The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (hardback)


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Name: __________________________

Date: ___________________________

The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (hardback)

Chapter 1

1. Why does Frederick Douglass not know his true age or date of birth?

2. What is Douglass’ relationship with his mother?

3. Who is his father?

4. Who raises Douglass?

5. Why do the slaves who are also the illegitimate children of the slaveholder suffer more than other slaves do?

6. What kind of overseer is Mr. Plummer?

7. In what way does Mr. Plummer show Douglass “the blood-stained gate, the entrance to the hell of slavery”? (Pg. 7)
8. What offense does Aunt Hester commit?

Chapter 2

  1. What is the purpose of the sloop Captain Auld commands?

  1. What is the monthly food and clothing allowance for an adult slave? What do the children receive?

  1. Why do the slaves consider Mr. Hopkins to be a good overseer?

  1. Why do the slaves consider it a great honor to be asked to run an errand to the Great House Farm?

  1. Why does Douglass think the songs the slaves sing on their way to the Great House Farm “would do more to impress some minds with the horrible character of slavery, than the reading of whole volumes of philosophy on the subject could do”? (Pg. 17)

  1. What mistaken conclusion do many white people make when they hear slaves sing?

Name: __________________________

Date: ___________________________

The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Chapter 3

  1. How does the Colonel keep the slaves from stealing fruit from his garden? Why is this system both greedy and unjust?

  1. How is the Colonel cruel to Old Barney and Young Barney, the caretakers of his stable?

  1. Find an example of allusion in this chapter.

  1. Why do the slaves either say nothing at all about their masters or praise them?

Chapter 4

  1. What characteristics make Mr. Gore, “of all the overseers, the most dreaded by the slaves”? (Pg. 28)

  1. How does Mr. Gore benefit from killing Demby rather than facing murder charges?

  1. Cite three incidents from the chapter (other than Demby’s murder) which validate the common saying at the time among white children “that it was worth a half-cent to kill a ‘nigger,’ and a half-cent to bury one.” (Pg. 32)

Chapter 5

  1. Briefly describe Frederick’s life on the plantation. What does he wear and eat? How does he spend his time?

  1. What does Frederick think about leaving the Lloyd plantation to live in Baltimore?

  1. Why is Mrs. Auld, his new mistress, a pleasant surprise for Douglass?

  1. Support Douglass’ belief in destiny or what he refers to as the “manifestation of that kind providence which has ever since attended me.” (Pg. 39)

  1. Some critics think this narrative is as much a story of personal discovery as it is an account of Douglass’ life. Douglass “discovers” the following qualities in himself, enabling him to rise out of the bonds of slavery: self-respect, aggressiveness, courage, intelligence, and racial pride.

Cite incidents described in Chapter Five to show that young Douglass already possesses the qualities of courage and intelligence before he leaves for Baltimore.

Name: __________________________

Date: ___________________________

The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Chapter 6

  1. List two ways Sophia Auld demonstrates her inexperience with owning a slave.

  1. Why does Douglass credit both Mr. and Mrs. Auld with helping him learn to read?

  1. What does Douglass learn about the white man’s power to enslave the black man?

  1. How do you think this knowledge contributes to Douglass’ feelings of self-respect and racial pride?

  1. How are the lives of the slaves in the city better than the lives of the slaves on the plantations?

  1. Some critics believe Douglass manipulates the feelings of the reader with his descriptions of slavery. Douglass presents two examples of cruelty side by side in this chapter. First, Mr. Auld denies Douglass the opportunity to learn to read. Next, Douglass describes Mrs. Hamilton’s physical cruelty to her female slaves. What emotions do you think Douglass tries to evoke from readers by presenting these incidents together? Is his technique effective?

Chapter 7

  1. What training does Sophia Auld receive in “irresponsible power,” changing her naturally kind disposition?

  1. What moral does Douglass learn from reading about the conversation between the slave and his master in the book The Columbian Orator? What does he learn from Sheridan’s speech?

  1. At this point in his life, why does Douglass find himself “regretting” his own existence?

  1. How does hearing about the abolitionists confuse Douglass?

  1. How do the Irishmen help him begin to formulate an escape plan?

  1. Why does Douglass learn how to write?

Name: __________________________

Date: ___________________________

The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Chapter 8

  1. Why does Douglass suffer more anxiety than other slaves during the division of the state do?

  1. How are Douglass’ memories of the plantation an indication of his intelligence?

  1. Why does Douglass acknowledge his grandmother as the source of all of his old master’s wealth?

  1. What happens to his grandmother that fills Douglass with “unutterable loathing of slaveholders”? (Pg. 61)

  1. Why does Douglass regret not trying to escape while living with the Aulds?

Chapter 9

  1. Support the following statement: Captain Auld “was a slaveholder without the ability to hold slaves.” (Pg. 69)

  1. Cite an example from the story of how Captain Auld gives “religious sanction for his cruelty.” (Pg. 70)

  1. What does Douglass do that angers Captain Auld enough to send him to live with Mr. Covey, who is known for “breaking” slaves?

  1. Despite Mr. Covey’s reputation as a hard master, why does Douglass willingly go to work on his farm?

Name: __________________________

Date: ___________________________

The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Chapter 10

  1. Why does Covey whip Douglass almost every week for the first six months he works for him?

  1. Why do the slaves on the Covey farm continue to do their work even if “the snake”is absent?

  1. Support the following statement by citing incidents from the story: Covey believes himself to be a very religious man, but he is deceiving himself and trying to deceive God. (pg. 80-81)

  1. Why does Douglass believe Covey is successful in breaking him and turning him into a brute?

  1. What do the ships on the Chesapeake represent to Douglass?

  1. Why do you think Douglass’ writing changes from a narrative of his life to a dramatic “apostrophe to the moving multitude of ships” in the following excerpt?

“O that I were free! O, that I were on one of your gallant decks, and under your

protective wing! Alas! Betwixt me and you, the turbid waters roll.” (Pg. 83)

  1. Who is Sandy Jenkins? What does he give to Douglass to help him prevent any future beatings by Mr. Covey?

  1. Why does Douglass come to believe in the superstition that the root has the power to protect him from beatings? Why is his battle with Mr. Covey a turning point in his life as a slave?

  1. Why does Mr. Covey not take Douglass to the constable to be whipped?

  1. Why do the masters want their slaves to drink whiskey during the holidays?

  1. In what way are the holidays given to the slaves “part and parcel of the gross fraud, wrong, and inhumanity of slavery”? (Pg. 96)

  1. Why does Douglass think “of all slaveholders with whom I have ever met, religious slaveholders are the worst”? (Pg. 99)

  1. Cite examples from this chapter to show that Douglass possesses a strong sense of racial pride.

*Extra Credit Question--Find an example of a pun in this chapter demonstrating

Douglass’ sense of humor.

  1. Find an example of allusion in this chapter.

  1. Support the following statement by citing incidents from this chapter: Douglass is a courageous man who has learned the value of aggressive behavior.

  1. How do Douglass and Sandy know their plan to escape has been “betrayed”?

  1. Support the idea that Douglass knows who betrayed the plan but does not reveal his name in the narrative.

  1. Why does Captain Auld send Douglass back to Baltimore?

  1. Why are there no arrests when the white workmen at the shipyard assault Douglass?

*Extra Credit Question: Find an example of sarcasm in this chapter.

  1. What kind of freedom does Douglass have over his own employment after learning to calk ships?

Name: __________________________

Date: ___________________________

The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Chapter 11

  1. List two reasons Douglass decides not to acquaint the reader with the details of his successful escape to freedom.

  1. Support or refute the following statement: Douglass thinks the Underground Railroad is sometimes harmful to slaves.

*(See “Underground Railroad Code Words and Definitions” and also the background information sheet “Underground Railroad” for a definition of Underground Railroad.)*

  1. Support the following statement: Douglass believes people must be responsible for their own happiness and provide for their own future.

  1. Why does the privilege of hiring his own time help Douglass?

  1. Why does Douglass believe that more slaves do not try to escape?

  1. Why does Douglass adopt the motto “Trust no man!” during his escape for freedom?

  1. Briefly identify the following people and how they help Douglass after he escapes to freedom:

Mr. David Ruggles—

Rev. J.W.C. Pennington—

Mr. Nathan Johnson—

  1. Why is Douglass surprised by the appearance of New Bedford? What surprises him about the other free blacks he meets in New Bedford?

  1. How does the anti-slavery convention in Nantucket change Douglass’ life?


  1. Why does Douglass add this appendix to the Narrative?

  1. List four examples of hypocritical Christianity practiced by Southern slaveholders.

  1. Define parody. (Use a dictionary.)

  1. Point out three examples of how the poem included in the Appendix ridicules church-going slaveholders.

  1. What is Douglass’ purpose for writing this Narrative?


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