Summary: Chapter VIII
During Douglass’s first several years in Baltimore, his old master, Captain Anthony, dies. When Douglass is between ten and eleven years old, he is returned to the plantation to be appraised among the other slaves and the livestock, which are to be divided between Captain Anthony’s surviving children, Mrs. Lucretia Auld and Andrew Anthony. Douglass is apprehensive about leaving Baltimore because he knows his life in the city is preferable to the plantation.
The valuation of the slaves is humiliating, as they are inspected alongside the livestock. All the slaves are anxious, knowing they are to be divided regardless of marriages, family, and friendships. Master Andrew is known for his cruelty and drunkenness, so everyone hopes to avoid becoming his property. Since Douglass’s return to the plantation, he has seen Master Andrew kick Douglass’s younger brother in the head until he bled. Master Andrew has threatened to do the same to Douglass.
Luckily, Douglass is assigned to Mrs. Lucretia Auld, who sends him back to Baltimore. Soon after Douglass returns there, Mrs. Lucretia and Master Andrew both die, leaving all the Anthony family property in the hands of strangers. Neither Lucretia nor Andrew frees any of the slaves before dying—not even Douglass’s grandmother, who nurtured Master Andrew from infancy to death. Because Douglass’s grandmother is deemed too old to work in the fields, her new owners abandon her in a small hut in the woods. Douglass bemoans this cruel fate. He imagines that if his grandmother were still alive today, she would be cold and lonely, mourning the loss of her children.
About two years after the death of Lucretia Auld, her husband, Thomas Auld, remarries. Soon after the marriage, Thomas has a falling out with his brother, Hugh, and punishes Hugh by reclaiming Douglass. Douglass is not sorry to leave Hugh and Sophia Auld, as Hugh has become a drunk and Sophia has become cruel. But Douglass is sorry to leave the local boys, who have become his friends and teachers.
While sailing from Baltimore back to the Eastern Shore of -Maryland, Douglass pays particular attention to the route of the ships heading north to Philadelphia. He resolves to escape at the -earliest opportunity.
Analysis: Chapters VII–VIII
In Chapters VII and VIII, Douglass relates events slightly out of chronological order, again disrupting the Narrative’s appearance of -autobiography. His brief return to the plantation, recounted in Chapter VIII, actually takes place before he reads The Colombian Orator, recounted in Chapter VII. Douglass records the events out of order because he favors thematic consistency over strict chronology. As Chapter VI deals with Hugh Auld forbidding Sophia to teach Douglass to read, Chapter VII addresses Douglass’s self-education and the fulfillment of Hugh Auld’s predictions of unhappiness.