The Theme of Power in the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and Malala Yousafzai, the Fighter
How it works
Both The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass and “Malala Yousafzai, the Fighter” by Aryn Baker explore the universal theme that having power, whether it comes from within oneself or from external forces, to rise above inequality creates someone’s identity. The settings of the American south in the 1800’s and in present day Pakistan, and the characterizations of Frederick Douglass and Malala Yousafzai all support the theme.
In both works, the settings of the American south and Pakistan connect to the theme. In The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Frederick Douglass is a black American slave who endures dangerous and brutal conditions in his environment. Due to his life in bondage, Douglass is constantly oppressed whenever he tries to gain a sense of identity. In comparison, in “Malala Yousafzai, the Fighter,” many people in Pakistan hinder Malala and other girls’ opportunities to learn and grow as unique individuals in society. A correspondence in these two settings is that peoples’ willingness to break away from traditional restraints in their society and culture can give the oppressed citizens a sense of identity. For example, Sophia Auld, Douglass’s mistress, bravely challenges society’s disproving view on teaching slaves to read by “very kindly [teaching Douglass] the A, B, C”(Douglass 48).
How it works
After, Douglass “[understands his] great achievement and [he prizes] it highly” (Douglass 48). Similarly, Malala Yousafzai “[encourages] families to break with tribal tradition” to give children their own identity “and allow their daughters to attend classes” (Baker 3). In both works, society’s disapproval of education and have literate black slaves are the chains that hold back the victims of criticism from gaining an identity. However, when people like Sophia Auld and Malala have the power to challenge the status quo, they allow for more people to grow and succeed as individuals. In Pakistan, many girls’ identities are stuck inside their families’ traditions, and they are never given a chance to break away from who their parents want them to be. Once they are no longer engulfed by their parent’s opinions they can be individuals, and education can give these Pakistani girls to do that. In comparison, until he learns how to read, Frederick Douglass feels worthless after being stuck inside his master’s identity.
When Sophia educates him, he gains a feeling of self worth and confidence. In fact, Douglass and Malala also gain their sense of identity when they find power within themselves to become brave and strong in their dangerous environments. For instance, Douglass’s cruel master, Mr. Covey went to “[catch hold of [Douglass’s] legs and [is] about tying [him” for a punishment (Douglass 81). Something rises up within Douglass, and he revolts, defying the law that slaves are not allow to hit white men. Douglass’s physical and mental victory “revived within [him] a sense of [his] own manhood. It recalled [his] departed self-confidence” (Douglass 82). Comparatively, the Taliban attempt to murder Malala for going against their beliefs about how women should not be able to receive an education in Pakistan. Malala has been in a very dangerous situation, but in “trying, and failing, to kill [her], the Taliban appear to have made a crucial mistake. They wanted to silence [Malala]. Instead, they amplified her voice” (Baker 1). The power of Douglass and Malala’s bravery to defy and go against dangerous people in their environments is what gives them a sense of identity. Because Douglass does not allow people like Mr. Covey to break him and fights back for racial equality, he gains a sense of confidence that he can do anything he puts his mind to. He is no longer a weak and broken slave because his power to finally take a stand is what puts his pieces back together. Douglass’s small rebellion against his harsh treatment allows him to finally find himself because in that moment of courage, he finally feels free. Malala is in a very dangerous situation because people are trying to kill her. Yet, her bravery shows the terrorists that she is not some weak young girl, and she does not let the threat of being harmed stop her cause. Because Malala does not the terrorists influence her, she gains her own identity, as she sticks to her beliefs.