“Learning to read and write” was written in 1845, the dialect from that time period had the words “ye” and “thou” which mainly replaced the word “you”. The word choices in this essay may prove difficult to someone who does not do much reading but personally I had no problems with the vocabulary of this essay. Knowing the definitions of certain words will help if one was to run into those words, also knowing certain words will help one use context clues to further unlock the full meaning of the essay.
When Douglass stated “Freedom now appeared, to disappear no more forever” he made a powerful statement that contains more information than its eight words make it seem. The “freedom” that Douglass is referring to is the ability to learn. One can be taught, but once he learns to read his mind may expand infinitely. In the Bible it says “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime”. As soon as someone learns to read they have the opportunity to have all the knowledge in the universe, and through knowledge, one can destroy ignorance. Douglass seemed to like figurative language, preferably metaphors. One metaphor he uses in his essay is, “mistress, in teaching me the alphabet, had given me the inch and no precaution could prevent me from taking the ell” (156). In this clever metaphor the word “ell” is an older version of the modern word “mile” and Douglass is basically saying that once he learned the alphabet he had the necessary tools to learn to fully read and expand his vast knowledge, he would stop at nothing. Another nice metaphor Douglass uses is “it opened my eyes to the horrible pit, but to no ladder upon which to get out”. Normally the slaves were forced to be illiterate; this mass illiteracy caused the slaves to be ignorant of the situation that they were in. Douglass however was not illiterate, he could read and write, which gave him the knowledge he needed to realize that the conditions he was living in was wrong and unethical whereas the other slaves accepted it as normality. Douglass was shown how bleak and horrible his situation was through reading, but he was shown no way out.