Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
The analysis of book by Harriet Jacobs “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl”
Slavery has been the wicked phenomena in the world. Slavery is very unnatural and aggravates mixed outlooks from the perspective of every person. Some of the people still face slavery in the present times. Other people do not necessarily understand that a person can treat another individual as a slave. In definition, slavery is one of the first forms of exploitation, where the slave becomes the property of a slave owner. The book by Harriet Jacobs (2009), “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl” provides the description of slavery in America. The author of the book is the narrator herself in the book and she describes the life as a slave. In the autobiography, she recounts the experiences before she was fled from the slavery and she portrayed the sexual history while she was a slave. Slavery in America was a legal institution of the human chattel enslavement, majorly the African Americans and the Africans who lived in the country in the 18th and 19th centuries after the independence of the nation and before the American civil war ended. Slavery was practiced in America from the colonial era and it was legal at the period of the declaration of independence in the year 1776.
Realization of the slavery
During Harriet early life, she did not realize that she was a slave and she lived with her father and mother in a relatively secure and comfortable life. They lived together with her extended family. This was not common for a number of reasons the first being that Harriet came from the family which was unclear and she was never treated poorly when she was a child. “They lived together in a comfortable home; and, though we were all slaves, I was so fondly shielded that I never dreamed I was a piece of merchandise, trusted to them for safe keeping, and liable to be demanded of them at any moment.” Harriet Jacobs, p. 7. Even though her parents passed away when she was young, the grandmother was the central figure in her life and she was able to provide her with security, comfort, unrelenting love and moral guidance. When Harriet realized that she was a slave she was startled and when she learned that she was never going to reverse this information and she stuck in the psychological trauma of having the knowledge that she was just a piece of property.
Justification of slavery
One of the methods which the slaveholders were justifying the slavery was through the enforcing of the claim that the slaves were not actually human beings. They were barbarous, inferior and savage is all kinds of ways. The slave who thought that he poses the values of tried to inoculate similar values in the other slaves was seen dangerous and most oppressed. The father of Harriet tried to teach his kids that they had their worth but this was against the desire of the slaveholder to be able to keep the slaves dumb and docile. Benjamin the uncle to Harriet also proclaimed his self-rule and by refusing to obey the master he was punished severely.
Female Discourse in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
Beyond the brutalities that all slaves endured, females suffered the additional anguish of sexual exploitation and the deprivation of motherhood. In “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl,” Harriet Jacobs focuses on racial subjugation but also gives voice to a different kind of captivity that men impose on women regardless of color. This form of bondage is not only exacted from women by men, but also accepted and perpetuated by women themselves. Jacobs’ narrative gives a true account of the unique struggles of female slaves, a perspective that has received relatively little historical attention, and how even within this tremendously challenging situation one can strive for liberation.
Community and personal relations are portrayed as a key element in shaping the female slave’s experience. Jacobs attributes the success of her escape to a communal effort, but the importance of relationships in her narrative extends far beyond this aspect of her story. First, the slave mother’s central concern is her relationship with her children. This relationship is the reason Jacobs does not escape when she might, but later it is the reason she becomes determined to do so. By emphasizing the importance of family and home throughout her narrative, Jacobs connects it to universal values with which her Northern readers will empathize. She goes on to point out that the happy home and family are those blessings from which slave women are excluded.
Jacobs reveals that she was taught to read and spell by her first mistress. Her ability to read makes her vulnerable to her master’s harassment; he begins pressing his immoral attentions on her through vulgar notes, which forces Jacobs to feign illiteracy. After Jacobs escapes to the North, her former master continues to harass her through letters, sometimes threatening her and other times attempting to lure her into returning. While her ability to read makes Jacobs vulnerable to her master’s abuse, it is, nonetheless, a source of power for her. For example, even before she reaches the North she is able to arrange for her letters to be sent from several northern cities.
Jacobs’ decision to take a white man other than her master as a lover is more complex than a ‘poor choice’ that rejects virtue in favor of illicit sex. The choice of virtue and marriage is denied to her, and Jacobs’ only opportunity for asserting her sovereignty lies in the act of choosing. She chooses one illicit union over another, explaining, “It seems less degrading to give one’s self, than to submit to compulsion. There is something akin to freedom in having a lover who has no control over you, except that which he gains by kindness and attachment” (71). Jacobs accepts responsibility for her choice, emphasizing that she “did it with a deliberate calculation” (70). While she aspires to the same ideals of virtue and purity as her white readers, she stresses that for the slave girl, and the conditions of slavery, this ideology is simply unattainable. Jacobs fully acknowledges her transgressions against conventional sexual morality when she was a slave girl. At the same time, however, she articulates an indisputable truth—that the morality of free white women has little ethical relevance or authority when applied to the situation of enslaved black women in the South.
Even at the end of the narrative, after Jacobs is freed, she has not fulfilled her desire in attaining her own home. No longer legally bound to a white master, she still feels morally bound to the woman who has bought and freed her, and thus she remains a domestic servant in another woman’s home. Jacobs identifies the institution of slavery as the source of misery and believes it to be the primary threat to the ideals of home and family that her readers value. The threat of slavery to the domestic ideal is most evident in its indifferent dismantling of slave families, separating parents from children for monetary gain. At the same time, Jacobs describes the misery that slavery causes in white slaveholding families, with the shameless acts of the master detracting from the morality and happiness of his entire family. Harriet Jacobs vividly depicts the horrors suffered by the female slave.
The Difference Between the Lives of Black & Whites During Slavery in Harriet Jacobs’ Book “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl”
Glancing through the critical lens of Mary Louise Pratt, we can see different contact zones in Harriet Jacobs book Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. An obvious is the difference between the lives of black and whites during slavery, and different zones lie underneath the skin and involve relationships and connections. Most eminent are the connections that Harriet Jacobs joined amid her vicarious servitude. We can see many contact zones in her book, for example, the general battle of oppression and freedom, her association with Mr. Sands, Mr. Flint and the readers.
The topic of contact zones lies in the purposeless battling among freedom and subjugation. Harriet Jacobs is in a consistent battle in physical, and mental domain. Pratt depicts the zones as “social spaces where cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other, often in contexts of highly asymmetrical relations of power, such as slavery.” Pratt highlights the fundamental issue with Jacobs, slavery. In this account of bondage, we see the social spaces, connections and battling that Pratt talks so articulately of.
First their social space is never sufficiently substantial. They are constantly held down and mistreated. Wherever life may take them they will always be in chains. Their masters on the other hand control whom they will see and know. In other words they will control their relationships. They are in complete domination of another person constantly being mistreated and used. A statement from Abraham Lincoln describers the third angle, the fight occurring, “Slavery is founded on the selfishness of man’s nature – opposition to it on his love of justice. These principles are in eternal antagonism; and when brought into collision so fiercely as slavery extension brings them, shocks and throes and convulsions must ceaselessly follow.”
To summarize, he portrays the fighting smoothly – constantly battling, never very still. The relationship between Mr. Sands and Jacobs is a prime example that falls under the contact zone. As we probe this connection among Jacobs and Mr. Sands, it is fascinating to inspect how this contact zone was made, why it was kept up for so long, and how this contact zone clashed with other contact zones and within itself.
The start of this contact zone was on the activity of Mr. Sands. He continually looked for chances to see Jacobs, and wrote letters to Jacobs as often as possible. His sensitivity and his aching to help her energized Jacobs and complimented her because she viewed him as a superior person and was to gain his attention meant a lot. It is intriguing to take note of that the contact zone among Jacobs and Mr. Sands happened outside the bounds of slavery; but it does not take away the fact that her being a slave had a lot to do with their relationship. Also, it was a companionship that wasn’t constrained upon Jacobs by subjugation, rather a consensual relationship from both sides.
Despite the fact that this relationship was not profoundly unbalanced like Jacobs and Dr. Flint’s relationship, Jacobs takes note of distance and social class between them, and we can see the conflict inside it while looking into the reasons that this relationship proceeded. In looking at Jacobs’ explanations behind proceeding with this relationship, we discover three intriguing reasons. Initially, she expressed “there is something akin to freedom in having a lover who has no control over you, except that which he gains by kindness and attachment.” So we see that Mr. Sands honeyed words and sensitivity had persuaded Jacobs it was a “great thing to have such a friend” in Mr. Sands.
Jacobs acknowledged rapidly what new potential outcomes this relationship offered with respect to exact retribution on Dr. Flint. She contemplated, “I knew nothing would enrage Dr. Flint so much as to know that I favored another; and it was something to triumph over my tyrant even in that small way.” Along these lines, we see that Jacobs hauled out of this relationship whatever she can for herself and utilized it for her leverage, which is justifiable in her situation. This is likewise clear in the third reason she specified for proceeding with this relationship. She clarified this reason in this explanation, “I thought [Dr. Flint] would revenge himself by selling me, and I was sure my friend, Mr. Sands, would buy me.
I thought my freedom could be easily obtained from him.” Now that we’ve looked at Jacobs perspective of this relationship through contact zones, let us move to the reasons Mr. Sands facilitates this relationship. In examining for Mr. Sands’ reasons the content does not talk plainly on this issue as it does for Jacobs point of view. Although, a perception can be made for Mr. Sands’ reasons in view of Jacobs’ responses and reactions. I think that it’s fascinating that a white, unmarried man would take such a great amount of enthusiasm for a youthful, African-American slave girl. She expressed, “it chanced that a white unmarried gentleman had obtained some knowledge of the circumstances in which I was placed. He knew my grandmother.”
At first, his reasons appear to be exclusively reliable and earnest as he endeavored to help Jacobs in her troublesome situation. In any case, Jacobs made no say of Mr. Sands taking interests in Dr. Flint’s different slaves. Wouldn’t Mr. Sands have acknowledged as Jacobs expressed, “He was an educated and eloquent gentleman; too eloquent, alas, for the poor slave girl who trusted in him.” One can envision how Mr. Sands could have utilized this further, bolstering his good fortune and spoke to Jacobs, who was 15 at the time, by regarding her as an equivalent individual and playing to her feelings.
Moreover, Jacobs expressed that “the wrong does not seem so great with an unmarried man,” and we discover later that Jacobs was a soon to be mother. Consequently, we can reason that Mr. Sands’ motivations were not absolutely true. There was clearly something more to his goals, conceivably even from the earliest starting point of their relationship. Might I venture to inquire? Could this be on the grounds that this poor slave girl was believed to be simple prey by the informed and expressive man of his word Mr. Sands? Since we have addressed Mr. Sands’ reasons, how about we proceed onward to how this contact zone caught and conflicted with other contact zones and with Jacobs’ ideals.
The greatest impact this relationship appeared to have is on Jacobs. In the wake of telling Dr. Flint that she would have been a mother, promptly she expressed, “My self-respect was gone! and now, how humiliated I felt!” We can see here that this relationship or contact zone conflicted with who Jacobs needed to be. She expressed, “I had resolved that I would be virtuous, though I was a slave. I had said, ‘Let the storm beat! I will brave’.” Another contact zone this relationship conflicted with is the one among Jacobs and Dr. Flint.
We see from Dr. Flint’s announcement to Jacobs, “‘you are my slave, and shall always be my slave. I will never sell you, that you may depend on’,” that this association with Mr. Sands exploded backward on Jacobs and drove Dr. Flint to something she had not anticipated. One of the advantages Jacobs needed to escape to freedom was her association with Mr. Sands as her opportunity. In any case, we see from that explanation that Dr. Flint was so irritated by this relationship that he would not ever offer her.
The following contact zone this relationship disturbed is the one among Jacobs and her grandma. At the point when Jacobs went to admit that she would have been mother to her grandma, Jacobs was requested to leave and shut the door on the way out “with a sound I never heard before.” She requested to see her grandma later in the story and she at long last came to Jacobs. Jacobs expresses that her grandma, “did not say, ‘I forgive you’; but she looked at me lovingly,” and felt sorry for Jacobs. Since we have now inspected the contact zone among Jacobs and Mr. Sands, let us investigate Harriet Jacob’s association with her owner Dr. Flint who mistreated her in sexual and emotional ways.
Review of Mary Rowlandson’s Biography, the House Slave, and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
Slavery is a common literature issue that is mentioned in works from the past and present day. Despite its negative connotations and implications of abuse, slavery is a common practice for a large portion of the world still. Slavery is a means for cheap labor, easy exploitation and to do illegal activities via another individual. However, in the three following personal narratives, the female protagonists share a common character trait: strength. Despite being in scenarios and situations that succumb to powerless roles for women, each heroine is able to give a glimpse of a future that embodies powerful actions by women, instead of having to wait on a man to assist them. All give women the hope and motivation to retain strength, despite society’s standards and their withheld positions.
In Mary Rowlandson’s autobiography on her own experiences as a Native American captive, she transforms from a frail damsel in distress to an independent spirit. Though Mary is terrified about being captured, she remains to have high spirits regardless of her current living situation. Since Mary is more optimistic, the tribe is friendlier with her as well. In one instance, Mary is given food to eat that is plentiful, because she passes the tribe’s test. “Another squaw gave me a piece of fresh pork, and a little salt with it, and lent me her pan to fry it in; and I cannot but remember what a sweet, pleasant and delightful relish that bit had to me, to this day” is one of the many positive points from Mary during her captured state (Rowlandson, 177).
The most obvious reason for Mary’s strength due to her faith in Jesus Christ and God. She realizes that to make it alive out of her condition, she must be on friendly terms with the same people who captured her. The longer that Mary is there, the more she connects biblical text with the everyday life interactions around her. For example, Mary uses the following verse to show her appreciation to the Native woman who feeds her: “He made them also to be pitied of all those that carried them captives (Psalm 106.46) [Rowlandson, 174].” Mary’s constant use of biblical text begin to rub off on the tribe, who finally agrees to free her. Mary’s survival was solely based on her consistency to show she is harmless. In the House Slave, however, the strength of the servant goes further.
Dove’s “The House Slave” is a literature piece that gives many the visualization of slavery that they have been anticipating. Instead of being a true story told, The House Slave is a basic summary of how the majority of African slaves feel with a slight plot twist at the end. As Dove insists, “The first horn lifts its arm over the dew-lit grass and in the slave quarters there is a rustling (Dove, 1384),” describes the true environment of slavery in the United States. There was not peace in this era; instead, the slaves were expected to get up and start on their jobs, whether or not their masters were awake as well. They were to follow through with the orders or to be beaten. Chore began at this time, but the main character was not on the same wavelength as her peers.
Instead, she is describing these incidents with slaves waking up for the morning and already being tormented with nostalgia. Her sister yells, “Oh! Pray!” sounds at first like she is trying to save the main character from an incident. However, the case is different: she has already escaped. It is a nightmare that the slave is enduring, regretting that her family was left behind. “I weep. It is not yet daylight (Dove, 1385),” is reminiscing on the dream of her memories, but not regretting her decision to leave. She was strong enough to be on her cot, by herself, but she remembers the family she had to leave behind to have the life she does. However, it does not take away her memories, which has her feeling guilty for not bringing her sister along. Harriet Jacobs relates to Dove in her own autobiography, stating a sense of guilty and nervousness for being an intersectional case of slavery.
Harriet Jacobs was the first ever freed female slave to write a book on her circumstances. She is the author of Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, which narrates her upbringing from her days as a slave to when she was able to be freed by her friend. Jacobs disguised the story as being her own when calling the main character Linda, but she also wants the Northern population to be aware of the circumstances of slaves living in the South. Considered a fugitive to the South, Jacobs ends up accomplishing her goal after many years of abuse. Sadly, she had to even relinquish the right to ever see her children, who were also being enslaved, despite an agreement to keep their children safe from the grips of the slavery system.
Jacob’s (or Linda’s) tipping point was seeing the treatment of her children in the North and the treatment of slaves in the system. As she summarizes her point, “I can testify, from my own experience and observation, that slavery is a curse to the whites as well as to the blacks (Jacobs, 619),” Jacobs makes note of how slavery affects all. Though she was able to use psychological tactics and manipulation to save herself from her master’s lust, she also knew that plenty were victimized. She also knew that it hurt the white families as well, in the comments about the system. “It makes the white fathers cruel and sensual; the sons violent and licentious; it contaminates the daughters, and makes the wives wretched,” optimizes the viewpoint of Jacob’s, which is to give slaves their independence and end a vicious cycle, that continues to spread like a disease in the South.
For Jacobs and Dove’s character, slavery continued thanks to the pigment in their skin. While Mary was a white woman who was released, she also had to use tactics to be freed. All three showed mental strength in their arguments and discussions, noting how one must be willing to break the world to be freed or gain their freedom. Despite the knowledge of the Native American and European fights and the African slave trade, slavery still happens today, with the majority of it involving sex slavery in human trafficking. If there is anything these three female characters taught the audience, it is how to stand up for yourself in incidences that are not right, and how to continue to be a strong person, despite what society wants from you.
Main Themes in the Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs
As America begins to grow, the United States soon became known as the land of the free and opportunity. While this seems like an amazing way to be known, one thing that gave a major push was the Civil War which was ironically caused by the lack of freedom and opportunity. This caused a great division throughout the still young nation with the different views and ideas on how the government should respond to the growing problem of slavery. This time period can be best represented by Harriet Jacobs’ ability to effectively inform the reader and put into perspective on the struggles of being a slave during the Civil War era in her novel, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Harriet Jacobs’ story accurately represents the time period that it was written in by showing the way women were treated, the effects of the Fugitive Slave Act and white supremacy in the 1800s.
One example is the way that African women were often treated during the period. Jacob talks about how no slave girls will ‘learn to tremble when she hears her Masters football. She will be compelled to realize that she is no longer a child’. This quote is able to connect to the. Of the Civil War because it shows how quickly a young woman had to be expected to live. This also reveals how many were exposed to the inappropriate behaviors of many. Jacob also shows how women were viewed as if they had no value and were often whipped, raped and or shot unless they consistently benefited their owner.
Another example is Howard Jacobs is able to show the effects of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. In the book, Linda states that she ‘had but one hesitation, and that was my feeling of insecurity in New York now greatly increased by the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law’. In the beginning of the passage, Linda, the main protagonist, had little to no worries when it came to walking around, even on her own until further into the book, when the law is introduced Linda soon begins to watch her back at all times. Not only was this law passed but many feared for their safety whether they were free or enslaved, causing Linda became more cautious because her previous owner or Master, Dr. Flint was on the hunt for her. This law is important in the book because it causes Linda to be apprehensive throughout made you already of the book. The saw is also important to the period because it was a major trigger for the Civil War and caused extreme tensions between the North and the South.
Furthermore, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl gives great emphasis on white supremacy that existed and had a major impact on society and how it was run. The whites option view themselves as a higher rank of being and belittled the natives and African-Americans. Jacob’s often refers to the amount of racism in the eighteen-hundreds. In both history and in the book, whites often treated those of color terribly and were used as inhuman animals. In the book, a slave owner says to his slave, ‘Do you know that I have the right to do as I like with you, -that I can kill you, if I please?’. This shows that most slave owners felt as if they were more Superior and that slaves were nothing but disposable property.
Taking the readers through the life of a slave girl, Jacobs was able to show the point of view of a slave girl who was often physically, mentally and sexually abused. Jacobs was able to successfully depict the ways women were treated, the effects of the Fugitive Slave Act, and white supremacy during the Civil War era in her book, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.
Incidents In The Life Of A Slave Girl By Harriet Jacobs: The Real Slaves’ Life And Religion
The book Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs is an important piece of writing that sheds light on what life as a slave was really like. The book goes into detail about the terrible things that happened to one slave named Linda. This book also gives examples of how the many slave owners that claimed to be Christian disobeyed so many of the rules, but most commonly the 10 Commandments. Many slave owners would use religion as a way to make sure that they had a clean reputation and as a cover if any rumors about them started to spread. This book also shows how slavery didn’t just have negative effects on slaves, but on slave holder’s wives and families.
One of the main historical events that happened during the book was Nat Turner’s rebellion. This was the first and only effective slave revolt that happened in the south. This rebellion resulted in the murder of 51 white people and scared other white settlers in the south. The Fugitive Slave Acts were another important historical event that happened during the writing of the book. These laws stated that any runaway slaves that escaped to the north could be captured and returned to their masters in the south.
When Linda was born a slave but, “never knew it” because Linda’s family lived in a comfortable home and weren’t treated how slaves typically were at the time. Linda faced a hard time, when at the age of six Linda’s mother passed leaving only her brother William, her father, and grandmother. The mistress that owned Linda’s mother takes responsibility for Linda, the mistress doesn’t makes Linda work hard but, the mistress does teach Linda how to read the bible. It was very rare for masters to want their slaves to be educated so Linda learning how to read was something that rarely happened for slaves. When Linda is 12 the mistress dies and in the will Linda and William are given to the mistress’ niece, 5 year-old Emily Flint. All that Linda and William have known so far are kind masters, when the siblings arrive at the Flint house hold it is completely different from how Linda and William have been treated their whole lives.
A year after being at the Flint household Linda and William received the news that their father has passed away. Linda’s grandmother tries to comfort Linda by saying that God has saved Linda’s parents from “evil days to come.” Instead of letting Linda see the body before the burial Mrs. Flint forces Linda to get flowers ready for a party. Mrs. Flint was horrible to the slaves in many other ways for example, instead of letting the slaves in the family’s leftover food Mrs. Flint would spit in it so the slaves could not eat it. This would not have been as bad if Mrs. Flint would have provided the slaves with enough food to keep themselves healthy, because of this Linda and William had to turn to their grandmother for food and clothing. Dr. Flint was not any better Linda claims to see Flint tie up and whip one of the slaves because the slave claimed that Dr. Flint was the father of the slave wife’s baby. The Flints went to church every Sunday but their actions would not show it. The family is a great example of how ironic the actions of slave owners that claim to be Christian can be.
Linda and William’s grandmother was bought by a kind lady and was set free and gave God all of the glory for being able to survive slavery and tells the siblings to “pray for contentment” but Linda cannot use religion as a reason to endure slavery, instead Linda uses religion as a reason to try and escape slavery because Linda believed that it could not have been “the will of God” for William and herself to live in slavery.
When Linda begins to go through puberty Dr. Flint begins to make advances and whispers inappropriate things to Linda in an effort to make Linda submit to Flint, but the “pure principles” that Linda has been taught give Linda the strength to stand up against Flint. Mrs. Flint is aware of Dr. Flints actions towards the slaves but instead of being angry towards Dr. Flint, Mrs. Flint blames the slaves for her husband’s actions and tries to keep a watchful eye on her spouse. Dr. Flint was so determined to get with Linda that Flint begins to write Linda letters with the same foul language that has been whispered to Linda in the past. In an effort to get closer to Linda, Dr. Flint moves their youngest daughter’s crib into a room close to the couples and forces Linda to sleep in the room as well. When Mrs. Flint discovers this, she is furious and requires that Linda swore on a bible to tell the truth about all of the wrongs that Dr. Flint has committed towards the slaves and Mrs. Flint, such as Mr. Flint having 11 illegitimate children with slaves. Linda tells the truth and can tell that Mrs. Flint is angry and frustrated because of this Mrs. Flint forces the sleeping arrangements to be switched so that Linda sleeps in the same room as Mrs. Flint. All of this shows how slavery can cause distrust between husband and wife and how slavery wasn’t beneficial for southern home life. This is also another example of the irony of Christianity in a slave owner’s home “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”
Throughout the whole book one of the main points that Linda conveys is that slaves have the same wants and desires as whites although they are not allowed to have them. An example of this is when Linda falls in love with a free-born carpenter who feels the same way towards Linda. Dr. Flint will not sell her and Mrs. Flint does not care if Linda is sold or not, but believes that slaves do not have the same right to happiness as free people do. Linda talks to a friend of her grandmothers to convinced Dr. Flint to sell Linda to the carpenter but Dr. Flint refuses. Because of this the only secure relationship in Linda’s life is the one with William, but even then there is always the fear that one of the siblings will be sold and they will never get to see each other again. Every person deserves to have one solid relationship where there is no worry about one of the people leaving, but slaves had no guarantee at a relationship like that because their family could be sold off in the blink of an eye.
Southern slave-holders would oftentimes use manipulation to keep slaves from running away. Slave owners would tell stories about runaway slaves in the north being starved to death and wanting to return to slavery because the conditions for slaves were so bad. Because slaves are uneducated and are not allowed to have their own thoughts, it is very easy for masters to trick their slaves into not wanting to run away. Southerners talk bad about Northerners in order to keep slaves from running away which demonstrates another way that southerners were not following Christian values such as “thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”
Dr. Flint still has not given up on getting Linda to submit herself to all of his desires. In order to avoid a scandal Dr. Flint informs Linda that there will be a cabin built outside of town where Linda will reside. When Linda sees the cabin actually being built, Linda starts talking to a single white man named Mr. Sands. Linda hopes that if things start to become physical with Mr. Sands it will anger Dr. Flint to the point of giving Linda up. Linda knows that if all of this works out the it was planned, Linda’s grandmother will be disappointed because Linda did not save herself for marriage. Linda also knows that this might be the one chance to get away from Dr. Flint for good. When Flint informs Linda that the cabin is done there is also some shocking news waiting for Dr. Flint, Linda informs the doctor that Mr. Sands is the father of their unborn child. Linda then goes to grandmother’s house to share the news, but Mrs. Flint bursts in and starts screaming at Linda and claims that Linda is pregnant with Mr. Flint’s child. Linda’s grandmother, so full of anger and disappointment, throws Linda out of the house. Linda walks for a few miles to a family friend’s house before grandmother comes to retrieve Linda. When this happens, Linda tells of all the abuse that has been endured that lead to the decisions that were made. Because of this grandmother forgives Linda and is understanding of the situation. Many slaves had to give up their religious and moral beliefs in order to please their masters, and to survive.
Soon after this Nat Turner’s rebellion occurs, this is a very monumental step in the direction of ending slavery and scaring slave owners because this was the very first slave rebellion and southerners did not want something like this happening again. After the rebellion masters want their slaves to attend church services “to keep them from murdering their masters.” All of the services are led by white men that will tell slaves to obey their masters and teach that slavery is the will of God. Linda begins to realize that many southerners use religion as a way to have a good reputation, but are not truly Christain and only want slaves to go to church services if what is being taught benefits the masters.
After Linda gives birth to Benjamin, Mr. Sands son, shortly after Linda falls pregnant with Sands again. This time Linda is expecting a girl who Linda ends up naming Ellen. Linda knows that when the children become older Mr. Flint will treat Linda’s children the same way that Linda was treated. The only solution is Linda, Benjamin, and Ellen fleeing to the North. Linda knows that this will be a tough task that will require a lot of planning. Linda knows that it will be impossible to flee to the North with two kids in tow, so Linda decides that the best plan is to hide in the crawlspace of grandmother’s house. Because of this Mr. Flint believes that Linda has escaped to the North and decides to sell Benjamin, Ellen, and William to a slave trader who works for Mr. Sands. Linda is overjoyed because Ellen and Benjamin will finally be free, Mr. Sands agrees to send Ellen to a relative that lives in New York. William escaped from Mr. Sands and went up North. Linda manages to get to New York where Ellen lives and stays with the Bruce family. This family is very kind to Linda and treat her with respect. After Mrs. Bruce dies Linda receives a letter from Emily Flint (now Mrs. Dodge) stating that if Linda returns to the south it will be a comfortable home where Linda might be able to eventually purchase freedom, Linda doesn’t reply. William decides to take Benjamin to work in California and Ellen is doing outstanding at school. Linda goes back to work for Mr. Bruce and take care of the new baby with Bruce’s new wife, who love and care for Linda. Around this time the Fugitive Slave Acts are passed and Mr. Flint knows where Linda is. Because of the Bruce’s adoration for Linda, Mr. Bruce sends Linda to hide in the countryside for a month before returning to New York.
Linda soon receives the news that Mr. Flint has died, but Mrs. Flint wants Mrs. Dodge to retrieve her slave. Mrs. Bruce and Ellen both encourage Linda to leave the city when the Bruces arrive. Once Ellen and Linda leave Mrs. Bruce negotiates with Mr. Dodge about selling Linda and taking away the claims on Linda’s children. When Linda’s freedom is bought Mrs. Bruce excitedly tells Linda right away to return home. Linda is welcomed with tears of joy, and finally, a free woman.
This book addresses the issue of the very little rights of women in the south, and the horrible things that slaves had to go through every day. Women knew that their husbands were unfaithful with the slaves on the plantations, but divorce was not an option and was a very taboo subject at the time. Southern white women just had to turn the other way and pretend to be oblivious to their husband’s actions. As for slave women their masters would abuse and rape them, and many times this caused the women to fall pregnant. Often times masters would have children with multiple slave women and everyone would know about what was happening because that was the only way to keep the masters wife, the slave women, and the illegitimate children safe.
The reason that Dr. Hancock chose this book is that it goes deeper into the topic of slavery which is something that was discussed in class. The book was also written when events such as Nat Turner’s Rebellion and the Fugitive Slave Acts occur, these were both topics that were discussed in class. This book shows what was going on in people’s lives during the time of these events and allows the students to learn more about these events.
The book Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl gives a first person point of view as to what slavery was really like. This book gives light to the sexual and physical abuse inflicted on slaves daily by masters that claimed to be Christian. Harriet Jacobs does not spare any details, although some of the topics were taboo at the time, the book was beautifully and should be read by everyone to realize just how much the world and society has improved since then.
Harriet Jacobs’ main reason for writing this book was to shed light on the terrible things happening to her personally and to fellow slaves. The book also showed the irony of Christians in the south, if these people claimed to be Christian then how could white people believe that owning slaves and treating them as if they weren’t human was ok?
Review Of The Book Incidents In The Life Of A Slave Girl By Harriet Jacobs
Harriet Jacobs is famous for her escape from slavery. Born in 1813 in Edenton, North Carolina, she persevered in the hands of her oppressors. Sexual abuse was part of her life as a child and growing up, but she successfully escaped. The experiences turned her into an impeccable author, creating the famous ‘Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl’ in 1861. It is a notable element that was rare at the time, considering she was a woman and a black one at that. It was among the fewest narratives written. She advocated for the rights of the blacks in the United States, becoming an abolitionist speaker, a social worker, and an educator. She was the daughter of Elijah and Delilah Knox, and a mother to Joseph and Louisa Matilda Jacobs. Harriet had a happy childhood with cherished moments with close family, friends, ad her mother’s mistress who helped raise her when her mother died. Most of her life is characterized by slavery, from her parents, her brother, to her grandmother. The aspect of religion came into her life through her mother’s mistress. She learned the precepts of God’s word through her, and later on, after a long struggle and escape, Harriet died in Washington DC in 1897.
Harriet had a memorable childhood around family, love, and friends. She only found out after six years of a happy family. The father was a carpenter and a slave as well. Once, he was the head workman because of his skills and intelligence. He had a great impact on Harriet as a father, not only a symbol of love for the family but of hope that one day they would be free. The family of mulattoes relied on the father who also had to pay his mistress 200 hundred dollars. He worked hard with the intent of buying his family back from his mistress. The author never thought herself as merchandise, considering how she was shielded and loved by the family. The maternal grandmother was precious in her life as well, who played a remarkable role in shaping her life. As older, as she grew, so was her intelligence. She would bake crackers for the children at night with permission from the mistress. Her popularity grew throughout the neighborhood, with several people asking her to cook for them. They later established a business that would buy their freedom. Harriet’s uncle, Benjamin, was like their brother and was a slave like the entire family, sold at an early age. Harriet’s mistress was kind and often let her play as a normal child should; she would run and jump outside and gather berries. She also had a little friend Fanny, who died young and in the hands of slavery. Her childhood in the hands of the mistress was nothing but good memories and happiness; she taught her how to read and write.
Dr. Flint was the new master after she was taken into a new household. Like most slaves, her brother was sold as well, to the same family. Her encounter and first impression of the new environment include cold words, treatment, and cold looks. He would weep and moan in bed alone. Slaves were irrelevant to Dr. Flint, especially when it comes to their diet. He was an embodiment of cruelty; sending shivers in the lives of the servants, making them suffer even for the smallest mistakes. If his will is not met, Dr. Flint will sell his servants to a slave trader, where they would experience further torture. He relentlessly tried to bend Harriet’s will coaxing her and whispering nasty words in her ear but never succeeded. He built Harriet a cottage away from his family so that the wife would not suspect anything. Her pea to marry a free black man was revoked violently, by the master. She went to the extent of conceiving a child for a white lawyer so that she would be sold. However, her attempts were not fruitful since she was never sold as a slave. He constantly harassed her, even planned to put them to work in the plantations. At this stage, she escaped and lived among her neighbors, both white and black. Her life worsened and considered slavery harder for women than men. She not only denied her child but also lived in deplorable conditions; mice and rats crawled on her in her poorly lit room without ventilation.
Part of her strategies to escape slavery includes being a mother and hiding for seven years. She had to live in a crawl place for seven years and only came out at night. She hides in her grandmother’s house within her master’s domain without them noticing. All these factors provide her with the opportunity to escape. It grants the opportunity to imagine and locating the resistance against slavery. After many years of hiding, Harriet’s friend Peter organizes another escape for her. At the end of the seven years, her hideout was often hit by storms and was falling apart. By the end of this time, the building is falling apart, and rainstorms often soak her. She has to endure further the long treacherous journey to Philadelphia as a way to seek freedom. Here, she meets with new people, a slave Fanny, the captain, and his crew, who becomes her close allies.
The aftermath of Nat Turner’s rebellion is a significant part of Harriet’s life. There are conflicting ideas about brotherhood and morals. The Christian doctrine teaches about brotherhood and love, seeing all the amoral behavior and the brutality that people who claim to be Christian change her perception. Here, she addresses the problems facing the black community. There is lawlessness, unlawful searches, and ransacking of slave cabins. The black people were terrorized, and they were generally perceived as rebels. She begins to get an insight into the concept of religion against what society is doing. She describes the difference between religion and Christianity and the difference between whites and blacks. The spirituality for the blacks was more rooted in their ancestral Africa, and the hypocrisy the whites depict in trying to denounce these religions. In short, she shows how the whites thought that their culture was inferior.
From the experiences Harriet had in her life as a slave, it is evident that slavery is cruelty against humankind. People are used, demeaned and demoralized by other races to a level of utter inferiority. The most troubling aspects of being a slave include being a woman and being manipulated by one’s master to do his sexual bidding. It is risky since there is nobody to protect them from harm. Another factor is the ransacking of slaves cabins with the notion they are rebels, treating them like animals, and being sold like merchandize.
The book is an interesting piece of history that we cannot ignore at all. Slavery took place and various devastating effects on people. Not only did it demoralize people, but it also planted a seed of hate that gave birth to racism. The book is a real picture of transpired in the past and its gruesomeness. However, it also gives hope since, in the end, slavery is banned, and the struggles of the freedom fighters bear fruit. I would recommend the book to both young and adult audiences since it bears facts and motivation to have hope even when it appears blurry.
Depiction Of The Attitude To Women Slaves In Incidents In The Life Of A Slave Girl By Harriet Jacobs
From the time of Ancient Egypt to the present day, millions of slaves have lived and died nameless for history. Their life did not belong to them, their bodies did not belong to them, and even more so they did not own their names, they were renamed as easily as their masters wanted. The brighter the history of those who remained in the memory of humanity is something more than the subject of buying and selling a “two-legged cattle”, powerless property. The first works that laid the foundation of African-American literature were the narrations of slaves. These are autobiographical narratives told to white copyist editors or written by the fugitive or liberated slaves themselves. Most often, the authors of such stories became men, but there are a small number of works of this genre written by women. They include Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs, researched in this analysis using the comparative-stylistic method, the motivational and biographical methods.
Harriet Ann Jacobs was a black slave born in captivity from the outset of the 19th century. She was born in a family of the mulatto roofer and slave from the tavern, and they belonged to different owners. Harriet’s mother passed when Harriet was six, and the mother’s mistress took the baby to her upbringing. This was a colossal success for the future writer, because she learned to read with her mistress – in the narratives of slaves, the authors recall how could they learn to write and read, they certainly remember the first books or the letter they read; the most important books for them, symbolizing the letter itself, reflect on the role of literacy, letters, books in their lives. The mistress died when Harriet was twelve. Under the will, Harriet should have passed into the possession of the mother of the mistress, but things changes so that Harriet found herself a slave to James Norcom. He harassed Harriet from the moment she got it into his property. He also denied her requests to marry anyone. In 1861, Harriet Jacobs published a book under a different name in which she frankly spoke about the rape of black slaves. She bitterly recalled how the masters talked about the Christian faith and virtues, but quietly violated the commandments when it came to slaves – the same Christians, and they confessed the faith at the insistence of the masters. Like the pagans of ancient Rome, many owners enjoyed bloody spectacles. And every slave owner, without exception, raped his slaves, considering his own children from the same slaves, considering them as not their own flesh and blood. The book came out incredibly scandalous – not because of the general information that was probably known to many, but because of its frank presentation.
In addition to black women, Irish and Gypsy women were constantly raped during the colonization of America. They were frankly used to get more black slaves, putting them under men from a very young age. The mulatto daughters of these European slaves were used in the same way and from the same years. By the nineteenth century, this practice had already disappeared, but its victims were thousands of girls and women – because of the greed of the slave traders and slave owners. Like any other type of narrative biography, the narrations of slaves were built according to certain rules. For example, in the genre of slave narratives, the authors of which were men, literacy becomes the main tool in the fight against the system. Harriet Jacobs departs from this rule and gives birth to another tradition, which found its embodiment in the works of the next generations of female writers – African-American women.
The main idea that runs through the entire work of the author, is the idea of the incommensurability of the pain of many men and women survived in slavery. In her opinion, a woman is being a slave not because of subjected to all the trials that befell on men (overwork, hunger, flogging, and so on) but also becomes a victim of even more severe tortures, reserved by slave owners especially for her. According to Harriet, for women, slavery was much worse than for men, because they had much stronger suffering and humiliation, especially their own. By this torture, she means forced sexual slavery, which slaves were forced to endure. Even if their whole nature resisted this, in one way or another the hosts forced them to come to terms with another part of being in the South. Female authors try to reconsider these oppositions and prove (by the example of their heroines) that most of slaves did not embrace their fate imposed by slave owners, but retained their identity (both personal and ethnic). Slaveholders erased all possible sources of identification, even those that were given by nature, for example, gender and age. This practice began in childhood when slave children of both sexes walked almost naked due to lack of clothes, then adult men and women (not related by kinship) often slept in the same room. When evaluating a property, women were subjected to the same degrading examination as men. Most of men writers were silent about this side of slavery. They were forced to adhere to a defensive position so that with a careless word they would not cast a shadow over their entire race and preferred to avoid topics that could cause a negative attitude towards the African-American race. Harriet Jacobs could not follow their example if she was going to truthfully describe her story, because the whole life of a woman slave fell under what was considered a taboo in white society. It is not surprising that, in describing the shameful practice of sexual violence, she does not name the specific names of women known to her, but simply uses the pronoun “she” in a general sense. By Warner, Jacobs changed the names of cities and called all her familiars as fictitious names, because she believed that she acted humanly towards other people, besides that preserving their anonymity serves not only as a protection for runaway slaves and those who helped them, but also a proposal symbolic names in order to strengthen the role of certain figures.
Harriet Jacobs, as she was afraid of publicity, did not have the brass to publish her book under the real name, so she took the pseudonym Linda Brent, by whom her heroine became known. In her heroine, the writer shows another way to deal with the system. The very beginning of her narration differs from the models accepted then: after the first sentence, starting with “I was born” followed a little story about parents, with the reference to the white father. She even did not change the first phrase, but then she speaks of the happiest time of her life – her childhood as she was six years old, when she when she still could not understand her social status, because lived in her family, surrounded by the love and care of black parents. The story bears its own emotional load, especially when it comes to a forbidden sexual relations with a man of white race and the torment caused by her shame. The narrative gives the life through the eyes of a slave, its existence and the world, with details concerning personal life and perception, time and place, and the sequence of events. Harriet was a beautiful woman, which she often regretted, the Lord gave her beauty, but that turned out for her to be the greatest curse. The constant resistance that Harriet had to Dr. Flint did not mean that she did not pay attention to other men. How could a poor slave fight with her master and take over him? She decided to choose her own lover (a white unmarried man who showed interest in her), in this she felt something similar to freedom. She fell in love with her old friend, a free carpenter, who proposed to her and intended to buy her back. Harriet knew that Flint would not agree to sell her, and she would only marry a slave. Nevertheless, Harriet with trepidation asked Dr. Flint for permission to marry. According to Jacobs, Dr. Flint sprang upon her like a tiger and hit her very hard, her fear even did not enable her to control the anger because it was the very first time he had struck her, and when she had recovered, she exclaimed that she despises him. For almost a week after that, Dr. Flint looked at her very viciously and was silent. Soon, when he saw her talking to her lover on the street, he cursed her and beat her. Almost immediately Harriet repented, she was burned with shame, because, punishing the owner, she punished herself; because of her act, she lost what her relatives valued her for, humiliated herself, being the same as many other slaves. In desperation, Harriet asked her lover to move to a free state, saying that she would soon come to him with her brother. However, the flight was impossible. Harriet was under constant surveillance, she had no money. In the end, Harriet abandoned the dream and chose a different path for herself. The narrative is vibrantly emotional, it is rich with metaphors and comparisons: “tendrils of the heart,” “pious soul,” “ruthless hand.” The descriptions are rather detailed, the sentences have an easy-to-understand construction used to convey emotions and feelings, images and phenomena. Author’s use of the language shapes the mood of the narrative, she hoped that “the dark clouds around me would turn out a bright lining”. She is very expressive, she constantly asks questions (including rhetorical), exclaims and helps to feel the atmosphere, to visit those places about which she tells. Of course, there is a place to be a certain “imposition” of author’s experiences, however, it creates mood, conveys sensations. Some slaves committed suicide but someone found their shelter in faith.
Christianity turned out to be the religion of slaves in the South; religion provided the slaves not only ways to escape the trials of everyday life, but also the opportunity to establish themselves as individuals. That is why, for the Africans who found themselves in the New World, and their descendants, the first, for a long time, the Bible was the only and all-time book. Harriet Jacobs recalls how willingly, diligently and successfully, secretly from whites, under the real threat of cruel carts both for the teacher and for the student, Fifty-three-year-old Uncle Fred, who really wanted to learn to read the Bible, was learning to read, live by the word of God and be closer to God. Jacobs herself assesses literacy, the ability to read as “the Fountain of Life from souls that are thirsting for it”. In the Bible, they, the newly converted Christians, sought the highest truth, God’s revelation, Faith. The Christian religion and the Bible have had a profound effect on their worldview, moral values, life behavior, language, and artistic creation. Jacobs debunks the hypocritical religiosity of slave owners and contrasts it with the sincere, deep, humane faith of the slaves. The contrast that runs through the entire Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl is the true Christian virtues of her grandmothers, and the basics of life Dr, Flint lived with – hypocrisy, pharisaism, greed, and cruelty. Jacobs devotes a separate chapter XIII to the problem “Church and Christianity”, with spiritualism becoming a leitmotif, which satirically depicts Satan: “Old Satan is one busy ole man; He rolls dem blocks all in my way; But Jesus is my bosom friend; He rolls dem blocks away.”.
Jacobs used the spiritual as a satirical setting for the episode, which she often recalls as the undeniable proof of the unrighteousness of slave owners. During the prayer meeting in the Methodist Church, which was led by a person who bought and sold slaves, who had fallen into the spiritual with brothers and sisters – the parishioners of his church, he instructed God to pray to an unhappy mother slave, who had her last child sold the day before. The voice of this miserable and the cry of the mother, the contrast of her true faith and deepest sorrow are his pompous and hypocritical teachings. The whole chapter is a convincing and emotional proof of a paradox: not illiterate slaves, but slave owners – pagans who do not know the moral commandments of Christ. It is known that the basis of self-identification is laid in childhood due to the child’s communication with parents and other family members. Relationships in the family play an important role in the development of a person; they help not only to self-determine but also simply to survive.
Female authors describe the lives and relationships of their parents since most of them have dark-skinned fathers (only M. Prince is the daughter of white), they know the family history (parents tell their children about the family members sold, preserving them, which means bonding relatives). On the pages of the narratives of female authors, various relatives are constantly mentioned who in word and deed try to teach the heroines how to live (first of all, it concerns the moral and religious aspect), to assist them. In case if the slave’s mother died at an early age or they were early separated from each other, the image of the mother may appear to the daughter in visions and guide her, or some kind woman can replace the mother. It was Harriet’s grandmother who taught her how to act, she talked with her about the need for moral and spiritual purity, respect for the laws of morality. With respect to relatives, the grandmother showed her granddaughter what family is and how to treat relatives. She worked tirelessly to redeem her child, the children in return took care of her and paid with the same love. Jacobs attempts to deconstruct the central opposition “white – black” and shows the discrepancy between the skin color and the inner essence expressed by this color, a simple juxtaposition of the adjectives “white” and “black” to describe one person: “This white-faced, black-hearted brother came near us”. That is, she wants to show that the color of the skin does not determine the essence of a person, and that means such opposition is wrong. Also, in the stories of slaves written by female authors, we see heroines representing the community (that is, people who have managed to preserve ethnic identity). Even in slavery, they form their own identity under the influence of their family and the cultural heritage of the whole community; fighting to preserve self-esteem through faith, they decide to flee, first of all, for the sake of their children. As the result, Linda Brent in her work makes the family, kinship, and motherhood the main tools in the fight against slavery, the source from which a woman draws the strength to endure everything and fight to the end. She needed freedom only to be able to be a mother and lead a life worthy of respect. All the torment she went through, paid off a hundredfold when she saw her children from her shelter, which Dr. Flint had left with her grandmother because did not want to incur the expenses associated with them. Until her owner could reach her, he did not touch her children either, that is, they were safe, surrounded by the love and care of her loved ones.
Maternal love, supported by a strong character, becomes the main weapon of the girl in the fight against the owner. It was thoughts about children and care about them that pushed her to the decision to fight for freedom, because if she remained a slave, then she would have no rights to the children, and the owner could do whatever they wanted with them. Slavery deprived her of the simple joys of motherhood and the opportunity to lead a decent life, slavery was associated with the hardest trials, but it could not deprive her of the last and main consolation, comfort in her family. Other sources of struggle with the identity of a slave are religion and community among female authors. Most often, mothers teach their children to turn to God, because he is their comforter in grief and savior in a difficult situation: they have no other help. For them, God is not a formidable punishing judge, but a merciful savior.
Incidents of the Life of a Slave Girl
In “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl”, Harriet Jacobs writes, “Slavery is terrible for men; but it is far more terrible for women” (64). Jacobs’ work presents the evils of slavery as being worse in a woman’s case due to the tenets of gender identity. Jacobs elucidates the disparity between societal dictates of what the proper roles were for Nineteenth century women and the manner that slavery prevented a woman from fulfilling these roles. The book illustrates the double standard of for white women versus black women. Harriet Jacobs serves as an example of the female slave’s desire to maintain the prescribed virtues but how her circumstances often prevented her from practicing. Expectations of the women of the era, as stated in class discussions, resided in four arenas: piety, purity, domesticity and obedience. The conditions that the female slave lived in were opposed to the standards and virtues set by society. It resulted in the female slave being refused what was considered the identity of womanhood. It was another manner in which slavery attempted to eradicate the slaves’ value of themselves. Jacobs continually struggled to maintain these female virtues. Her belief in the ideas of piety, purity, domesticity and is highlighted in her admiration of one rare, benevolent mistress, The young lady was very pious… She taught her slaves to lead pure lives… The eldest daughter of the slave mother was promised in marriage to a free man; and the day before the wedding this good mistress emancipated her, in order that her marriage might have the sanction of law. (43) Piety was one of the subscribed to virtues. However, in order for one to be pious and obtain religious insight, it would be necessary to read the Bible. This would be an obstacle for the overwhelming majority of slave women as illiteracy was prevalent, Jacobs wrote, . “.. it was contrary to the law; and that slaves were whipped and imprisoned for teaching each other to read” (61). As Jacobs knew how to read and write, illiteracy was not an impediment. Yet, slaves were forbidden to meet in their own churches, another catch for the female slave attempting to keep the virtue of piety. Jacobs writes of the difficulties the slaves had in obtaining religious instruction after the Nat Turner insurrection, “The slaves begged the privilege of again meeting at their little church… Their request was denied” (57). A slave would only be allowed to practice the religion of their masters, . “.. the slaveholders came to the conclusion that it would be well to give the slaves enough of religious instruction to keep them from murdering their masters” (57). A typical sermon would consist of “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters… ” (57), this type of sermon had less to do with a woman’s piety than a slave’s obedience. Nevertheless, Jacobs exhibits piety in many fashions, despite these disadvantages. When services begin in the home of a free colored man, Jacobs was invited to attend as she could read, regardless of the risk to herself “Sunday evening came and, trusting to the cover of night, I ventured out” (57). Jacobs practiced piety as the dictates of the period demanded at a great risk to her safety. She taught a man to read the bible and begs of missionaries to recognize the need to instruct slaves in biblical studies. (61). Jacobs did not only speak of piety, but through these examples, but put it into action and could fulfill this one aspect of the female gender identity. The practice of purity was the virtue most denied to a woman in slavery. Men of society constructed the conventions, established the importance of purity in women. Purity was praised and rewarded in free white women and stolen from black slave women. The system worked against protection of slave women from sexual abuse by their masters. Sexual abuse of slave was not viewed as a criminal offense because she did not count as a woman. Rather, she was property of the owner, who could dispose of her body and he saw fit. Jacobs’ master explicitly stated, “He told me I was his property; that I must be subject to his will in all things” (26). Sexual harassment was taken as a matter of course, “I now entered my fifteenth year, – a sad epoch in the life of a slave girl” (26). Sadly, sexual abuse was accepted almost as a rite of passage for a female slave, that at a certain age, her purity would be stolen. A female slave could not expect to find safe harbor even from the other woman of the house, “The mistress, who ought to protect the helpless victim, has no other feelings towards her but those of jealousy and outrage” (26). As opposed to acting on behalf of the female slaves, the mistress saw the slave as the problem. Without any assistance, Jacobs consistently attempted to thwart her master’s sexual attempts in order retain her purity. Importance of this purity is highlighted in the passage describing her rebellion to build a separate house where he could be alone with her, I vowed before my make that I would never enter it. I had rather toil on the plantation from dawn till dark; I had rather live and die in jail, than drag on from day to day, through such a living death. (46). Jacobs viewed the preservation of purity as passionately as any woman but slavery had placed her in circumstances that left her its certain loss. Enslaved women could not even maintain purity if subscribing to the idea of sexual relations occurring within a marriage, as it was typically denied by law or the owner. Jacobs had fallen in love with a free black man We became mutually attached, and he proposed to marry me. I loved him with all the ardor of a young girl’s first love. But when I reflected that I was a slave, and that the laws gave no sanction to the marriage of such… 33) Jacobs is denied marriage to her lover by her owner, “Never let me hear that fellow’s name mentioned again. If I ever know of your speaking to him, I will cowhide you both… I’ll teach you a lesson about marriage free niggers! ” (35-36). However, Jacobs will not allow it to totally destroy her sense of self as a woman. While she has suffered abuse and harassment and the hands of Dr. Flint, Jacobs remained determined that Flint would not “succeed at last in trampling his victim under his feet,”(46). As she is not permitted purity, Jacobs decided to take a white lover. If she were to be forced to give up her purity it would be at least . “.. to a man who is not married… It seems less degrading to give one’s self, that to submit to compulsion” (47). The quotes show Jacobs’ recognition of the sanctity of marriage has well certain personal standards. Jacobs possesses a sense of self, she feels that she deserves to choose her own lover. Regarding her lover she wrote, There is something akin to freedom in having a lover who has no control over you except that which he gains by kindness… The wrong does not seem so great with an unmarried man, as with one who has a wife to be made unhappy (47). Jacobs used her own sexuality as a defense, since keeping her physical purity, a right to other women, had been denied to her. By choosing an unattached man, Jacobs explains that does retain a certain moral purity, as much as could be allowed in her situation The denial of a legal marriage and own a home with him ruled out the possibility for domesticity virtue to be achieved. The women in slavery were not married and living with their own husband and children. The master often used the female slave for breeding, the children taken from the mother and sold. Jacobs poignantly narrates this destruction of family through New Year’s Day auction of slaves, On one of these sale days, I saw a mother lead seven children to the auction-block. She knew that some of them would be taken from her; but they took all. The children were sold to
a slave-trader, and their mother was bought by a man in her own town. Before night her children were all far away. … I met that mother in the street, and her wild, haggard face lives to-day in my mind. She wrung her hands in anguish, and exclaimed, “Gone! All gone! Why don’t God kill me? ” I had no words wherewith to comfort her. Instances of this kind are of daily, yea, of hourly occurrence. (17) How could the female slave possibly exhibit domesticity in a system where such constructs were not permitted to her? Women in bondage lived in a society where their offspring were not their own, as children . “.. follow the condition of the mother… ” (37), they were but the property of the master to be taken and sold at his discretion. While domesticity was highly regarded for the white women, this was not applicable to a black slave “my mistress, like many others, seemed to think that slaves had no right to any family ties… (33). Yet, domesticity was one of the values that Jacobs most strove to maintain. She had the experience of a traditional family earlier in life speaking of how she had . “.. lived together in a comfortable home; and, though we were all slaves, I was so fondly shielded that I never dreamed I was a piece of merchandise… ” (9). Other black women apparently esteemed domesticity, as Aunt Marthy stated Ah, my child, …. Stand by your own children, and suffer with them till death. Nobody respects a mother who forsakes her children; and if you leave them, you will never have a happy moment” (75). Family and the attempt to preserve some sort of domestic was supreme. Jacobs viewed her refuge in the garret as a means to keep some semblance of domesticity and family life by being near her children. She suffered in seclusion for seven years, residing in the garret that . “.. was only nine feet long and seven wide. The highest part was three feet high… ” (91). Jacobs did in the name of family, in yearning for domesticity, for through all her discomfiture she was able to take solace and even joy in at least being able to be near her children, “But I was not comfortless. I heard the voices of my children” (92). Jacobs’ pains illustrate how strong of a desire for the domestic family life that was denied. Even after obtaining freedom for her children and herself, she writes, “The dream of my life is not yet realized. I do not sit with my children in a home of my own. I still long for a hearthstone of my own” (156). A traditional family life remained Jacobs’ most desiderate dream which she partially obtained in her freedom, but not in the same manner that a white woman could enjoy. The one aspect of the ideal Nineteenth century female that most slave women were able to achieve was that of obedience. It was not the same obedience that the free woman was expected to subscribe to – it was not obedience to her husband, God or family, but slave woman was expected full, unquestioning obedience to her master. This obedience was achieved by physical force and the slaves’ knowledge that they were nothing more than property. Obedience was the dictate Jacobs rebelled against. After the refusal of her request for marriage Jacobs recognizes her insolence to her master, “I know I have been disrespectful, sir… ut you drove me to it… ” (35). Jacobs could not acquiesce when such an action would be the complete destruction of her body and soul. The institution of slavery was complete subservience and annihilation of a female slave as an individual being. To practice that kind of obedience, to be submissive, would be certain death to Jacobs, whether in the physical or spiritual sense. Jacobs’ “disobedience” occurred when her piety, purity and domesticity where threatened. Instead, Jacobs exhorted obedience to the precept of morality. Moreover, she adhered to obedience of what was considered moral and just for white women. The prescribed of ideas of what construed womanhood in the 1800s surrounded a purity, piety, domesticity and obedience. Those were most of the characteristics that were not permitted for the female slave to practice or acquire. Examining the experiences of Harriet Jacobs in “Incidents of the Life of a Slave Girl”, one witnesses that while Jacobs desired to practice the dictates of her time slavery forced her to often do otherwise
The Incidents In The Life
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Conclusion
The autobiography of the Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Linda Brent, reveals why she decided to make her personal story public. In the autobiography, we could see how her life was before she was enslaved and the struggles she had to go through when she was a slave. Her parents take care of her for her first six years.
The death of her mother and her father resulted to be raised by her grandmother named Aunty Marty. Brent’s parents did not mention to her that she was a slave. She grew up with a better mentality rather than a person who knew they were owned by someone from the start.
Margaret Horniblow was her slave owner, she taught her to do things that many slave owners would not teach a slave until she passed away. She knew about literature and how to sew thanks to her mistress. After her mistress Margaret died when Linda was twelve, Linda got a new mistress she was five years old named Emily Flint. The five-year-old father Dr. Flint was the one who told Linda what to do. He was like a villain in the story. We could see in that he abuses of the power that the slave system gives him. He never showed a sign of sympathy for the way he would abuse the slaves.
Dr. Flint abuses Linda sexually but she is not left with her arms crossed, she actually gets into a relationship with a white man named Mr. Sands who is successful but she doesn’t love him and the result of that affair they had two children. Brent runs away from Dr. Flint and she hides for seven years in an attic. In this paper, I will form an argument on how the Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl provides evidence in white and slave cultures that shows the social construction of gender shaped workspace, family, and the type of access of education.
Education was not given to slaves because many slave owners saw them as a property. In their eyes they thought they had no need to learn anything. Education was exclusive to slaves it did not matter if you were a male nor female. However, if a slave knew how to read was because their masters or mistress taught them to, these masters or mistress were considered to be a sympathetic master. To have a sympathetic mistress or master was very rare. An example, for this, would be the fact that Linda knew English literacy and she was taught by Margaret Horniblow. White people did receive an education, women, and men were able to get an education.
The family was very important to both white and black people. However, being black was hard due to the fact that their families would always get torn apart. White slave owners were cruel because they did not feel sympathy for the children who were taken away from their mothers. A mother would do anything to get their children back but it was not easy, if the mother wanted her child back she had to purchase them as if they were some type of toy they were buying from the store. In the autobiography, it states how families were torn apart.
An example of this is her grandmother, Aunty Marty was separated from her kids, Benjamin and Philip. Aunty Marty became her own mistress, she bought her son Philip but never knew what happen to her son Benjamin after he was free. The family structure of a slave is how we could imagine it, males were in charge, as part of their job they had to provide to his owner but if the male slave did not have a family it would be the same structure but what changed is that he had to only support himself. Linda remained hiding in a space above the shed of her grandmothers for seven years in order to get freedom not only her but her two children.
The sacrifice she did was an act of true love for her family. Families would get separated no matter your gender, female and male slaves were treated the same in that aspect. A white person had it easy, they did not have to worry who was going to buy them and how were they going to be split apart or if they had to have enough money to get their children back from a slave owner. In a white person’s household was different they were never separated. The only reason a white person was separated from their family was that they were running away from them due to conflicts and different opinions that they shared.
Everybody would like to have a job in order to have money on his or her wallet and provide the bread for your family. If you were a female and male slave getting a job was not easy, typically slaves had a challenging job such as working in the plantation fields. Female slaves did everything at home, cook, clean, and bare children. In the autobiography states, how a female would cook for the master and if the master was not satisfied with food, the master would whip the female slave. Dr. Flit would force that slave to eat everything from her plate in front of him. Slave owners would have sexual desires for their slaves.
Slaves had to obey what their master told them to do if there was some type of resists they were punished. Having to be owned by someone was not easy, male slaves would get into arguments with their master and the arguments would escalate quickly when that happens they were punished, their punishment was not providing food for them. White people were not put through all of this, they did not have hard jobs because they would monitor slaves and owned slaves.
The autobiography was written during 1861. Her story was the beginning of a good change. Her story is mind-blowing, she had to face a difficult obstacle in order to be free, many people should read her story to learn about history. Throughout this course we saw males and female slaves were not very different. Both sex did not received education but males had more of an advantage the level of education they had was basic but it was something.
The family role was different for both sex because females had to do household activities and take care of the children in the other hand males had to provide income. Same goes with getting a job, women would not work and stayed home and males would work in the fields. White people’s life was not as challenging. Both sex had the opportunity to have an education and a job. Family roles were similar to slave women roles, they had to take care of their children. However, this is her story we can not rely on her insight. The way things that happen to her were very heart breaking but she was not the exception, if we dig more into more female slaves story her story would be similar to the rest of them. It is a good thing that a woman shared her story, we are used to males having more power than women and society views that as a correct thing.