Sold as a young man he becomes the property of Mr. Covey. Douglass describes his time with Mr. Covey, particularly the first six months described in Chapter Ten as the time that he was forced “ to drink the bitterest dregs of slavery” : It was the worst months. Douglass declares that “ the dark night of slavery closed in upon me” . Also at this time, Douglass details what happened to him during the first months with Mr. Covey. He describes how he began to lose his identity and dignity and transform into a “ beast-like stupor. ” One can assume that these qualities that Douglass laments losing under the brutal regime of Mr.
Covey are those qualities that define his personhood as he describes becoming a beast under Mr. Covey. His “ elasticity” is crushed, his “ intellect languished” , he stopped reading, and “ the cheerful spark that lingered about my eye died. ” These are the qualities of humanity and personhood that Douglass saw vanishing under Mr. Covey’ s hard regime. Douglass, despite being a slave, had a vision of what manhood was, what his identity was, and what human dignity required.
Douglass regarded humanity and his personal identity as including elasticity— flexibility or creativity. He also saw his identity as including rational thought and decision-making, based on his intellect and his literacy. In a nutshell, freedom. Finally, he saw his manhood as including hope— ‘ the cheerful spark that lingered about my eye’ . Turning PointFollowing this list of human qualities, or the lack thereof, there is a very evocative passage in which Douglass relates how watching ships setting out to sea “ so delightful to the eye of freemen” only reminded him of his slavery and overwhelming hopelessness: “ O God, save me!
God, deliver me! Let me be free! ” On the basis of this appeal, one might also add that spirituality or an awareness of God was also an aspect of Douglass’ s view of humanity and his identity. Essentially, Douglass defines his identity as his humanity a quality that he shares in equal measure with freemen and slave owners. In this chapter also, Douglass has an awakening. When Mr. Covey tries to whip him in the barn he fights back. He describes it as “ the turning point in my career as a slave. ” He subsequently declares that any man who wants to whip him will also have to “ succeed in killing me. ” At about this time also, Douglass left Mr.
Covey and went to live and work with Mr. William Freeland (although he remained the property of Mr. Covey).
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