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Frederick Douglass& Eudora Welty: The Evolution of American Biographies

Updated on October 16, 2016

Chapter seven of Frederick Douglass’s autobiography offers an important insight into Douglass’s future identity as a human rights activist. Although his autobiography is not as personable as they are written today, Douglass’s autobiography still tells us the story of his life as if we were the one living it. Douglass tells us of his yearning for knowledge by making friends with the white boys in the streets. The white boys teach him how to read in exchange for food. In this chapter of Douglass’s autobiography he mentions that at the mere age of 12 he knew he was destined for greater things. I felt that his autobiography methodically described the eager child he was and his dreams for a better life out of slavery. The details of how he learned to read and write allows the readers to truly understand how dedicated Douglass was to bettering himself. It is easy to see the differences in writing styles of biographies from older to more modern times. According to the CNN article titled Amazon’s Top 100 biographies, plus 10 more to read, the only way for a writer to ride to fame was to write “The greatest American novel”. Nowadays it is much simpler due to the copious amounts of information available to us at our fingertips. Biographies in the modern day are very unique to the person. Although Douglass’s autobiography reads like a novel, the narration allows readers to understand the details of his younger life.

Eudora Welty: Her Writing Inspiration

Eudora Welty’s short tale titled One Writer’s Beginning describes the young writer’s childhood travels and how that shaped her as a writer. Eudora's collection of essays can be thought as a memoir, the excerpt featured in Prose Models Ed. 11, focuses on a memory of a tradition of travel that she and her family would take. As Eudora states in the tale, “writers and travelers are mesmerized alike by knowing of their destination.” Eudora explains that she embodies characteristics from both her mother and father. Eudora describes her and her father’s ability to see the road ahead whereas her mother was less observant. This explains Eudora's close attention to detail in her writing. Eudora explains that she inherited her father’s energy; the energy he had for traveling was the energy she had for writing. Her mother appears to be the one from whom she inherits the writing ability, which explains why Eudora refers to her mother keeping a log of the miles traveled. Eudora often writes from memory using her home state of Mississippi as the central theme, such as the short tale One Writers Beginning. Eudora draws her readers in by using her travels with her parents and her descriptive use of language to help the reader envision her experiences.

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