Fredrick Douglas and Virginia Wolf:Influential Writers (Essay Sample)
Topic: While their life experiences are extremely different, both Frederick Douglass and Virginia Woolf show that forbidding or limiting education to a group of people is used to oppress and limit them. They also suggest that resisting such limitations is a key to freedom.
Instructions: Write an essay of 4 pages in which you discuss the above topic with reference to the assigned excerpts from Frederick Douglass's Narrative in the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave (1845) and Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own (1928). Also consider the style in which each author tells his or her story to illustrate the connections between education, oppression, and opportunity, as well as the relevance of their experiences or observations today.
Focus your discussion ONLY on the following sections of these two works;
Frederick Douglass: Chapters VI (6), Vll (7), and Xl (11) of Narrative in the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave on pages 488—493 and 519— 526 in The Norton Anthology of World Literature, shorter 4th ed., vol. 2. Pay particular attention to what Douglass says about how he was denied an education under slavery and about how his journey towards literacy was an important part of his journey towards freedom,
Virginia Woolf: Chapter 3 of A Room of One's Own on pages 1107—1117 in The Norton Anthology of World Literature, shorter 4th ed., vol. 2. Pay particular attention to the points Woolf makes about educational and other limitations placed on the imaginary Judith Shakespeare and women writers more generally.
Permitted Sources: Base your paper ONLY on your careful reading and interpretation of the assigned excerpts from Frederick Douglass and Virginia Woolf (as noted above). The ONLY secondary sources you may use are the introductions to Douglass and Woolf in The Norton Anthology of World Literature, shorter 4th ed., vol. 2, pp. 469—474 and 1082—1085, and the materials or links I have provided in the course jn Weeks 8 and 10. No other secondary sources allowed. Cite all sources properly in MLA style.
Required Self-Evaluation to accompany final version of your essay: Along with the final essay and Works Cited, you will include a Self-Evaluation, one full page, which addresses the following points: (1) how you used my feedback on your draft to finalize your essay; (2) what you believe are the strengths of your final essay; (3) what areas you want to improve upon going forward.
1. Introductory paragraph introducing the texts and topic, and culminating in a clear thesis (see topic in box below);
2. Outline of Body of Essay:
a. Main points you will make about Douglass with reference to specific topic (below);
b. Main points you will make about Woolf with reference to specific topic (below);
c. Additional points comparing/contrasting the two and/or discussing relevance of their work today.
3. Works Cited, including both the primary and secondary sources, formatted in correct MLA style.
Education and Resistance
Fredrick Douglas and Virginia Wolf are some of the influential writers widely read in modern literature for their role in fighting social inequality. Specifically, “A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave” by Douglas highlights the struggles he underwent as a slave in obtaining education, and “A Room of One’s Own” by Wolf, who devoted the better part of the narrative exposing the issue of unfair oppression of women to the public's attention including denying them education. Despite the two writers having different experiences, the writers expose that forbidding people's education is a form of oppressing them, and to gain freedom, an individual has to resist such forms of oppression.
First, in Douglas's autobiography, forbidding people's education as a form of oppressing people is observed when the slave master forbids Mrs. Auld from teaching Douglas letters. He does this because once slaves are educated, they are no longer useful(Puchner, 471). The master rebukes Auld for his action and reminds him that teaching a slave is an unwise decision that could turn them against him. He writes that f slave is taught to read, there would be no keeping him. It would forever unfit him to be a slave. He would at once become unmanageable and of no value to his master. As to himself, it could do him no good, but a great deal of harm (Douglas, 493). Therefore, Douglas was determined and was to use any means to get literacy to gain freedom from the forms of oppression. Douglas demonstrates the power of literacy as it enabled many black people to gain their freedom from the slave masters. The gaining of literacy by Douglas was not a form of betrayal to the black community, but it was a step from one culture to another. the gaining of education enabled him to move from a fugitive to a freeman. In the narrative, we note that education was forbidden for black people. The process of Douglas acquiring education was a solitary one.
Moreover, the words of Auld seemed to be true as Douglas continued learning, making him unfit to be a slave. As a learned individual, he became unmanageable. Since his master had denied him education as a form of oppression, the master had succeeded in controlling him, but the circumstances changed. He was now of no value to the master. In the autobiography, Douglas highlights that he read several books regarding emancipation, the books that played a role in changing the world view of Douglas. In contrast to his previous perception of the unfairness of slavery, he now had evidence of contradictions and inconsistencies on his side to support his position. Nevertheless, Douglass did not find reading such books to be a pleasurable experience since it exposed him to new options in life that he had not before considered. Douglas says that he used to think that learning to read was a curse rather than a blessing as I writhed beneath it (Douglas, 523). It had given me a glimpse of my dreadful predicament but no way out. From Douglas's perspective, the readers can be able to comprehend the value that accompanies education in that it changes the mind of an individual (Puchner,472). Douglas is an individual who resisted a form of oppression and acquired education.
Similarly, in Virginia Wolf’s narrative, she highlights how denying women education is a form of oppression. In the narrative, she calls women to action and gets educated. Judith Shakespeare is a major character Wolf uses in her narrative. Woolf says That lady, then, who'd been born in the 16th century with a genius for poetry, was an unhappy woman, a woman at odds with herself. All of her life's circumstances, as well as her personal impulses, were antagonistic to the mental state required to release whatever is stored in the brain (Woolf,112). this was a case of Shakespeare’s sister born with talent, but it all gets wasted, unlike his brother. The latter was a man. His gender gave him a lot of advantages, including access to education and opportunities. In contrast, her sister could not afford that due to patriarchal society, a life that Judith could never experience to further his talent . Limiting women's education was a form of oppression that denied Judith to advance her talent. Resisting such forms of oppression by society could have helped Judith and other women in the Victorian era to advance their talents.
Moreover, in the narrative, Wolf wonders why women are poor. She recognizes that women are clever and smart, just like men; however, the patriarchal ideology bounds them, making them not self-actualize; a good example is Judith Shakespeare, who had a talent, yet society was dragging her down(Puchner,1083). Therefore, Wolf advocates for the education of women despite their class or color. She realizes that the education of men has some serious flaws and need to be dismissed. Similarly, he does not want the same educatio
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