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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass | Study Guide

Frederick Douglass

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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass | Chapter 5 | Summary



Douglass describes his own treatment while on Colonel Lloyd's plantation and notes it is similar to the way other slave children are treated. Though he is not old enough to work in the field, he is assigned chores. His leisure time is spent helping Master Daniel Lloyd find birds after he shoots them. The relationship has some benefits to Douglass, as his master sometimes shares food with him.

Overall, Douglass says he suffers"little from anything else than hunger and cold." He notes that the children receive food in the same manner as does a pig, eating out of a trough without any utensils. He wears only a knee-length shirt in "hottest summer and coldest winter." To deal with the cold, Douglass sleeps headfirst in a bag, which he stole. His feet stick out, which causes them to crack from the frost.

When Douglass is seven or eight, Captain Anthony sends him to Baltimore to live with Hugh Auld, the brother of Captain Anthony's son-in-law. Douglass is ecstatic about leaving the plantation. He feels no connection or sense of home there. He is especially excited to go to Baltimore after his cousin Tom describes how impressive and beautiful the city is. Before leaving, his mistress insists he clean himself thoroughly. Douglass states he did this deed in earnest, for it was the first time he ever "worked with the hope of reward." Afterward, his mistress gives him his first pair of pants.

While sailing to Baltimore, there is a brief stop in Annapolis, the state capital. Douglass thinks it "a wonderful place for its size." Douglass is brought to Baltimore. Of his arrival, he writes, "Mr. and Mrs. Auld were both at home and met me at the door with their little son Thomas, to take care of whom I had been given." He is shocked to see his new mistress, Sophia Auld, greet him with a "face beaming with the most kindly emotions."

When looking back, Douglass says the move to Baltimore was "one of the most interesting events of my life." If Douglass had not moved to Baltimore, he believes he may never have escaped from slavery. Looking back, he views the move as "of divine Providence in my favor." He says that from his earliest recollection, he believed that he would not always be in slavery's "foul embrace," a belief he attributes to God.


In Chapter 5, the focus returns to Douglass and his personal story.

Though Douglass and most other children his age do not face whippings, they still live a hard life. As Douglass says, "He that ate fastest got most; he that was strongest secured the best place."

Douglass uses a powerful image from his present life to describe the frostbite he suffered as a child, writing that his feet are still so cracked "that the pen with which I am writing might be laid in the gashes." With this vivid, disturbing detail, readers are reminded that their eloquent narrator is the same man who was put through the degradation of slavery.

The move to Baltimore is a significant turning point for Douglass. Of all the children who might have been sent to live with the Aulds, he was the "first, last and only choice." Yet he takes no credit for his selection, attributing it to the hand of God.

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