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Learning to Read and Write - Essay Example

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Learning to Read and Write

When the boy made rapid progress, she proudly reported the fact to her husband, who berated her for her pains. She was not only breaking the law, she was doing something 'unsafe'-for learning would make the boy unfit to be a slave, and unmanageable too. Mrs Auld followed her husband's orders-and soon became a new woman. Whereas she had earlier been good and kind, she turned cruel and harsh. The sight of the slave with a book or a newspaper in his hand was hateful to her. She kept the closest vigil to monitor his questionable movements. "Irresponsible power" had corrupted and changed her, through and through.
Douglass records how he resorted to various "stratagems" to steal an education, with help from street-urchins and ship carpenters, and by surreptitious use of his young master's copybook, a Webster's Spelling Book, and a powerful book of speeches and dialogues that he was lucky to lay hands on. The story of his determined conquest of his own illiteracy is amazing. No wonder he had to write it out for people to believe that he had really risen from the ashes of oppression, rather than from the rungs of opportunity.
Alice Walker's "Beauty: When the Other Dancer is the Self" tells the story of her finally coming to terms with what seemed to her a life-changing deformity. She remembers her life from around two and a half years till the age of eight as an idyllic period, when she knew she was both cute and sensible and had no doubt that she was the apple of her father's eye. Then, her elder brothers were given guns and pellets to play with and one of them accidentally fired the shot that left the little girl one-eyed and physically scarred for ever, and mentally scarred and scared for almost two decades. When she learns to look at herself through the eyes of her own child, she sees a 'world' unseen till then, and is free to dance again with herself.
After her accident, although things changed enormously for her, the physical change was not really noticed by those close to her, and therefore, they failed to notice the inner change in her. Years later, when she spoke of the 'change' to them, they responded by asking, "What do you mean" Walker rephrases the question to herself, (and to her readers), "What do I mean" Others fail to understand her, and she fails to understand herself. It required some surgery to make her confident enough to look at other people again, and, when she did this, others looked at her, and she got a boy friend, popularity, the status of valedictorian and 'queen' of her class. Then, the sight of a beautiful desert made her aware of the blessing of having at least one eye to see it with.
Her child it was who finally liberated her. The three-year-old child became aware of her mother's face for the first time in her life. She looked carefully and closely, taking the face in her dimpled palms with maternal gentleness. Walker dreaded the words that would follow, but what the child said must have filled her with an almost unbearable lightness of being. The child's words were, "Mommy, there's a world in your eye." And then, gently, but with great interest: "Mommy, where did you get that world in your eye"
Walker says that "the pain left then." She could see her face as something that others could love and as something that she should love. It had taught her all she knew of ...Show more


Learning to Read and Write" is chapter 7 of Douglass's autobiography Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave(1845). It was published after Douglass had become known as an orator and abolitionist. Indeed, it was written, against the advice of well-meaning friends who feared for his safety, to dispel the notion that an accomplished speaker like Douglass could not have known extreme degradation or lack of opportunity…
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Learning to Read and Write essay example
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