After kicking Mr. Covey in the ribs in frustration, Frederick Douglass and him fought for nearly two hours and Mr. Covey never laid a finger on him in anger again. Reflecting on this, Douglass narrates, “It rekindled the few expiring members of freedom, and revived within me a sense of my own manhood. It recalled the departed self-confidence …. cowardice departed, bold defiance took its place; and I now resolved that, however long I might remain a slave in form, the day had passed forever when I could be a slave in fact.”
At this point in the narrative, Douglass is at a fork in the road. Him and many others could choose between two unattractive fates: the familiarly ill conditions of slavery and the unknown threats posed to them should they escape. From our point of view this looks like a very easy choice to make because of the promising aspects of freedom and self-asserted independence. But it was at this point in his recollections I realized that many of the slaves have been almost completely stripped of their free will, and for them to make the mental leap towards this idealistic way of thinking was incredibly difficult in their conditions. In the introduction of his narrative, Douglass reveals that he was separated from his parents at birth, and that he had no knowledge of when he was born. He also made it clear that no other slave among him knew of their birthday either. I think that the way Douglass wrote about his experiences was revealing that there was something systematic involved in the way that slaveholders made their slaves obedient. When he wrote about the ways that specifically the younger slaves would be humiliated, and as a whole the way they’re treated seems very Freudian. The inability for a slave to form an identity during his or her childhood most likely neuters the ability for one to develop a sense of self-worth or optimism. When the odds are so held against a people that they are berated and held against their will for wanting to learn to read, it’s really inspiring the lengths that Douglass has gone through to actually attain a waged job towards the end of the narrative.