| The following passage comes from the p82251845 autobiography Narrative of the Life of p8226Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. Read the passage carefully, noting such elements as p9151syntax, p9120figurative language, and p9144selection of detail. Then write an essay in which you p8227identify the stylistic elements in the third paragraph that p8228distinguish it from the rest of the passage and show p8229how this difference reinforces Douglass' p9142rhetorical purpose in the passage as a whole.
If at any one time of my life more than another, I was made to drink the bitterest dregs of slavery, that time was during the first six months of my stay with Mr. Covey. We were worked in all weathers. It was never too hot or too cold; it could never rain, blow, hail, or snow, too hard for us to work in the field. p8250Work, work, work, was scarcely more the order of the day than of the night. p8251The longest days were too short for him, and the shortest nights too long for him. I was somewhat unmanageable when I first went there, but a few months of this discipline tamed me. Mr. Covey succeeded in breaking me. p8252I was broken in body, soul, and spirit. My natural elasticity was crushed, my intellect languished, the disposition to read departed, the cheerful spark that lingered about my eye died; the dark night of slavery closed in upon me; and behold a man transformed into a brute! ...
Our house stood within a few rods of the Chesapeake Bay, whose broad bosom was ever white with sails from every quarter of the habitable globe. p8253Those beautiful vessels, robed in purest white, so delightful to the eye of freemen, were to me so many shrouded ghosts, to terrify and torment me with thoughts of my wretched condition. p8254I have often, in the deep stillness of a summer's Sabbath, stood all alone upon the lofty banks of that noble bay, and traced, with saddened heart and tearful eye, the countless number of sails moving off to the mighty ocean. The sight of these always affected me powerfully. My thoughts would compel utterance; and there, with no audience but the Almighty, I would pour out my soul's complaint, in my rude way, with an p8255apostrophe to the moving multitude of ships:--
p8256"You are loosed from your moorings, and are free; I am fast in my chains, and am a slave! p8257You move merrily before the gentle gale, and I sadly before the bloody whip! You are freedom's swift-winged angels, that fly round the world; I am confined in bands of iron! p8258O that I were free! O, that I were on one of your gallant decks, and under your protecting wing! p8259Alas! betwixt me and you, the turbid waters roll. Go on, go on. O that I could also go! Could I but swim! If I could fly! O, why was I born a man, of whom to make a brute! p8260The glad ship is gone; she hides in the dim distance. I am left in the hottest hell of unending slavery. p8261O God, save me! God, deliver me! Let me be free! Is there any God? Why am I a slave? I will run away. I will not stand it. Get caught, or get clear, I'll try it. I had as well die with ague as the fever. I have only one life to lose. I had as well be killed running as die standing. Only think of it; one hundred miles straight north, and I am free! Try it? Yes! God helping me, I will. It cannot be that I shall live and die a slave. p8262I will take to the water. This very bay shall bear me into freedom. The steamboats steered in a north-east course from North Point. p8263I will do the same; and when I get to the head of the bay, I will turn my canoe adrift, and walk straight through Delaware into Pennsylvania. When I get there, I shall not be required to have a pass; I can travel without being disturbed. Let but the first opportunity offer, and, come what will, I am off. Meanwhile, I will try to bear up under the yoke. I am not the only slave in the world. Why should I fret? I can bear as much as any of them. Besides, I am but a boy, and all boys are bound to some one. It may be that my misery in slavery will only increase my happiness when I get free. There is a better day coming."
Thus I used to think, and thus I used to speak to myself; goaded almost to madness at one moment, and at the next reconciling myself to my wretched lot.
Sample essay 1: Upper level (score of 9)
In this selection from Frederick Douglass' 1845 autobiography, the third paragraph stands out from the rest of the passage due to differences in its construction. p8267Douglass' use of syntax and figurative language set this paragraph apart and reinforce Douglass' demonstration that despite the fact that slavery would leave the reader "behold a man transformed into a brute" (16-17), slaves were not animals but men, with thoughts and desires of their own.
First of all, Douglass' syntax shifts between the second and third paragraphs. While the first part of the passage is characterized by sentences of some length, the sentences in the third paragraph are for the most part quite short. This movement emphasizes the shift between description of daily life and Douglass' inner thoughts. Furthermore, Douglass' use of exclamation points in the third paragraph emphasizes a shift in tone from the matter-of-fact tone of the first potion of the passage to the tone of longing and even desperation of the third paragraph. Douglass' use of parallelism in the third paragraph further distinguishes it from the first two. Constructing each short phrase in the same way, Douglass, with sentences such as "O that I were free!, O, that I were on one of your gallant decks" (38), gives momentum to his exhortations and an urgency to them that sharply contrasts with the languor of the long and variable sentences of the second paragraph. In using all of these differences in syntax, p8268Douglass demonstrates that the slave's mind is not caught up in the languor of its surroundings; it is not lulled by the daily routine. No--it continues to be the mind of a man and as such remains free of slavery's ultimate goal: the loss of hope that turns men into beasts.
Furthermore, Doulgass' use of figurative language distinguishes the third paragraph from the rest of the passage and reinforces Douglass' purpose in demonstrating that a slave is still a man. First of all, his language grows more p8269flowerly in the third paragraph, setting it off from the lyric but understated opening passages. The contrast between the use of such words as "betwixt" (39) and "gallant" (38) and the more quotidian language of the first two paragraphs serves two purposes. Firstly, it steps of the intensity of Douglass' statements, and secondly it gives to them a nobility that well serves the author's rhetorical purpose. In seeing that a slave could not only think but could think in such eloquent terms p8270reinforces Douglass' theme that a slave is a man. Furthermore, this noble language contrasts with Covey's ignoble treatment of Douglass in the first paragraph, undermining slaveholders' beliefs in their innate superiority over blacks and the greater nobility of their souls. In addition, Douglass' use of the angel metaphor (36), his reference to hell (44) in a subsequent metaphor, and the repetition of the word "God" serve to emphasize Douglass' spiritual connection with Christianity. Again, this is juxtaposed against Covey's distinctly unchristian treatment of Douglass in the first paragraph; showing that slaveholders' insistence that they were bringing religion to the "heathen" slaves and were teaching them by example is false.
p8271In fact, Douglass' use of figurative language and syntax to set off the third paragraph from the rest of the passage undermines many of the arguments slaveholders used to promote slavery and shows that it is the slaveholder and not the slave who has been "transformed into a brute." (16-17) Douglass, in showing the abject failure of slavery to break or improve upon the black slave, makes his point. Men enslaving other men is not only wrong; it is poisonous. It degrades the slaveholder even in attempting to make him superior to the slave. In the end, Douglass' continued hope that he would escape his bondage, despite his assertation in the first paragraph that "Covey succeeded in breaking [him]" (11-12) shows his internal complexity and essential humanity. This is the overall rhetorical goal of the passage.
This essay is an excellent response to the prompt. The writer clearly states the rhetorical purpose of the Douglass passage in the last sentence of the first paragraph. The analysis of syntax and figurative language is both intelligent and extensive. This writer offers commentary, such as the last two sentences of the second paragraph, which clarify how syntax functions to mirror Douglass' mind set. The analysis is flawed at times, such as when the writer refers to the language of the third paragraph as "flowery," but this does not hurt the strength of the essay. The beginning of the last paragraph links stylistic elements directly with the rhetorical purpose of the text. This essay ends with a convincing restatement of the "rhetorical goal" of the passage.
Sample essay 2: Upper level (score of 7)
In the passage from the autobiography Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, the third paragraph is distinguished from the rest of the essay in its poetic style, its metaphors, and its hopeful candor in order to fulfill Douglass' purpose of presenting to the reader the life of a slave through his thoughts.
First, the style of the third paragraph is very poetic compared to the rest of the essay. The apostrophic and exclamatory language which are present absent in the rest of the passage. As Douglass speaks to the "beautiful vessels, robed in purest white," he is inspired to speak strongly and poetically at the sight of the freedom they hold which he so greatly desires. Douglass makes use of varied and multiple adjectives in the third paragraph to enable him to speak in a more poetic manner, in phrases such as "the turbid waters roll" and "she hides in the dim distance." These phrases also contain verbs of personification. p8272This poetic style which is unique to the third paragraph shows fully Douglass's longing for freedom as a slave, which could not be shown in the more simple, factual language of the other paragraphs.
The metaphors of the third paragraph, very much like its poetic style, achieve the authors rhetorical purpose. Douglass calls the ships "freedom's swift-winged angels" and speaks of how he longs to be under the "protecting wing" of the ship. These metaphors show the entrapment which Douglass feels and of the danger which surrounds him. p8273These metaphors enable the reader to better empathize with the full array of the slave's feelings, thoughts, and longings, especially those concerning a desire for freedom.
Thirdly, the hopeful and positive language of the third paragraph greatly distinguishes it from the other paragraphs in the passage. In the first and second and last paragraphs, p8274the language is very factual, harsh, hopeless, and melancholy. There appears, however, to be a totally different person speaking in the apostrophic third paragraph. p8275In this hopeful dialogue, it is shown that the innermost hopes of freedom have not been slain. Despite the horrible situation presented in the first two paragraphs, Douglass is able to seriously hope and believe that he has an escape to freedom. It is Douglass's purpose in this paragraph to show the reader that how ever much the slave owner's may have tried to and successfully hurt the black man, p8276their success,at least in Douglass' case, was only on the outer and not the inner man. Douglass's hope was not bruised even as on the outside he was whipped into shape.
The third paragraph of this passage from Frederick Douglass's autobiography is instrumental in conveying his purpose in the passage as a whole. Through its poetic style, metaphorical language, and euphemistic language, the inner hope of the slave which could not be killed is expressed.
This writer is quite successful in completing the task of this prompt, though not as successful as the writer of the first essay. Characterizing the language of paragraph three as "poetic"--though it shows a sensitivity to Douglass' language--causes some difficulty for this writer since the term is never clearly defined or applied. Also, a quotation is taken from paragraph two which is meant to support an assertion about paragraph three. At other times, such as in the second paragraph, examples of stylist elements are mentioned, but not linked to rhetorical purpose. The writer hits stride by the third paragraph and the rest of the essay offers strong analysis and accurate characterization of language use. The rhetorical purpose of the text is reiterated at the end of the essay.
Sample essay 3: Middle level (score of 4)
The difference of the third paragraph as compared to the rest of Douglass's passage is clearly evident. In the first paragraph, in which Douglass's life as Mr. Covey's slave is described, Douglass uses parallel syntax and figurative language to play on the reader's emotions. Phrases like "It was never too hot or too cold" (line 5) and "The longest days were too short ... the shortest nights too long" (lines 8-9) show the cruelty of Mr. Covey and make the reader sympathetic to what the slaves suffered through. In addition, Douglass's description of how he "was broken in body, soul, and spirit" (lines 12-13) give us an inner look at exactly what he was feeling and thinking.
p8277Paragraph two continues on the sympathy trail, giving vivid descriptions of Chesapeke Bay and the ships within it. These descriptions allow the reader to see the isolation and despair the Douglass felt, and draw our emotions even closer to him.
Yet, paragraph three sticks out immediately from the rest. p8278First, we know it is Douglass's words, which in themselves immediately grab our attention. Secondly, the pure emotion, the forcefulness, the sincerity of the words strike at our very core, forcing us to look at the situation through his eyes. In addition, the author uses circular reasoning to give logical answers to his own questions, clearing up any doubts that the reader might have about Douglass's motives.
p8279The third paragraph helps the passage as a whole because it adds credibility to Douglass's complaints about Mr. Covey and slave life in general. The emotional appeals throughout the entire passage are strengthed by the third paragraph, and the reader understands how the cruelty and wickedness of slave life could destroy so many man and women who wanted nothing more than to be free and equal.
This essay does state its purpose and make claims about the Douglass text, but it is only moderately successful. Stylistic elements are mentioned but are not effectively linked to rhetorical purpose, which is the focus of the prompt. Further, the discussion of Douglass' rhetorical purpose is implicit or vague throughout. Paragraph two is particularly weak. It seems to function as filter in an unstated chronology. We are told that we can see the ships and that they convey Douglass' despair, but how the writer arrives at this conclusion we do not know. Claims about the third paragraph--its difference from the first two paragraphs and its effects upon these paragraphs--are unsupported assertions at best, and occasionally deteriorate to vague generalizations. Overall, the writer's development of his or her analysis is thin.