Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Random Paragraph about Douglass and his Mother

I have this paragraph that I really like but am afraid may be sliced up in revision. I'm posting it here so I can return and admire it from time to time:

The impossibility of answering these questions [about his mother] haunted Douglass and, in writing his autobiographies, he attempted to reconcile what he did know with what he hoped was true. Historians find themselves in sympathy with Douglass both in the absence of answers and the absence of his mother. In the face of the void, they accept his version with little question. The methods of the historical craft require that they do. In this case, at least, a conclusion of questions may be of greater service in understanding this world that shaped him from his birth. Unanswerable questions allow historians to understand the uncertainty that drove Douglass’s invention of his identity and that informed his responses to other people, particularly those with whom he was most intimate. This uncertainty also serves as a reminder that he was stripped of a network of family, which he attempted to reconstruct and defend through his own marriage and after the Civil War. Finally, these questions allow us not to know Harriet Bailey, but to consider her life with greater nuance in the absence of further evidence.

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