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Title: Frederick Douglass and the acquisition of self through surrogate parental figures.
Authors: Chang, Sarah Chin Hui.
Keywords: DRNTU::Humanities::Literature::American
Issue Date: 2011
Abstract: Selfhood, which means possessing authority and ownership over one’s being, manhood and self consciousness, is an important concept to discuss with regards to nineteenth-century American social reformer and writer Frederick Douglass. Born into the “blood-stained gate” of slavery, Douglass grew up not knowing parental nurturing guidance and love. The absence of his mother, who is also a slave, had left him without comprehension of his origins; while his father, possibly a white slave master, left him abandoned in a world no one could orientate him into. Yet, identity, as psychology studies tell us, would have been most aptly and effectively developed by his parents. Such absence thus, initiates Douglass into a world where he has to struggle to establish his identity and ascertain his right as a man. To examine this, psychoanalytical methodologies such as Freud’s Personality Development model; Lacan’s “Name-of-the-Father” theory and Giddens’ theory of the Sociology of Identity will be used to establish the strong influences of both father and mother over their child’s formation of identity. Secondly, and most essentially, this essay explores how Douglass sought replacement parental figures to assist in his development of self and will discuss the effectiveness of the substitutes as aiding in his construction of identity. The essay proposes that this dire need for help in appropriating the world under the iron-hand of slavery led the fatherless Douglass to turn to several figures for role models: first, his white master, Edward Covey, and second, the omnipotent Father, God. To fill the void of motherly affections, Douglass also turned to several maternal figures as substitutes such as his grandmother and the physical structure of his grandmother’s house.
Rights: Nanyang Technological University
Fulltext Permission: restricted
Fulltext Availability: With Fulltext
Appears in Collections:HSS Student Reports (FYP/IA/PA/PI)

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