ďBeing hanged in England is preferable to dying a natural death in Ireland.Ē
This quote from the text is actually a quote itself. Frederick Douglass refers to it as a proverb when he is describing his attitude about leaving his home at the Great House and moving to Baltimore. It seems a funny quote to hear him say in present times due to its political and cultural nature, but at the time I am sure it was quite common. I donít think it is an important quote because of its reference to either England or to Ireland, but more for the message within it. I feel that the attitude contained in this quote is apparent throughout Douglassís life and also a prevalent theme of mankind.
This attitude is that if you are going to die anyway, it is better to go out fighting. It is the attitude embedded in pride and the willingness to risk everything. Douglass, I feel, unlike many of his counterparts, possessed this belief. Granted, he did not make decision of where he was going to be in his early life, I still believe he kept this attitude. During the time Douglass was learning to read and write, he knew that he would be punished if he were to be caught, but still he continued against the odds because he would not settle for ignorance. When Mr. Covey went to tie him up in the barn, Douglass would have none of it. He knew that it was a crime ever to strike a white man and that he could possibly be tortured or killed for doing it, but still he would not settle for being whipped. In his escape attempts, Douglass knows that what lies ahead of him could be worse than his present conditions, but he can not stand to exist in his slavery.
Douglass constantly took risks to gain his independence and be his own master. Douglass never was sure that he would achieve his freedom and failed several times in attempting it, but he knew it was better than existing as a slave. This is why I think the quote is fundamental to this book. The quote embodies the grim necessity of taking the risks of the unknown just because your pride will not let you stay where you are. I think this idea is something to which every downtrodden, persecuted, and enslaved person can relate.
I know that some would argue that a quote about intellectual gain to personal freedom would be more appropriate to this story, a quote that would talk about knowledge being the key to freedom for Douglass. I think that it is true that Douglassís education was a big part of his struggle to independence, but I think that this quote gets at something more fundamental. The spirit of a person willing to risk everything, just because it is impossible for him or her to accept the current situation. It is something that can be seen in Douglassís story and through the history of humankind.