Skip over navigation

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass

Chapters V–VI

Chapters III–IV

Chapters V–VI, page 2

page 1 of 3

Summary: Chapter V

Douglass does not work in the fields as a child because children are not strong enough. He has some free time outside his regular tasks. Douglass often accompanies the Colonel’s grandson, Daniel, as a servant on hunting expeditions. Daniel eventually becomes attached to Douglass, which is to Douglass’s advantage. Douglass still suffers, though. Slave children are given no other clothing but a long linen shirt. The cold of the winters so harms Douglass’s feet that he could insert the pen he now writes with into the cracks of his flesh. Children eat corn mush out of a communal trough, so only the strongest children get enough to eat.

At the age of seven or eight, Douglass is selected to go to Baltimore to live with Captain Anthony’s son‑in‑law’s brother, Hugh Auld. For three days, Douglass happily prepares to leave Colonel Lloyd’s plantation. He cleans himself thoroughly and is rewarded with his first pair of trousers from Lucretia Auld, Captain Anthony’s daughter. Douglass is not sad to leave the plantation, as he has no family ties or sense of home, like children usually have. He also feels he has nothing to lose, because even if his new home in Baltimore is full of hardship, it can be no worse than the hardships he has already seen and endured on the plantation. Additionally, Baltimore seems to be a place of promise. Douglass’s cousin Tom describes to Douglass the impressive beauty of the city.

Douglass sails on the river to Baltimore on a Saturday morning. He looks once back on Colonel Lloyd’s plantation, hoping it will be the last time he sees it. He then sets his sights ahead in the distance. The ship docks at Annapolis first, briefly. Douglass recalls being thoroughly impressed by its size, though in retrospect Annapolis now seems small compared to Northern industrial cities. The ship reaches Baltimore on Sunday morning, and Douglass arrives at his new home. At the Aulds’ he is greeted by the kindly face of Mrs. Sophia Auld, her husband, Hugh Auld, and their son, Thomas Auld, who is to be -Douglass’s master.

Douglass considers his transfer to Baltimore a gift of providence. If he had not been removed from Colonel Lloyd’s plantation at that time, Douglass believes he would still be a slave today, rather than a man sitting freely in his home writing his autobiography. Douglass realizes that he may appear superstitious or self‑centered to suppose that providence had a hand in his delivery to Baltimore, but the feeling is still strong. From his earliest memory, Douglass recalls sensing that he would not be a slave forever. This sense gives him hope in hard times, and he considers it a gift from God.

Summary: Chapter VI

Whilst I was saddened by the thought of losing the aid of my kind mistress, I was gladdened by the invaluable instruction which, by the merest accident, I had gained from my master.

(See Important Quotations Explained)

Douglass is astounded by the strange kindness of his new mistress, Sophia Auld. Mrs. Auld has never owned a slave before and seems untouched by the evils of slavery. Douglass is confused by her. Unlike other white women, she does not appreciate his subservience and does not punish him for looking her in the eye. Yet, after some time, the disease of slaveholding overtakes Mrs. Auld too. Her kindness turns to cruelty, and she is utterly changed as a person.

When Douglass first comes to live with the Aulds, Mrs. Auld begins to teach him the alphabet and some small words. When Hugh Auld realizes what she is doing, he orders her to stop immediately, saying that education ruins slaves, making them unmanageable and unhappy. Douglass overhears Mr. Auld and experiences a sudden revelation of the strategy white men use to enslave blacks. He now understands what he must do to win his freedom. Douglass is thankful to Hugh Auld for this enlightenment.

More Help

Previous Next
Common Core State Standards (CCSS)

by Mr_Cafaro, April 04, 2013

The title Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is suggested by the CCSS Initiative as an Exemplar Text for middle school.

1 Comments

9 out of 16 people found this helpful

Book Review for teens

by MirandaP97, August 19, 2013

Yes, I am a teen myself, and if you HAVE to read this, then do so, but if you don't have to, then don't read it...it is incredibly boring...I had to read it for my English class...horrible book...unless you like narratives...then to you...ENJOY!!! It is hard to understand in some parts, but if you have ever read Fahrenheit 451, then it's about that bad...

8 Comments

8 out of 71 people found this helpful

Actually a good book

by BellaTheGod, November 20, 2013

No doubt, I thought it was gonna be super boring and I was gonna hate it, but to the contrary, I actually REALLY liked it. It's something I can read, and it doesn't take too long to read either. If you actually like history, and like to read about the stuff you won't find in a textbook, then this narrative is worthwhile.

wow

such Douglass

much history

0 Comments

7 out of 10 people found this helpful

See all 8 readers' notes   →

Follow Us