could still lay claim to the authority of truth.Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs: American Slave Narrators Lucinda Mac Kethan Alumni Distinguished Professor of English Emerita, North Carolina State University National Humanities Center Fellow ©National Humanities Center During the last three decades of legal slavery in America, from the early 1830s to the end of the Civil War in 1865, African American writers perfected one of the nation’s first truly indigenous genres of written literature: the North American slave narrative.In addition, his story could be read as a classic male “initiation” myth, a tale which traced a youth’s growth from innocence to experience and from boyhood into successful manhood; for Douglass, the testing and journey motifs of this genre were revised to highlight the slave’s will to transform himself from human chattel into a free American citizen.Jacobs, her face “blackened” with charcoal, wore her costume only long enough to walk through her town unrecognized on her way to her free grandmother’s house, where she was to spend seven years of hiding in a crawl space over a storage shed.The fugitive or freed or “ex” slave narrators were expected to give accurate details of their experiences within bondage, emphasizing their sufferings under cruel masters and the strength of their will to free themselves.In his first narrative, he combined and equated the achievement of selfhood, manhood, freedom, and voice.Ironically, Blassingame spurned Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents as unreliable primarily because he found it to be too “melodramatic,” and he voiced suspicions that the narrative was the work of Jacobs’s friend and editor, Lydia Maria Child.Guiding Student Discussion A fruitful place to begin a comparison of these two classic narratives is their title pages.What appears there reveals much about their authors’ strategies and visions.The speaker of the second quotation is identified only as “A Woman of North Carolina,” who asserts that slavery is not only about “perpetual bondage” but about “degradation” (Jacobs’s italics).As Jacobs pointedly put it, "Slavery is bad for men, but it is far more terrible for women." The overriding concern of Jacobs’s narrative was one that made her story especially problematic both for herself as author and for the women readers of her time.When Douglass published his Narrative of the Life, the Abolitionist movement was beginning to gain political force, while the long-delayed publication of Jacobs’s Incidents in 1861 was overshadowed by the start of the Civil War.However, its complete recovery of as an authentic slave-authored account was not accomplished until historian Jean Fagin Yellin, through extensive archival research published in a 1981 article, proved the truth of Jacobs’s story as well as the painstaking process involved in her struggle to write and publish her book.This costume enabled Douglass to board a boat and sail away to freedom. compare contrast essay two authors Can they show students how to imagine their own selfhood and circumstances through writing personal stories that takes them, through trials and struggles, on a journey to freedom and fulfillment? compare contrast essay two authors




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