“…and I now resolved that, however long I might remain a slave in form, the day had passed forever when I could be a slave in fact.”

This quotation is taken from Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass an American slave, written by himself.

To be a “slave in form” means to physically be a slave and to be a “slave in fact” means to mentally be a slave. So when Douglass writes that he’s no longer a slave in fact he means that his mind is set free and he’s no longer enslaved by it. Even though he’s still seen as a slave he’s now freer than he has ever been before.

Mrs. Auld learns Douglass how to read but when Mr. Auld finds out about it he tell her to stop because, as he says, “If you give a nigger an inch, he will take an ell.” By learning how to read Douglass take the first step in freeing his mind, he gets hold of a book and says that it “…gave tongue to interesting thoughts of my own soul, which had frequently flashed through my mind, and died away for want of utterance.” When he later battle Mr. Covey, even though not winning, the power of refusing and standing up for yourself is greater than the fear of punishment.

“This battle with Mr. Covey was the turning-point in my career as a slave. It rekindled the few expiring embers of freedom, and revived within me a sense of my own manhood.”

After their battle Mr. Covey never lays a hand on Douglass again because his reputation is at stake. Earlier in the narrative you can read: “It is better that a dozen slaves should suffer under the lash, than that the overseer should be convicted, in the presence of the slaves, of having been at fault.” Because Mr. Coveys reputation was at stake he chose to save it and spare Douglass. This shows how you can be a slave in fact, a slave of mind. Even if Covey is in form a free man his mind is enslaved by his view of himself and the wanting to keep his reputation.

   Also Mrs. Auld gets enslaved by the power she realizes she has after a while. After her husbands lecture she start to treat Douglass as a slave and not as a man anymore. He write that: “She finally became even more violent in her opposition than her husband himself.” I think that somewhere she looses herself and becomes a slave to mind, someone who doesn’t care about the reality but only care about appearance.


“I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.”

Today we will keep talking about Walt Whitman’s poem “Song of Myself.” What does it really mean when he says that his “barbaric yawp will sound over the roofs of the world?” Let’s break it down and start with only the meaning of the words. For me the word barbaric means something animalistic and raw, something uncivilized. When I think about something uncivilized it takes me back to the cavemen, who lived in the caves in the woods, who’s main priority was to eat, sleep, and have sex. After reading this poem I think that this is exactly what Whitman value. He often writes about how something taste or that he want to taste something and you can find different images of sex throughout the poem. Also, in the very beginning you can read that he loves being out in the forest, gladly butt naked.

Yawp is a word I never encountered before so I needed to translate it into swedish to make sure I understood the meaning of it. I got synonyms like scream, cryshout, and howl. Depending on what word you choose the meaning gets slightly different and my guess is that none of them really describes a yawp. A barbaric scream seem more frustrated than a barbaric shout for example, while a howl feels more sad.

When we put these two words together I think they greatly describe the poem. A lot of the images is barbaric in the way that they refer back to the very natural such as the nature and the human senses and desires. I still interpret Whitman’s poem as a celebration to mankind and that we should live as happy and free and true to nature as possible because this is where we find happiness.  They are also written out with no masks but bluntly as they are, making the statements in the poem very loud – like a scream, shout, or howl.

“I celebrate myself, and sing myself” – Walt Whitman

“You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me, you shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself”.

It is so easy today to see what’s good with everyone else and to only see the flaws of yourself. In Walt Whitmans Song to myself” he praises himself but also everything around him. I think this sentence is one of the most interesting in the poem because he tells the reader to think for himself. You can’t just take others opinions, wether good or bad, but you need to filter them from yourself and make them your own.
Throughout the poem he comes back to this idea that we need to be content with ourselves as well as figure out for ourselves how we want to live our life. Towards the end there is a sentence that says; “Not I, not anyone else can travel that road for you, you must travel it for yourself”. For me the meaning of this is that you need to live your own life, you can’t live through someone else’s. I also think that what he is trying to say is that as long as your happy with yourself you will also be more content with your life and what’s around you, and that it is ok to be proud of yourself. Something we really should embrace today, when there are so many pictures and articles telling us how we should look and act to be happy and accepted, instead of just be glad and proud for who we are.

“-in the mass and in the particle, nature hastens to render account of herself to the mind.” Say that again please!?

“Far, too, as her splendors shine, system on system shooting like rays, upward, downward, without centre, without circumference, – in the mass and in the particle, nature hastens to render account of herself to the mind.”

This sentence is found in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “The American Scholar”, an oration delivered before the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Cambridge in August 31, 1837 and I found this one of the most difficult ones to grasp. Not being an English native speaker there were quite a few sentences I found hard to understand but I’m only going to write about this one. For me this is kind of just a bunch of words put together and I found it hard to make sense of it. Maybe because that’s just what it, the middle of the meaning just tells us how the rays shoots, if I take that away and shortens the sentence I think it’s easier to grasp. Although reading the sentence again, skipping the middle part, doesn’t help at all. I think what I don’t understand is the end, and in the end is the point of the sentence, meaning that if I don’t get the end I won’t either get the point. And here lies my trouble.

Not even by reading the context, what comes before and after this sentence, helps me make sense of it. I get a feeling for it but I could not describe the meaning of it. I think that no matter how far nature goes nature is always herself and can never be anything else the way man can. I’m not sure this really make sense in the context though, but I do like the thought of nature as a non-changeable place. Of course it change but it’s also always the same. (Do I make sense??)

The language of the sentence works well with the rest of the text and there is nothing that stands out. I think it’s very poetic written, it has a nice melody to it that the rest of the text has as well.

I find the essay quite good even though I don’t understand it all. I always think that even if you don’t understand every word you usually get the context anyway making me not really care about every word or sentence – call it carelessly if you like. But as long as I get the context of the whole text I don’t care about the small parts, maybe I will change my mind after this class. Also reading in a language you don’t fully understand takes time, if I then also look up every word I don’t get it would take me forever to go through it as well as not giving me a flow. The only words I check is the ones who seems to be significant for the point in the text. So the conclusion of this paragraph I guess is that I try to make sense of it by reading the context but if I still don’t get it I just don’t care and move on, and hopefully it won’t ruin the rest of the essay.

Up and running!

The name’s Ida and here’s my first blog post! I come from Sweden but are right now doing an exchange semester at SFSU. It’s a very overwhelming experience with a lot to process. The university in Sweden works quite differently!

In Sweden I’m on a teacher program with music as my major. When I graduate I will also be able to teach English and Swedish as a second language and will work with the ages 13-15 years old.


Take Care!