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19th Century American Slavery: Expository Synthesis Essay

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19th Century American Slavery: Expository Synthesis Essay

Every great civilization or country has had at least one dirty little time in their history that all would rather forget. America knows this feeling well, especially within the 19th century, the slave era. America was divided, the North was generally against slavery and all for letting the African Americans roam free in a colony in Africa. The South on the other hand viewed African Americans as tools, essential to the economy and work, however still just tools. Tools to be bought a sold and driven until the breaking point just like every other implement in the shed. Fast-forward to the 21st century, slavery is gone from America and has become that dirty period of time that is spoken about in whispers. A question of immeasurable proportions arises, how were the incredibly difficult slave owners of the South get convinced that slavery was bad? The largest answer is the power of rhetoric, otherwise known as the written word. Two books played the largest role in molding of American society, Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe and The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas by none other than Frederick Douglas himself. Important stylistic and rhetorical choices made by Douglas and Stowe greatly affected change in the major political and moral issue of slavery in 19th century America in two different ways, through politics via the male society (Douglas) and through the home front via religious and moral cases made to women (Stowe).

Politics is the heart of America. To enact change in a major area of the nation, the politics must be discussed to no end and one must know how to speak the words of the politicians. 19th century American politics were primarily governed by males. Douglas knew that any change in the slavery laws would be done through the male politicians and therefore his target audience was the rich, white upper class males of the North and South. With this knowledge in hand, Douglas took to using higher level English and a much more narrative, to the point, factual method of writing. He also commonly used compare and contrast examples to show the stark difference between freedom and slavery “I was now for the first time in my life a free man… I found myself even more awkward than a country boy in the big city.” (Douglas 59). This communicated directly to his target audience because they were well educated and needed the cold hard facts to sway their point. Douglas also centers his narrative on a scientific, objective theme. He carefully weaves in emotion only were completely necessary and maintains a general overview of the events that happened to him throughout the narrative. In doing so, his audience is provided with a crisp, to-the-point piece that reads much like a political position paper, filled with terse comments that strike home, “A nigger should know nothing but to obey his master.” (Douglas 41). When considering the fact that Douglas was in fact an uneducated slave and was completely self-taught, it is quite amazing to think that such a piece could be crafted by such a man. Facts are the key in Douglas’s narrative, nothing strays from the truth and nothing is over embellished. Douglas realized that he could not afford to lose the confidence of his audience, who were very finicky, paranoid people, and therefore stuck only to the truth, not creating fake dialogues and characters to meet his needs as Stowe did. Douglas’s rhetorical and stylistic choices are effectively used to communicate with his audience, the educated male politician. There, however, are two sides to 19th century America, the males and the females. Who connected with the female side?

Uncle Tom’s Cabin was by no means a factual book. In fact, most, if not all of the events were completely made up. How then can a completely fictional book change the lives of so many? It comes from the power of Stowe’s rhetoric in conjunction with her target audience. Stowe was a white Christian female. She believed slavery was completely wrong and wanted to make a change. But how could she? She was a woman after all and during that time period women simply did not effect change through politics. According to Susan Harris, a respected Stowe researcher, “The men are not evil, but they are involved in the public world” (Harris). However influencing politics was the only way things were going to change and Stowe knew this. She henceforth targeted the white Christian mothers because they in turn could influence their men to make changes in the male dominant society of politics. A perfect method by which to achieve a change in slavery laws indirectly. Stowe especially used the power of sentimentalism to connect with her audience. She did not need facts



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