Throughout chapters 5 – 10 in the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass an American Slave, Douglass describes his hard life as a slave. Despite the slave’s situation of hunger and mistreatment, even the slave owner believed that “Not to give a slave enough, to eat is regarded as the most aggravated development of meanness even among the slaveholders” (Douglass 54). The slave holders did not want to seem like they were ruthless and cruel in the public light. However, this did not stop them from giving too little food to their slaves as there is no such thing as a benevolent slave owner. One of the ways Douglass describes the mistreatment of slaves by lack of food is through the use of a metaphor comparing slaves to animals.

One passage that stood out to me was when Douglass compares the hungry slave children to pigs. “Our food was coarse corn meal boiled. This is called mush. It was put into a large wooden tray or trough, and then set down upon the ground. The children were then called, like so many pigs, and like so many pigs they would come and devour the mush…none with spoons” (Douglass 36). Like animals, the food that the slaves eat is coarse and plain, nothing fancy or complicated. However, what really develops the metaphor of the children as pigs is the way that the food is served and the manner in which the children eat. Not only does Douglass use the word “trough” to describe the dish used to serve food to the children but also the children eat not like people but like animals, ravenously, without silverware and on the floor. The food was placed on the ground just as one would do to feed his or her pet. Notably, in a later chapter (chapter 8) Douglass explicitly states that slaves were of the same class as animals in the sentence, “Men and women…were ranked with horses, sheep, and swine” (Douglass 49).

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