All throughout American Literature, writers have been composing literary works that have been influencing future authors. These writers create literary works usually discussing religion, politics, or a personal experience. The numerous amounts of writings present in American Literature can be quite similar to one another or can differ from one another when compared to different components. Writers such as Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass served as a great example in how literary works in American Literature show the individual differences of each author as well as some similarities that are present in them and their writings. Lincoln and Douglass both use political influences and the hardships the country was experiencing during their time to help them compose their literary works. Though both Lincoln and Douglass use political influences, it is the way they interpret and shape their writings that makes them different from each other. Each of them uses their own writing style, language, and tone that helps them deliver their messages to their intended audience. Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass both use political issues dealing with slavery, freedom, and equal rights and liberty to all men to help influence their literary works, and though they use similar themes and influences the way they interpret and shape their writings is what makes them different.
Abraham Lincoln served as the sixteenth President of the United States. When he took the presidency, the nation was already beginning to divide and was on the brink of a Civil War. As a result, all this brutality and political problems inspired and influenced most of Lincoln’s greatest speeches and literary work’s that helped shape America as it is today. His writings always focus on America as a whole and address the current political issues the nation had. Some of Lincoln’s greatest speeches and literary works are The Gettysburg Address, his Second Inaugural Address, the “House Divided” Speech, and the Emancipation Proclamation. All of these works served as the infrastructure that helped build the American voice that is present in later writings throughout American Literature.
Frederick Douglass was an abolitionist, former slave, statesman, and writer. He was considered to be one of the most influential African American during the nineteenth century as well as one of the greatest orators during his time. Most of Douglass’s literary works addressed the issue of slavery, racism, and the equal rights of African Americans. Some of Douglass’s greatest writings are Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself and What to the Slave, is the Fourth of July?. All of Douglass’s literary works are known as antislavery writings because he always discusses the freedom and equal rights that African Americans should have.
In most of their works in American Literature, Lincoln and Douglass both talk about political issues dealing with slavery, freedom, and equal rights and liberty of all men. Both writers show many differences as well as similarities when addressing these issues.
When writing about slavery, Lincoln addresses the issue politically. He himself opposed the concept of slavery and addressed the issue in his “House Divided” speech. In this speech, Lincoln talks about how “‘A house divided against itself cannot stand,’ he declared. ‘I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free … It will become all one thing or all the other,’” (KENDI 4). He shapes this speech in a way for his audience to understand that the issue regarding slavery is what is beginning to divide the nation. Once again slavery is addressed in Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. In this address Lincoln talks about how slavery is a national misdemeanor to God by stating, “If we shall suppose that American Slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must need come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove[…]” (Second 749). While Lincoln addresses slavery in a formal political way, Douglass shapes his writings and styles from a more personal experience. In his narrative, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself, Douglass shows his audience what the life of a slave is really like by using imagery and a dramatic language. His use of rhetorical devices, diction, and writings structure allows him to give a deeper insight into the evils of slavery. It is in this way that Douglass’s writings regarding slavery differ from Lincoln’s writings. Though both Lincoln and Douglass use different meanings and styles to shape their writings, they both use the same universal theme to help them get the message of slavery is bad to their audience.
Another similar theme and political aspect both authors use to help influence their writings is freedom. In his narrative, Douglass uses a unique writing style as well as a persuasive one to help advocate for the freedom of African Americans. Douglass states, “Freedom now appeared, to disappear no more forever. It was heard in every sound and seen in everything. It was ever present to torment me with a sense of my wretched condition,” (Narrative of 963). This statement serves as an example of what freedom meant to African Americans. While Douglass talks about freedom in the views of African Americans, Lincoln interprets the theme in a slightly different way. In the Gettysburg Address, he states, “[…] this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth,” (Address 748). Lincoln’s use of ethos, formal diction, and visual imagery allows him to express the birth of a new nation as well as the new sense of freedom they are fighting for. Douglass’s writing styles and languages differ quite a bit from Lincoln’s somewhat interpreting a different meaning of freedom; however, they both appeal to the same influences in their writings.
One of the last things that both of the authors discuss in their writings is the equal rights of men and liberty. In Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address he uses a sense of allusion when he states, “All men are created equal,” (Address 747). He shapes his writings in order to stress the points that all men should have the same rights of equality and liberty. Douglass addresses the equal rights theme a little bit different than Lincoln. In one of his speeches, “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?”, Douglass states that “The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me (What to 1003). He clearly means that African Americans are denied the right to equality and uses his writing style and language of the speech to express that. Like the other political influences in their writings, Lincoln and Douglass allow the concept of equal rights and liberty to influence their writings.
Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass both use political issues dealing with slavery, freedom, and equal rights and liberty to all men to help influence their literary works, and though they use similar themes and influences the way they interpret and shape their writings is what makes them different. While Lincoln uses a “plain, undecorated language” in his writings, “his choice of words” and “the rhythm and shape of his utterances” is what portrays his writings to be unique from Douglass’s (Barzun 5 and 51). Douglass, on the other hand, uses many powerful scenes that help “modulate his charismatic stage persona and appeal to readers as a supplicant rather than as an equal,” (Ganter 4). As one can see, both authors use similar themes and influences in their writings, but it is the way they interpret the message to the audience by using their own unique writing styles that makes them different from one another.