The Power of Presentation
The literary works, Frederick Douglass’ Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Chris Abani’s GraceLand, and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin all attempt to present the view of the oppressed, the ignored, and the victimized people of society and thereby gain the reader’s sympathy. Each writer uses a different method to achieve this goal. Frederick Douglass uses autobiography, Harriet Beecher Stowe sticks to pure fiction, while Chris Abani employs a historical fiction, a hybrid of the two. Reading these works shows the strengths and weaknesses of each approach. The ability of these writing styles to persuade the reader becomes immediately apparent. One work, however, stands out as the most persuasive, that book being Uncle Tom’s Cabin . This work of fiction is an overwhelmingly potent vehicle for moving the reader to the author’s point of view.
The purely autobiographical nature of A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave should make the immorality of slavery immediately clear and leave no room for debate or skepticism. The book, however, is not the most effective at proving its point. Wendell Philips, Esq., in his letter preceding Douglass’ story identifies a fatal flaw of the book to persuade the reader to writer’s point of view when he laments, “Yet it is sad to think, that these very throbbing hearts which welcome your story, and form your best safeguard in telling it, are all beating contrary to the ‘statute in such case made and provided,’ ” (p.45). Because the typical readers of the book already supported the anti-slavery movement before reading it, it had no effect on them but to strengthen their views. His point being that the typical reader of the book at the time of its publication was already sympathetic to Douglass’ point of view, supported the
anti-slavery movement, and therefore the story autobiographical or not, had little effect upon them, except...