Benjamin Franklin and Frederick Douglass
1. Douglass’s Narrative offers us the testimony of two of his abolitionist supporters as well as that of Douglass himself.Benito Cereno offers another kind of testimony in Cereno’s deposition. Compare the use of supplementary testimony in the two works. How are they related to the main body of the text? Do they support its authority, undermine it, or both? Why does the subject of slavery give rise to these types of testimonial supplementation?
2. Both Benito Cereno and “The Heroic Slave” present slavery (and rebellion against it) from the perspective of white participant/observers.Yet here the formal similarities between the two narratives seem to end. Compare the authors’ use of perspective.What are the differences? How does each use his white participant/observer’s perspective to convey his own view of slavery? Why are two such different writers drawn to the same narrative device?
3. Benjamin Franklin and Frederick Douglass saw their life stories as more than mere personal narratives; each aspired to a representative role.How does each understand that role? How is it shaped by the circumstances in which they find themselves? How does it shape and constrain their literary self-presentation?
4. Compare Melville’s use of the theme of nature to Douglass’s in either the Narrative or “The Heroic Slave.” Why does nature play so important a role in narratives about slavery? Do the authors use this theme in different or similar ways? Why is the theme of nature so consistently linked with the representation of women and family in both authors?
5. You are Frederick Douglass. Write a review of Benito Cereno with an eye to its political significance. Compare Melville’s narrative methods to your own in “The Heroic Slave.” Are Melville’s method’s suitable to abolitionism?How would you write the story of the San Dominick? Be sure to model your prose style on Douglass’s.