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Muntajab Ali Deeb

Dr. Majda Atieh
ENGG /World Literature
Aug, 9th, 2009

The Quest for the Self in Autobiography:

Douglass' 1845 Narrative and The Confessions of Saint

Autobiography has a wide range of forms. It can be divided according to its
features, functions and purposes. The focus of narration in autobiographies makes two
separate categories; the first one's concern is the external events and characters, the
second is concerned with the internal world of the autobiographer. The first type has
also divisions: when the writer's main interest is to narrate the external events we
classify it as letters, diaries or journals, while when the writer writes about what s/he
remembers rather than what happened we call it memoirs or reminiscences. Whether
of internal or external focus, autobiographies are classified into two broad categories;
formal autobiography and informal one. The informal type is not meant for
publication while the formal one is written to be published. Autobiography can also be
divided in terms of themes; thus we have specialized forms of autobiography such as
intellectual, psychological, spiritual, etc.
In autobiographical works there are many objections raised as to whether the
accounts given are true or not. So many factors combine to make such objections
worth the discussion. In autobiographies, truth goes through many filters before it is
finally formed. The formal autobiography is an object to skepticism more than the
informal type; it surely has to be well processed before it is presented to the public
neat and ready for reading. However, both types share certain shortcomings when it

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comes to recalling the past; it is where the process of distortion becomes inevitable.
The question of autobiographical truth raises many problems; it brings about the
concept of personal truth, the writer's distance in time from the events narrated, the
unreliability of the human memory and the role of narration in directing the reader's
mind to a certain conclusion. The list can be longer but the mentioned factors would
be enough to explore the fictional aspect in autobiographies.
The study will not attempt to give a more reliable version of truth; its main
concern is to reveal the personal element in the given accounts and to unveil the
mechanisms through which an autobiographer regenerates the pastintentionally or
unintentionallyin the process of writing the self. Because it is not easy to determine
where the modification of truth is intentional and where it is not, I am not going to
venture to make such a differentiation except when the case is clear. Furthermore, we
will soon discover that this kind of differentiation has little or no effects at all on
changing the results of the research. Thus, the argument will majorly focus on
explaining the elements of fiction-making in an autobiography, depending on
philosophical, psychological, scientific and structural bases. The study of
fictionalizing the past leads us to the problem of the lost self, and there we encounter
significant questions: which is more fictional the old or the new self? Where is the
writer's self left amid all this chaos? What is the reason behind writing an
autobiography? By the end of the research, the answers will be at hand.
Augustine's Confessions and Douglass' 1845 Narrative provide us with good
materials to start our study. Although each of the two autobiographies belongs to a
different type, both of them fall into the category of formal autobiography. As a
beginning, we will raise the first objection concerning the intentional modification of
truth. Douglass' 1845 Narrative was written on demand of some abolitionists to help

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fighting slavery. The Confessions of Saint Augustine was also written to address the
public. Although Augustine apparently made God his audience, his philosophical
ideas and arguments are embedded in his confessions, and there is always a human
audience that he addressed indirectly; "Why then do I lay in order before Thee so
many relations? Not, of a truth, that Thou mightest learn them through me, but to stir
up mine own and my readers' devotions towards Thee" (Chapter XI). Augustine
simply wanted to instruct indirectly by making himself an example. Additionally, it
would be useful to know that his Confessions was written in response to gossips about
his early life; the Bishops of Hippo, Saint Augustine, found it necessary then to unfold
to the public his past and clear up the issue offering a spiritual lesson for the youth
and going further in pursuing his religious meditations.
Concerning the intentional part of distorting the truth, the fact that the writing is
meant to address the public makes it inevitable for the autobiographer to present his
content in a way that suits the purpose. The purpose of Douglass' Narrative is to gain
more sympathizers with the slaves and to help abolishing slavery by showing its
ugliness to the American citizens. Thus, it is normal for the narrative to follow a
certain direction in order to achieve the desired result. Directing the narration can be
through focusing on certain events and ignoring or omitting others (it can be also
achieved through other techniques on which I am going to elaborate later on).
Augustine, like Douglass, directs his narration to a certain purpose; his Confessions is
made in away to prepare the readers for the final conversion and highlight the
religious side of the writer. Both Douglass and Augustine wrote their autobiographies
to make certain changes in their audience; on the other hand, they were also motivated
by showing their readers the transformation through which they went.

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The public persona which the writer has to adopt in his writing makes a formal
autobiography closer to a work of art. It goes without saying that a person's character
in public is not the same as in private life. We need to differentiate between the
writer's true self and the social mask presented to the wide range of readers.
Augustine's work is meant to be confessions, and yet we never find any intimate
details or real secrets in it; this explains the element of formality in his autobiography.
Both Douglass and Augustine keep their private life left out and focus on the purpose
of their narratives. In his essay, "Reconciling the Public and the Private in Frederick
Douglass Narrative" Donald Gibson argues:
The private dimension omits, however, some aspects of Douglass'
experience, and what is omitted is probably determined by factors such
as relevance to the public focus and decorum. We know little, for
example, from his narrative about his courtship of Anna Murray
beyond the fact of its occurring; [] we know nothing about his
sexuality. (551)
Augustine also approaches his life from a certain angle; he focuses on spiritual
questions and, like Douglass, follows a certain trajectory portraying the journey from
one situation to another1. In order to establish a faade or a social mask, the writer
must keep certain facts about himself private. He would also try to present his new
self in the most possible attractive way. Augustine is aware of this fact; with an
impressive honesty, he admits this kind of falsification:
Yet the word which cometh out of the mouth, and deeds known to men,
bring with them a most dangerous temptation through the love of
praise: which, to establish a certain excellency of our own, solicits and

The element of elaboration and omission will be explored further on a structuralist basis.

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collects men's suffrages. It tempts, even when it is reproved by myself
in myself, on the very ground that it is reproved; and often glories
more vainly of the very contempt of vain-glory; and so it is no longer
contempt of vain-glory, whereof it glories; for it doth not contemn
when it glorieth. (Book X)
The rhetorical element, in its turn, contributes to the process of making the mask.
Establishing the social mask sometimes requires more than just hiding or beautifying
the self2; in some cases the writer might bend the truth to suit the purpose and the
audience. However, having no accounts about the writers' private life, the last
hypothesis remains unimportant.
Now that the intentional-fiction making in both Douglass' and Augustine's works
is studied, we can move into deeper layers of prisms that are more personal and
complicated. They are, however, universal as no body can escape them; they simply
represent the unintentional manufacturing of the past.
In the eighteenth century, a German philosopher called Immanuel Kant came
with an idea that is seldom considered in our method of thinking. His idea concerning
the field of knowledge is as frustrating to our achievements as powerful and
convincing. Kant argued that, "all our knowledge of existence [] belongs entirely to
the sphere of experience []" (Critique of Pure Reason. Section IV). In other words,
our knowledge about the world is completely subjective; this is because we don't
know about things except in the way in which they appear in experience. Because our
knowledge about things is restricted to the way we experience them, we're forever

Let us think of the same social mask children learn to create as soon as they are taught to show
themselves in the best possible way among people (especially strangers, which are equal to public life
in the adult world). Jung calls this social mask "persona"; it is an identity one learns to acquire while
growing up to adapt to the external world.

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ignorant of what they are in themselves. Kant's philosophy revealed how what we call
reality is only empirical; it is an output of our own mental faculties; consequently,
ration and experience will characterize any resultant knowledge with features that are
alien to it. Kant argued further that all the principles of science are founded upon the
constitution of the mind, which is to say concepts that are mental constructions. With
Kant, the possibility of a strict knowledge of ultimate reality is undermined; nothing
remains as it is but becomes dependant on the way we approach it.
Kant leads us to the concept of personal truth; truth or reality is nothing but our
own experience of it. Because experience is something personal and subjective, each
one experiences the world differently, and thus each one can hold a personal truth that
is as authentic as any other truth3. Starting from this point, the question of
autobiographical truth in the broadest sense loses its meaning as there is no objective
platform. Thus, concerning the unintentional process of distorting the truth as a
whole, Augustine's and Douglass' way of presenting themselves and the others in their
autobiographical works is no less authentic than any other account.
Now we come to Albert Einstein; the brilliant scientist who changed our view of
the world with his theory of relativity. Einstein researches on physics lead him to a
great discovery; he added a forth dimension to our classical ones (length, width and
height). He discovered that in order to characterize a point, we need three dimensions
to fix it in space, and a fourth one to fix it in time4. Einstein also, in a way similar to
Kant, revealed that the state of an object is dependant on the state of the observer. In
other words, the conditions of observation determine the result of observation.

"There is always the other side, always" as Jean Rhys suggests in her novel Wide Sargasso Sea. And
yet it is necessary to listen to both sides to reach into a middle ground truth.
For example, geographical maps take only the three spatial dimensions to describe a point. If we think
of the motion of planets, it would seem like it is repetitive, but when we consider the temporal
dimension, it becomes clear that the first round is not the same as the second, and the same applies to
everything. The self thus undergoes changes with time even if it is the same self. In any object, the
temporal depth adds new characteristics to the original ones.

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Although it would seem ridiculous to apply Einstein to literature, I will explain the
distortion of truth in autobiography by analogy with an example derived from physics.
Let us assume that we are traveling by a train to a certain destination. As the train is
moving, the rest of the passengers seem to us fixed points. When we reach our
destination and get out of the train, the train departs and the passengers inside the train
seem to us moving away. We have applied different kinds of observation in the
example (inside and outside), and we have got different results. Because the state of
the observer changes, the state of the object under observation also changes!
Concerning autobiography, the distance in time affects the writer's view about events.
The temporal dimension works as another prism through which autobiographical truth
passes. As the writer looks back and narrates events from the past, he takes the role of
an outside observer. On the one hand, the narrated experiences look much different to
the writer; on the other hand, the writer is split into two selves; the one who
experienced the events, and the one who is commenting on such experiences. An
outside observer has both advantages and disadvantages; because the writer narrates
his early life and comments on it, he is more privileged and can seesupposedly
the big picture5; he becomes a kind of omniscient third person narrator. However, the
negative aspect of an outside observation is no less important as the positive one; the
events lose their livelinessand consequently their credibilityas they are
reproduced, the feelings are often misrepresented and the whole story becomes almost
a second hand experience. Additionally, the writer adds touches here and there which
did not exist before, or views the incident in a different light as he looks at it from a
present perspective; this is usually achieved in an indirect conclusion such as "I later
recognized" etc. A good example of this split of the self is when Douglass tells us

When we come to think of it, there is nothing called "the big picture" because there is always a bigger
one; on the other hand, a big picture does not show the tiny details which makes it in turn incapable of
holding the complete truth. This is why we'll stress later on owning both of the perspectives.

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about the slave songs; "I did not, when a slave, understand the deep meaning of those
rude and apparently incoherent songs. I was myself within the circle" (Chapter II).
Here Douglass shows us clearly the divergence between the past experience and the
present recollection of it6. Additionally, he adds a new meaning to the original
experience; "To those songs I trace my first glimmering conception of the
dehumanizing character of slavery" (Chapter II). Of course at that time he couldn't
have such a conclusion. By the end of his Confessions, Augustine concludes that his
mother was made for a higher purpose; it is to convert him and his father from
paganism to Christianity. Even from the very beginning of narration he states; "[E]ven
from the womb of my mother, who greatly hoped in Thee, I was sealed with the mark
of His cross and salted with His salt" (Book I). Such a conclusion reminds us of
Douglass' statement; "From my earliest recollection, I date the entertainment of a deep
conviction that slavery would not always be able to hold me within its foul embrace"
(Chapter V). Douglass as a free slave can not have the same attitude as the one he had
when he was a slave; he narrates taking a distance that makes him safe; it is both
temporal and spatial distance. Douglass tells us; "I did not hesitate to let it be known
of me, that the white man who expected to succeed in whipping, must also succeed in
killing me" (Chapter X). As Brewton argues in his article "Bold Defiance", such a
decision is "hardly compatible with physical survival in slave culture but serves
instead as the key to an archetypal wakening that opens the door to his deliverance."
Douglass could not have made such a decision when he was a slave, because we know
very well that nothing would stop his white masters from killing a disobedient slave.

If it possible to think of time as a moving train; the passenger in the train example would exclaim:
They didn't look like moving away until I got off the train! (I was myself in the train). Einstein gives a
similar example to explain how the state of the observer affects the observation; "As long as it is
moving unifromly, the occupant of the carriage is not sensible of its motion, and it is for this reason that
he can without reluctance interpret the facts of the case as indicating that the carriage is at rest, but the
embankment in motion." ("Relativity: The Special and General Theory". 40). Although we can not rely
heavily on theory of relativity in our study; Einstein here is important to establish and understand the
temporal prism of distorting the past.

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It is highly likely that such a decision is made by Douglass the free man, to add a
heroic flavor and to encourage his fellow-slaves to be bolder. The second part of the
quotation hints at the process of self making which will be discussed later. These
Statements made by Douglass and Augustine are actually reflections about the past,
and such convictions could not have existed unless from a present perspective (just as
in the example of the train).
There is an idea that reminds us of an old philosopher concerning reality and
shadows. According to Kant, the world we are living in is a world of concepts and not
in the world of matter; this stands in contrast to Plato who suggested that the world of
objects we are living in is but the shadow of the world of ideas. Carl Gustav Jung,
who was greatly influenced by Kant, came with an idea derived from Kant but
parallel to the concept of shadows in Platonism, though not similar. Jung, as a
psychiatrist and a psychoanalyst, noticed how our perception of the world and people
around us depends on our perceptions and impressions about them. He applied the
philosophy of Kant to the human psychology and agreed that things in themselves
have no meaning except within the context of their significance to us. Thus, he argued
that we don't know things as they are; instead, we deal with images of them that are
formed in our minds. These images are reflections of the world around us; they are by
no means the same as it is. Since knowledge is confined to memory, when we think of
a person, we don't bring this very person before us; we only recall his/her image to
our minds7. Jung called this image "imago"; he meant to differentiate between people
as they are and between our subjective impressions about them. Such an image lasts
in our minds even when the person passes away; thus, Jung discovered that the belief

"Thus, I name a stone, I name the sun, the things themselves not being present to my senses, but their
images to my memory." Augustine's Confessions. Chapter X). To use Saussure semiotic terms, we are
concerned with the signifier while the signified in its independent existence escapes us forever.

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in spirits is but a projection of such imagoes. It would be useful to let Jung explain his
"imago" by himself:
Even the error of judgment which leads him [the primitive man]
unthinkingly to assume that the spirits are realities of the external
world is carried on in our assumption (which is only partially correct)
that the real parents are responsible for the parental complex. [] The
simple soul is of course quiet unaware of the fact that his nearest
relations, who exercise immediate influence over him, create in him an
image which is only partly a replica of themselves, while its other part
is compounded of elements derived from himself. The imago is built
up of parental influences plus the specific reactions of the child; it is
therefore an image that reflects the object with very considerable
qualifications. (The Basic Writings of C. G. Jung 198)
Jung differentiates above between people as they are, and the image we bear about
them in our minds. This makes any autobiography a kind of personalized fiction; it
means that what the writers write about people or experiences is simply conditioned
by the way they conceive them. For example, in Augustine's Confessions, we only
know the bright side of his mother Monica; in fact what is presented is the "imago" of
his mother. According to Augustine, Monica is the ideal Christian mother, but
according to the modern reader, there was a time when Monica did not act like a true
Christian. Monica refused Augustine's relationship with the concubine he loved,
although she was the mother of his son; instead, she wanted him to prepare for
marriage by getting engaged to a young girl from a high social class. Thus, she was
not motivated by virtue but by vanity:

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Continual effort was made to have me married. I wooed, I was
promised, chiefly through my mother's pains, that so once married, the
health-giving baptism might cleanse me, towards which she rejoiced
that I was being daily fitted, and observed that her prayers, and Thy
promises, were being fulfilled in my faith. [] Yet the matter was
pressed on, and a maiden asked in marriage, two years under the fit
age; and, as pleasing, was waited for." (Book VI)
Douglass, in his turn, presents Mrs. Auld through the prism of his own personal
emotions as well; he first describes her as angelic:
And here I saw what I had never seen before; it was a white face
beaming with the most kindly emotions; it was the face of my new
mistress, Sophia Auld. I wish I could describe the rapture that flashed
through my soul as I beheld it. (Chapter V)
It is soon that Douglass changes his mind to paint her in a totally different way
(actually quiet the opposite):
The fatal poison of irresponsible power was already in her hands, and
soon commenced its infernal work. That cheerful eye, under the
influence of slavery, soon became red with rage; that voice, made all of
sweet accord, changed to one of harsh and horrid discord; and that
angelic face gave place to that of a demon. (Chapter V)
This prism of personal feelings contributes to what Jung called "imago". The two
opposing extremes of Mrs. Auld entails that one of them must have been an illusion;
Douglass claims that she had been corrupted with power, but how can an angel turn
into a demon? When we consider the Jungian argument, it becomes clear that both of

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the two images are but "imagoes" or primordial images of the angel-like/devil-like
female. Thus, the narration tells about the personal mirror through which the writer
reflects the world, but never about the world itself.
Now we understand that the human mind can not convey an exact copy of
reality, but only a subjective "imago" of it. Here, the effect of temporal distance even
creates a further distortion; this alteration can be intellectual as explained before
(when we add meaning to the past), or even emotional as will be explained next.
Regarding the Jungian finding, the recollection of the past becomes an impression of
an earlier impression about the world! This shows how much difficult it is for an
autobiographer to keep an exact copy of reality in his mind, not to mention presenting
it to others.
About six hundred years ago, Augustine thought:
The same memory contains also the affections of my mind, not in the
same manner that my mind itself contains them, when it feels them;
but far otherwise, according to a power of its own. For without
rejoicing I remember myself to have joyed; and without sorrow do I
recollect my past sorrow. Sometimes, on the contrary, with joy do I
remember my fore-past sorrow, and with sorrow, joy. (Book X)
Augustine in these lines reveals how a retrospective look at the past is never the same
as the past itself; one views past experiences with different emotions and thus he
makes a change in the original experience. Of course, such different emotions are the
effects of temporal dimension; the changes the writer undergoes throughout the years
that separate him from the narrated incident. Augustine narrates his sins in an
emotional and intellectual attitude very different from the one he had during the time
he committed them; this is because the things he used to enjoy become a source of

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detest to him at the moment of narration, while he interprets his past misfortunes as
signs and warnings from God. Here we can clearly point out the split of the self; the
saint is judging the sinner (from a safe distance). Because the split of the self in
Augustine's Confessions can be seen easily, one may feel tempted to conclude that
Douglass' Narrative does not have such a process. While Augustine lets his old self
speak every now and then to judge it, Douglass' new self dominates the narrative and
leaves little chance for us to see the old one. He is constantly viewing the past events
through the eyes of the free educated slave. Thus, the emotional difference in
Douglass' Narrative is less clear than in Augustine's Confessions, and yet we can
detect its features in the slaves' songs. Although Douglass' intellectual attitude
changes after he becomes a free slave (he can "understand" what he could not
understand before), yet this change in meaning entails a change in feelings; now he
recalls the songsthat were sang in a happy tonewith a sad sympathetic heart.
The discrepancy between what happened and what is narrated is on two levels:
the first level is measured against other people (the imagoes and personal truth), the
second level is measured against oneself (the old self and the new one). The second
level has two dimensions, intellectual and emotional. Thus the process of distortion
becomes complicated as so many layers of truth are to be considered. We see how the
writer's reaction to temporal effect is a split in the self which removes him from his
past creating gaps between the true experiences and the recollected ones and
eventually falsifies the truth.
Up till now, we have seen how an incident can be experienced differently from
one person to another, and we have learned how a memory of an experience is not the
same experience itself (even to oneself). Now the next objection raised against
autobiographical truth is concerned with memory. Memory is object to failure and

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confusion; it means that even when we want to disregard all the previous
complications of intentional and unintentional distorting prisms, there is still a grave
objection that can't be ignored. The unreliability of memory makes a lot of parts of
truth beyond the reach. Thus, we can not but admit that the information any
autobiography can give is limited by the shortcomings of human memory. In many
places, we find Douglass telling us "as well as I can remember", and sometimes he
even fails to remember; "I have had two masters. My first master's name was
Anthony. I do not remember his first name" (Chapter I). One good example about the
unreliability of memory is a memory trick to which David Messmer draws our
attention in his article "If not in the word, in the Sound". Messmer reports to us what
Douglass claims in his 1855 Narrative:
I am quite willing, and even happy, to attribute any love of letters I
possess, and for which I have got--despite of prejudices--only too
much credit, not to my admitted Anglo-Saxon paternity, but to the
native genius of my sable, unprotected, and uncultivated mother.
However, we find Douglass in his 1845 Narrative telling us:
I never saw my mother, to know her as such, more than four or five
times in my life []. She died when I was about seven years old [].
Never having enjoyed, to any considerable extent, her soothing
presence, her tender and watchful care, I received the tidings of her
death with much the same emotions I should have probably felt at the
death of a stranger. (Chapter I)
The paradox is clear; Douglass contradicts what he mentioned ten years earlier. He
changes his mind; he believes that his mother is the source of his love of literacy. This
shows to what extent the memory can be confused or even modified to suit the

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writer's purpose. Once again here, it is not easy to tell whether it is intentional or
unintentional distortion; Douglass could be even telling the truth, for had he not loved
letters, he would not have been curious to learn them. But the confusion is still there;
to which of the two women he owes his literacy? There are two contradicting
information in the two narratives in all cases.
In Psychopathology of Everyday Life, Sigmund Freud tells us that memories
cannot be taken for granted; there is "no guarantee of their accuracy. Some of the
mnemic images are certainly falsified, incomplete or displaced in time and place."
Freud explains further that this distortion of memory is but an unconscious
mechanism that has a meaning, and that the original memory is often preserved in the
first form in which it was received, but some kind of repression, condensation and
displacement would distort it (just like in the work of dreams). Whenever such
distortion happens, its aim is to prevent the disturbing feelings from reaching the
conscious. Thus, the shaping of memories is affected on two levels; the first is the
normal type of forgetfulness, while the second is the work of the unconscious mind of
the autobiographer that results in distorting or repressing his memories8.
Now we come to the last source of distortion in autobiography, which is the
narration. Narration plays a great role in distorting the truth; although all the previous
prisms are no less effective, narration gives the final stroke to the painting. Gerard
Genette managed to unveil the invisible process through which a story is remolded
into a narrative. He shows us how a story is nothing but the raw material for the
narrator; it is like a piece of iron that can be molded and shaped into different things
depending on the purpose of the blacksmith. Thus, a story in itself is nothing, what
really gives it a shape is the narration. According to Genette, there are five categories
of narrative: Order, duration, frequency, mood and voice. The narration in terms of

We will see later why such a repression occurs.

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order can be "simultaneous" (events happen in real order), or "anachronic" (events
happen in the wrong order). An "anachronic" narration can be "proleptic"
(anticipating), "analeptic" (flashback or collapse), and "interpolated" (a mixture of
both where we have prolepsis and collapses together). When it comes to duration, the
narration has two types: "isochronic" (duration is similar) and "anisochronic"
(duration is different). An "anisochronic" narration includes; "ellipsis" (which is
omission), "pause" (the period in the narration is longer than it is in the story) and
"summary". An "isochronic" narration is described as a scene (the incidents in the
narration has the same period in the story). Narration in terms of frequency can be;
"singularitive" (the same frequency of events is kept in the narrative), "repetitive" (the
narration repeats the incidents more than they are in reality), and "alternative" (the
narration mentions only once the incidents that happened many times in the story).
Narration in terms of "mood" can be divided into "distance' and "perspective".
Distance decides whether the narration is "diagesis" (telling the story) or "mimesis"
(showing the story indirectly rather than telling it directly; this happens usually
through actions). "Perspective" is the point of view; it can be internally focalized (one
character tells the story, or even several characters narrate each from his/her own
point of view), externally focalized (the narrator knows less than the character) and
non-focalized at all (the narrator is an omniscient outside observer). "Voice" is about
the nature of the narrator and the implied narratee. Genette distinguished between the
"time of narrative" and the "narrated time"; when narrating the story happens after the
narrated events it is posterior narrative. When it happens before the events, it is prior
narrative. Genette also divided the narration in terms of the narrator; "homodiegetic"
(the narrator tells his own story), "hetrodiegetic" (the narrator tells somebody else's
story) and "autodiegetic" (the narrator is the hero of the story).

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Now let us apply Genette's divisions of narration on autobiography. An
autobiography, by name, is the story of the writer's life. Because the writer is the hero,
the narration is "autodiegetic"; the whole incidents and characters, thus, move in the
writer's orbit. The prism of subjectivity is twofold; the first is on the level of narration
as the writer is the story teller; the second is on the level of significance where the
writer is the cornerstone of all the construction of narration. The perspective in
autobiography is of internal focalization as the writer is involved and he tells the story
from his own perspective. Nevertheless, the writer assumes at the same time a nonfocalized perspective as he comments at the past from the position of an omniscient
outside observer; it is where the split of the self occurs. In autobiography, the
narration is posterior; the temporal dimension twists the story as we explained before.
As to the "voice", Douglass' and Augustine's formal autobiographies are meant to
assume certain persona, and meant to address certain audience. The "voice" in my
research comes under the mechanisms of the prism of formality in autobiography. A
good example of distorting the story in terms of order is when Douglass tells us that
he had a feeling from the very beginning about his future as a free man; the same
applies to Augustine when he expresses his belief, as he narrates the past events, that
since he was born he was following his fate to Christianity; this is a "proleptic"
narration. The distortion in terms of duration works as an elaboration just like a spot
light on a stage, the purpose is to highlight the incident and to establish it as waypoint
in the journey to the final change. We can clearly point out the "pause" technique in
Douglass' Narrative as he narrates the fight he had with Mr. Covey. Vince Brewton, in
the same essay "Bold Defiance", comments:
The fight between slave-breaker and the slave to be broken lasts two
hours, a duration McFeely believes to be hyperbole intended to

Ali Deeb 18
reinforce Covey's humiliation, and the length of the fight certainly adds
an epic dimension to this life-changing conflict in the life of the slave
The extension of the period of fight in the narrative has a function. Even if we want to
believe Douglass and forget about McFeely's smart observation, the detailed
description of the fight serves the same purpose. When the incidents seem
unimportant to Douglass, he doesn't feel the need to mention them in the same
frequency. For example, he tells us that he had several fights after his fight with Mr.
Covey, but we never know when or with whom. The function of an "alternative"
narration (mentioning only once a thing that happened many times in the story) is to
marginalize the incidents that do not seem important to the narrator. With Augustine,
the narration as a whole takes the form of "summary" with so many "omissions", and
sometimes it is a fragmented "isochronic" narration. This is because Augustine, while
trying to view the film of his life, wants to elaborate on certain experiences that seem
of special significance to him (like the scene of the beggar or the conversion scene).
It is necessary to mention that both Douglass' and Augustine's narratives have a
turning point; we can call it the climax. The whole narration in both works tells the
story of how such a change is made, and how each one moves from a wretched state
into a happy one. With Douglass, the turning point is in chapter 10 (near the end of
the narrative as it is eleven chapters). In Augustine's Confessions the turning point
(which is his conversion) comes in chapter 8; the following chapter is the last one
Augustine narrates his life, while in the rest chapters (10-13) Augustine engages
himself in philosophical questions and intellectual arguments. It is interesting that in
both of the works, the turning points come right before the end; this shows how the
two autobiographies are arranged to prepare the readers for such a dramatic change.

Ali Deeb 19
In other words, the narrative forged the story like a blacksmith and made of it a story
of rebirth. Such an effect is not strange in narration; one can not give an exact copy of
what happened or it would take him thousands of volumes. On the other hand, the
purpose of the narration the writer has in mind would direct him naturally to pick up
the important materials and hammer on them, while most often he would add some
meaning to them in the light of the idea in his mind. Whether intentional or not, we
can consider it a falsification of truth. However, just like any research or discussion
must have a focus (and thus a filter to narrow down the results), any narration needs
an aim or it would lose its structure. Therefore, the prism of narration when
unintentional is a universal falsification as no one can escape it.
Augustine dwells upon certain incidents while he leaves large sections of his life
unknown; this is because what he narrates seems to him important to his spiritual
change. He first narrates to the readers his sins during infancy:
So I flung about at random limbs and voice, making the few signs I
could, and such as I could, like, though in truth very little like, what I
wished. And when I was not presently obeyed (my wishes being
hurtful or unintelligible), then I was indignant with my elders for not
submitting to me, with those owing me no service, for not serving me;
and avenged myself on them by tears. (Book I)
Augustine believes that even infants are not innocent; they have their vices. He
reproaches himself before God and gives an example for other people as well. He
believes that hanging upon his mother's breast and crying is a sin, for had he done so
for food as an adult, he would have been reproved and laughed at. After that he moves
into his boyhood; he criticizes his delight in Homer and Virgil saying that his weeping

Ali Deeb 20
over Dido's death was a false emotion9, and that the gods in Homer were immoral and
they taught people to be like them. He also bemoans his dishonesty when he used to
lie to other boys or even quarrel with them to win games. Then he moves to early
adolescence, he confesses his burning sexual desires. He also regrets doing bad things
to impress the gang of his friends, such as stealing pears with them. Next, he moves
to adolescence where he kept a concubine that bore him a son. We can see how
Augustine moves from infancy to boyhood, to early adolescence to adolescence and
then to adulthood recounting his sins. He follows by telling us about his appeal for
Manichaean religion and astrology, then how he refuted them, then how he studied
Neoplatonism, but his lost soul that craved for answers and certainty was not satisfied.
Finally, Augustine introduces us to conversion to Christianity. Augustine divides his
life in accord with the Neoplatonic conception of the Seven Ages of Man10, a thing
that is the result of his subsequent knowledge. His narration takes a summary or a
capture (of what he thinks is important) of each stage to show his audience how he
moved from an emotional searching during his adolescence into intellectual inquiries
in his adulthood and finally into a spiritual longing (his conversion). Thus, the
narration is built up carefully to reach the moment of conversion. And of course, there
is no need to mention the present perspective he takes while recalling all his past; the
religious perspective which was not a part of his past makes him focus on his sins.
In criminal investigations and psychoanalytic therapy, all details are important,
especially when they seem insignificant. This is because the detective or the analyst is
quiet familiar with this kind of prism, which is the effect of the idea in mind on
collecting information. Such an effect usually leads people to be selective in recalling

This is a platonic Idea; Plato believes that any kind of literature that stirs our emotions is bad because
as the work is fictional, the feelings it generates are false. We can see how Platonic ideas also affect the
way Augustine shapes of his past.
Infancy, childhood, lover (adolescent), soldier (young adult), justice (adult), old age, and dementia

Ali Deeb 21
details and makes them eventually reach at a conclusion that is already in their mind.
By collecting all the relevant and irrelevant details, we avoid imposing our own
meaning (or the other's meaning) on the story, and thus the research stops to be
doomed to a certain conclusion11. What happens in the two autobiographies is that the
writer from the very beginning shapes his life by means of narration to reach the point
in his mind, a thing that makes any objective point of view impossible.
We see now how the writer recreates his past in an autobiography. This
remolding is determined by the purpose of writing the autobiography. In both
narratives, we have a writer who wants to trace the changes in his personality
throughout the passage of time to reach finally the rebirth of his new identity. If the
writer draws his journey from the beginning till the end, and if he recreates the past
rhetorically and psychologically, we may reach into a conclusion that this change did
not really happen in reality as it is presented. We'll give some examples in each
narrative to show how this change is not original.
Let us take the fantastic turning points in both works. In his article "Bold
Defiance", Brewton supports the argument that Douglass' narrative is an act of mythmaking or self invention. He argues that in order to create a heroic identity, Douglass
needed to set himself in opposition to an enemy that is both evil and strong.12 Fighting
and defeating this enemy helped Douglass to mark the ending of his old identity (the
coward submissive slave), and the emergence of a new one (the bold defiant slave).
Douglass calls his fight with Mr. Covey a "turning-point" and he lays a great
importance on it as he introduces us to the incident; "You have seen how a man was
made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man" (Chapter X). This

Cline argues in his Castle to Castle; "We see only what we look at, and only look at what is already
in our minds" (208). Let's remember here Kant and his philosophy about our knowledge of the world.
Douglass describes him as "a first-rate overseer and negro-breaker." It is also useful to mention that
Douglass attributes his love for letters, in this narrative, to 'the bitter opposition' of his master Mr. Auld
as well as to the help of his mistress. This supports Brewton's assumption that he needed a counterpower to fight in order to achieve his rebirth.

Ali Deeb 22
importance is without doubt the result of a retrospective look, the same look that
makes Augustine arrange his life in that neat way until conversion.
Augustine's conversion scene, just like Douglass' legendary fight with Mr.
Covey, is not without an artistic touch. Lost in mind and soul, Augustine goes to the
garden weeping and tearing his cloths. Suddenly he hears a child voice singing "take
up and read". He wonders whether there is a play in which children might sing a song
like that, but he can not remember any play alike. He interprets the voice as a
command from God. He has heard before that a similar incident happened with
another man and made him convert to Christianity. Augustine goes back to where he
left his Apostle, opens it, and reads the first line his eyes fall upon. The line says; "Not
in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and
envying; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, in
concupiscence." Thus, Augustine finally finds peace.
The artistic way in which Augustine converts to Christianity is not necessarily
made only by his narration; he could have lived it for real; he had even unconsciously
planned to live it as he already interpreted the child's voice as a command from God
to read the first chapter he should find. Thus, any line to him would have gained a
special significance. There are many reasons for us to believe that Augustine had
wanted to convert to Christianity and was simply waiting for the right moment.
Firstly, he tells us that his mother was Christian since he was born, and she had
always wished him to convert to Christianity. Secondly, Augustine was lost in
intellectual arguments; he tried many philosophies and they did not give him the
answers to his questions. Finally, he met with Simplicianus, the priest of Milan who
impressed him with his knowledge and position. In Augustine's time, Milan was the
seat of the imperial Court, and Simplicianus held a high admirable position. Augustine

Ali Deeb 23
needed a man with a strong influence to make Christianity for him convincing. His
mother's views about Christianity were according to him 'womanish', and he had been
cautious about them; in many places he states that he doesn't want to have a 'blind
faith'; a kind of faith that only suits the uneducated. Simplicianus told Augustine
about the story of Victorinus' conversion, who was a famous translator of Neoplatonic
books, and Augustine was affected by the story. Victorinus was an ego ideal for
Augustine as he was well educated and Neoplatonic after all. Augustine finally,
tortured by his intellectual inquiries and sense of guilt, went to the garden and found
the first opportunity to relieve himself and convert to Christianity. What makes such
an assumption more convincing is the way his friend Alypius converted. When
Augustine went to Alypius, who was intellectual as well, and told him about the story
of the voice and what he read, Alypius read what followed Augustine's lines; "him that
is weak in the faith, receive" so he applied it to himself and converted to Christianity
in his turn. We can see how Augustine was waiting for any sign to feel convinced of
his new religion, so was his friend Alypius who converted out of imitation13. Both of
the men were intellectual and it was not easy for them to embrace a new religion for
life in a moment of passion, especially after an incident that can hardly be considered
significant. If Augustine was prepared already for conversion; it was because of the
effect of environment around him; the same applies to Alypius. Jung has something
to say about religious conversion:
Although in many cases of this kind there are certain external factors
which either directly condition the change, or at least provide the
occasion for it, yet it is not always the case that the external factor
offers a sufficient explanation of these changes of personality. We must

Alypius was younger than Augustine, and he trusted his judgment almost in everything. Augustine
was his master and his friend.

Ali Deeb 24
recognize the fact that they can also arise from subjective inner causes,
opinions, convictions, where external stimuli play no part at all, or a
very insignificant one. [] The same is probably true of most creative
intuitions, for we are hardly likely to suppose a purely causal
connection between the falling apple and Newton's theory of
gravitation. Similarly, all religious conversions that can not be traced
back directly to suggestion and contagious example rest upon
independent interior processes culminating in a change of personality."
(The Basic Writings of C. G. Jung. 184)
In the light of these meaningful lines, we can examine at close the turning point in
Augustine's live. If we want to assume that the child's voice and the Apostle's lines are
the external stimulus in Augustine's conversion, and that although it was insignificant
it only triggered a true inner transformation that has been prepared long before the
incident, can we consider his conversion a result of "independent interior processes"?
Did he really have an inner inspiration free from "suggestion and contagious
example"? The answer for both questions is negative; even in the moment of
experiencing the coincident Augustine had in mind a similar example. Therefore, we
can state confidently that the shift in Augustine's life is not a genuine change of
personality nor an inner transformation, but simply a result of accumulating social
pressure to join Christianity.
Augustine's later philosophical arguments, particularly in Chapters 11-13 reveal
that his intellect was not quiet satisfied even with Christianity. In many places he
applied his old philosophical views to the Christian conception of the world and he
reached a deadlock. One of the inquiries that bothered him is an ontological one; he
couldn't reconcile the Bible's view about the genesis with his philosophically trained

Ali Deeb 25
mind. He asked that if at the beginning God spoke and created the heaven and earth,
then it should have been a time before the word of God was spoken, this entails that
God exists in temporality, which seem contradicting to God's eternity14. He tried to
argue, like old Greek philosophers, that time only exists in our minds. Finally,
Augustine decided that such a question has no answer as he did not want to go against
Christian beliefs:
See, I answer him that asketh, "What did God before He made heaven
and earth?" [] So I answer not; for rather had I answer, "I know not,"
what I know not, than so as to raise a laugh at him who asketh deep
things and gain praise for one who answereth false things. (Chapter XI)
Augustine deep inside was still the same. He searched for peace in Christianity but
although the new religion gave him a moral basis, it did not cure his lost mind; it
simply repressed it. It was impossible for Augustine to think freely about the beliefs
of his new religion as he had already accepted them. To convert to a certain religion
means to embrace the whole system of ideas associated with it. His conversion was
irrational, and thus he had to take the set of Christian beliefs for granted. If faith has
nothing to do with reason, embracing an institutional religion is basically based on
intellect; it stems form the capability of the new religion to convince and suit
mentality of the individual
After all these arguments, we can establish the fact that Douglass' and
Augustine's turning points arein some sensefictional. In order to empower the
change, Augustine believed that the child voice was a message from God. Douglass
has similar claim concerning his journey to freedom; "I may be deemed superstitious,
and even egotistical, in regarding this event as a special interposition of divine
Providence in my favor" (Chapter 5).

Neoplatonist philosophy did not believe that there was a beginning for the universe.

Ali Deeb 26
Now that we have clarified the mechanisms of fiction-making in autobiography,
it becomes easier to draw a comparison between an autobiographical writing and a
work of art. Freud's researches on creative writing tell us that the hero usually
represents the writer himself on an unconscious level (and sometimes consciously). If
we extend this to autobiography we may hold certain similarities between the two. In
autobiography, the narration is "autodiegetic" as we mentioned before; the entire story
is about the writer and everything is interpreted in relation to its significance to him.
The same thing happens with the hero in creative writing. Freud notices:
One feature above all cannot fail to strike us about the creations of
these story-writers: each of them has a hero who is the centre of
interest, for whom the writer tries to win our sympathy by every
possible means and whom he seems to place under the protection of a
special Providence ("Creative Writers and Day-dreaming")
What Freud noticed about creative writing also applies to these two autobiographies.
Freudian approach teaches us that any kind of creative writing is a form daydreaming,
and that daydreaming works in a way similar to nocturnal dreams. Freudian school
stresses on the wish-fulfillment function of dreams. If we applied the previous method
to the autobiographical writings of Douglass and Augustine, we can ask; what does
each of the two writers wish? Or what does writing offer them? The first answer that
comes to mind is that both Douglass and Augustine seek a new identity. Thus we may
conclude that the purpose of their writing is to create new selves. This is, however, not
case. When both Douglass and Augustine wrote their works, they had already
acquired new selves; thus, their autobiographies are simply a process of reinforcing
the present self rather than inventing it. We might mistake the process of fictionmaking for a self-invention as we think of autobiography as a creative writing. But the

Ali Deeb 27
fact that both autobiography and fiction-making share fictional elements does not
mean necessarily that they are the same. A creative writing is made up of mere
fantasies for the most part, while an autobiography is fictionalizing real events.
Because of this, a process of repressing the past occurs in autobiography while it is
absent in creative writing. We have also noticed in our study how the new self
dominates the narration and devours the old one. Thus, we can say that fiction-making
in creative writing and autobiography plays different roles; if in creative writing it
seeks a simple wish-fulfillment by creating a world of its own, in autobiography it
works more complicatedly by reshaping the past according to the present. In brief, the
fictional element in autobiography has two functions; the first is separating the new
self from the old one, the second is inflating the new self; it is a wish fulfillment in a
way or another but it is not as simple as in fantasies. I may disagree with some
critics15 who believe that writing the self is inventing it. Unless the amount of fiction
is very large, I would say that autobiography is the disownment of the old self by
identifying with the already made present one (it is new only in comparison with the
old). As the writer establishes this separation, he feels better, and even better as he
expands the territories of his present self.
Although we have revealed that an autobiography is not the same as pure
fiction, neither in content nor in functions, we can still make use of Freud observation
about creative writing to reach further discoveries. In the same essay "Creative


Vince Brewton in his article "Bold Defiance" argues that Douglass' Narrative is a process of selfinvention; a creation of a personal myth. I would have had no objection if he had replaced the idea of
'creating a myth' or 'inventing the self' with 'reinforcing the myth already created and lived'. My
research has showed me that a process of self-invention could have never happened during writing
except if we consider the writer's identification with his new self, a process of self-invention. And yet,
the writer's new self is already established even before the writing, which is something contradictory to
the word "invention". Douglass' Narrative is simply an attempt of authenticating his already made new
identity as a free educated man, which is in itself the myth Brewton talked about. The few next pages
will explain any ambiguity about this idea.

Ali Deeb 28
Writers and Day-dreaming" Freud discusses the multiplicity of heroes within the same
work of art:
The psychological novel in general no doubt owes its special nature to
the inclination of the modern writer to split up his ego, by selfobservation, into many part-egos, and, in consequence, to personify the
conflicting currents of his own mental life in several heroes.
An autobiographer, just like the writer of psychological novels, splits himself into two
selves; the first is the one who experienced the events, the other is the one who
narrates and who comments on or judges the old one. The several heroes in a
psychological novel represent the old and new self in an autobiography. Thus, one of
the motivations of writing an autobiography is to reflect the psychological conflicts in
the mind of the writer. It is in a way or another, an attempt to offer a solution for these
conflicts by giving one of these "heroes" the upper hand, or the louder voice.
There is, however, one point left to explore. There might seem an underlying
paradox in the argument when we look at it as whole; how do we state that the
temporal dimension creates a split in the self, while in another place we claim that
such a change is fictional? It would be fruitless to set the temporal dimension of
Einstein and the repression theory of Freud against each other; instead, we will delve
into a new field that will decipher the whole mystery. It is however not easy to
understand and need a careful reading.
We've seen earlier that both of the autobiographies belong to the formal type; it
means that they address the public. We learned how the writer in a formal
autobiography assumes a social mask. Jung called this social mask "persona". We also
noticed the split of the self in both Douglass and Augustine. If we process all these
information and connect them with each other, we will find that the same public mask

Ali Deeb 29
or "persona" is the new self or identity which the writer tries to create in his
autobiography. Jung differentiates between the private self and the public one. He
shows us how the private self is greatly influenced with the "anima" which is the
unconscious part of the individual. He also reveals that the more the social mask is
strict the more the unconscious reacts influencing the private personality. Jung
intelligently distinguishes between the anima (the unconscious part of the self) and the
ego on the one hand, and between the ego and the persona on the other hand. He calls
the process of separating the ego from the other two parts "self realization" or
"individuation". He explains that because the individual becomes so engaged in
playing the social role, he forgets what he is and identifies with his "persona". As a
result, his inner self becomes more and more repressed that it becomes a separate
independent entity; consequently, the individual finds himself split into two extreme
contradicted personalities; the public and the private one. The conflict which Freud
tells us about is nothing but the conflict between the "persona" and the "anima". When
one of the two mentioned parts devours the writer's ego, the conflict starts to appear.
The source of the conflict in the two autobiographies is the attempt of the writers to
deny the old self while establishing the new one. Jung explains:
When we examine such cases critically, we find that the excellence of
the mask is compensated by the "private life" going behind it. [] A
man can not get rid of himself in favor of an artificial personality
without punishment. [] Just as, for the purpose of individuation, or
self-realization, it is essential for a man to distinguish between what he
is and how he appears to himself and to others.16 [] I might just as
well learn to distinguish between what I want and what the

Let us remember here the two level of distorting the truth; the one measured against others, the
second measured against one self.

Ali Deeb 30
unconscious thrusts upon me, as to see what my office demands of me
and what I myself desire. [] I can assert that my ego is personal or a
personality, and in exactly the same sense I can say that my persona is
a personality with which I identify myself more or less. The fact that I
then possess two personalities is not so remarkable, since every
autonomous or even relatively autonomous complex has the peculiarity
of appearing as a personality. (The Basic Writings of C. G. Jung. 207211)
What Jung tries to say here is that any identification with one part of the self results in
alienating the other part. This alienation makes the other part separated from the
conscious and thus self-regulating; it becomes an independent personality. Thus the
self is split into personalities; these personalities will assert themselves as they try to
dominate the individual in turn every now and then. Augustine tries to identify
himself with the new identity (the saint) as he thinks that the sinner is not part of him
anymore, while Douglass tries to identify himself with the literate free man believing
that he has separated himself form that old illiterate slave. The struggle between the
two personalities energizes the whole narration in the two cases; one personality is
trying to delete the other. Both of the writers are motivated by this struggle to write
their autobiographies, and they end their works feeling that they have solved the
struggle and achieved a new personality; while in fact they have just hidden it from
their conscious. It is quiet interesting to listen to what Douglass' acquaintances said
about him in his private life, after acquiring his new "persona". Richard D. Webb tells
us; "F. Douglass was a very short time in my house before I found him to be absurdly
haughty, self possessed, and prone to take offense" (qtd. in "Bold Defiance"). Jung
states directly that "Whoever builds up too good a persona for himself naturally has to

Ali Deeb 31
pay for it with irritability" (The basic Writings of C. G. Jung. 207). The change in
Douglass' personality is not without a price, and the transformation Douglass tried to
paint to his audience is not real. Even Augustine complains that he is still imperfect;
although he becomes a celibate, physical desires still follow him in his dreams:
Art Thou not mighty, God Almighty, so as to heal all the diseases of
my soul, and by Thy more abundant grace to quench even the impure
motions of my sleep! Thou wilt increase, Lord, Thy gifts more and
more in me, that my soul may follow me to Thee, disentangled from
the birdlime of concupiscence; that it rebel not against itself, and even
in dreams not only not, through images of sense, commit those
debasing corruptions, even to pollution of the flesh, but not even to
consent unto them. (Book X) [Emphasis is mine]
Augustine's situation is a perfect example of what Jung calls the compensation of the
The construction of a collectively suitable persona means a formidable
concession to the external world, a genuine self-sacrifice which drives
the ego straight into identification with the persona, so that people
really do exist who believe they are what they pretend to be. The
"soullessness" of such an attitude is, however, only apparent, for under
no circumstances will the unconscious tolerate this shifting of the
center of gravity. (The Basic Writings of C. G. Jung. 206-207)
Augustine's dreams here are nothing but an expression of the unconscious objection to
this identification with the persona. Let us remember that the two selves are in
conflicts constantly as long as each one works to delete the other.

Ali Deeb 32
The change in the writer's personality, which is achieved with time, is not
wholly fictional; the new self is a part of each writer, and yet it is not his whole
personality. This change should not be taken as a kind of transformation; it is only
new experiences added to the old. This is the mistake which both of the writers made
in their journey; they believed that acquiring a new identity is to delete their old one
(in a way or another)17. Thus, stating that the change is fictional does not mean that it
did not happened, nor does it mean denying the new identity. Actually denying any
identity means to identify with the other, and here comes the source of fiction; it is the
claim the writer's true self is this or that very identity. It might seem paradoxical that
in order to distinguish the persona, and the anima, from the real personality, one needs
to unify them! However, this apparent paradox is due to a misunderstanding. The
individual needs not to identify with, but to fully assimilate those personalities into his
conscious ego; a thing that is much different from identification with them.
Identifying with one part of the self entails denying and alienating the other.
"Individuation" means to distinguish oneself from one part of it without identifying
with the other; actually it is to distinguish it from both parts. Jung argues that we can
not distinguish ourselves from something unconscious; thus, we need first to bring it
to consciousness by owning it; when we become conscious of this identification, only
then we know that this part is not ourselves, and only then we can differentiate it from
the real ego.
After understanding the three parts of the self, how they are formed and how
they can be distinguished, we can grasp the idea that Augustine is neither fully a
sinner, nor completely a Christian; he is simply both, and merely none! His 'real' self
is subjected to forces from without, and from within; the social demands on the one

It would have been more accurate if they thought that time is simply an accumulation of experiences;
it is true that a person is not merely what he was in the past, yet he is not merely what he has changed
in the present; actually he is both.

Ali Deeb 33
hand, and the unconscious impulses one the other hand. In this sense he is neither the
sinner not the saint (however this negation is not disavowing the two identities but
differentiating them from the ego). True Augustine is some identity in between he
failed to distinguish because of his identification with his old self earlier, then with his
new one later. Similarly, Douglass is neither an illiterate slave, nor an educated free
man; both of two selves exist in him, but they do not make what he is because he is
not supposed to identify himself with any. When the writer owns both identities, the
identification with one of them is broken; once this identification is broken he can
distinguish his ego from both of them. This is a fact both Douglass and Augustine
couldn't realize as they wrote their narratives establishing their new identities; it is
that they didn't have to identify with neither the old self, nor the new one.
To conclude, by writing their autobiographies, Douglass and Augustine
attempted a solution for their invisible psychological conflicts. They sought a kind of
therapeutic value in their writings as they searched for their lost selves, and yet they
were tempted to grab at the first emerging identity and identify with it. Thus, they
shaped their lives in a way that made them feel better as they separated themselves
from their old ones, and they reinforced their new selves through different
autobiographical conscious and unconscious techniques. Because they never knew
that the answer lied somewhere else, the solution they got was rather an opiate. They
fail to reach self-realization (or achieve individuation) as they could not own their two
selves together. The two writers worked hard to keep a distance between the old self
and the new one as they shifted their identification from one to the other. Instead of
bringing their fragmented parts together at equal footing, they just end up shattering

Ali Deeb 34
them further by giving the new selves the authority18 at the expense of disowning the
old ones; this is how their true selves never saw the light of day.


To prove this identification it is enough to notice how the commenting narrating self is not a third
party, but the same new one. The writers fell into the illusion that their true selves were the new ones,
and they worked carefully to make these new selves perfect.

Ali Deeb 35

Works Cited
Anderson, Linda. Autobiography. London: Routledge, 2001.
"Biography." Encyclopdia Britannica. Ultimate Reference Suite. DVD.
Chicago: Encyclopdia Britannica, 2009.
Brewton, Vince. "'Bold defiance took its place' 'respect' and self-making in Narrative
of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave." The Mississippi
Quarterly. 19 July 2009
Bornstein, Lawrence A. "Relativity." Microsoft Student 2008. DVD. Redmond, WA:
Microsoft Corporation, 2007.
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For further development

I can add Adler theory about repression. Adler believes that the
individual tends to repress what is feminine in him/her and enforce the
masculine side. The old identity can be considered feminine while the
new masculine.
Celibacy on the other hand in Augustine can be studied in the light of
oedipal complex in Freudian theories. As to Douglass, I have not think
of it yet.
Kant philosophy thus tells us that any of the applied approaches do not
hold the truth about the materials; they only show us certain aspect of
them which appears in experience (applying the certain theory).