Wed 29 Nov 2006
Manzano’s slave narrative was both similar to and different from Douglass’s autobiography. At the beginning of Manzano’s recollection, his experience as a slave was the opposite of Douglass’s. He was treated kindly as a young child and was cared for by his mistress; in Douglass’s case, young slaves were cared for by older slaves and were treated like animals. Douglass makes a point of describing the slaves’ ignorance about themselves, including age and lineage; however, Manzano knew his parents and his age, and was even baptized. He also enjoyed cultural excursions, such as seeing plays and operas. The two major differences between Douglass and Manzano as children are the issues of punishment and education. While Douglass was punished severely and had to see other slaves being beaten, Manzano was rarely punished; in fact, beating him was prohibited : “I raised such a fuss…that I should have received a beating, but nobody dared do that. Everyone avoided it…”. While Douglass recounts a dramatic scene between his master and mistress regarding his education, Manzano was encouraged by his masters and mistresses to compose poetry, imitate French opera, and memorize sermons.
Both Douglass and Manzano experienced major life changes when they transitioned from their original owners to their new ones. For Douglass, this meant slightly improved treatment and a chance at some education. For Manzano, it was the difference between being treated well and being abused. These turning points contribute to the literary flow of these slave narratives and make them both very interesting reads.