Name: Course: Tutor: Date: A Critical Exploration of Female Slaves’ Condition as Depicted in Harriet Jacobs’ “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl” In the narrative, "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl", a former escaped slave, Harriet Jacobs depicts the lives of the female slaves with the cruelties and brutalities they had had to undergo during the era of slavery…
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It is because in male dominated society, female slaves were the worst sufferers of male lust. Also since women’s financial contribution was equal to their male counterparts’, they were often neglected the allowances which were normally granted to the male slaves. In the narrative, Jacob upholds the fact that the nineteenth century society was, in the first place, very much discriminatory to women. On top of it, slavery would permit the male dominated society to exert their brutal desires over the female slaves to the fullest extent. Such brutal treatment would never hold them accountable. In the narrative, Jacob shows that the evil of slavery puts the despotic males at the control of humanly institutions like motherhood, womanhood, etc. Therefore, the slave-owners not only denied humanity by continuing slavery, but also reached the extent to oppose the most sacred institution of womanhood as well as motherhood. When Jacob says that “Slavery is terrible for men; but it is far more terrible for women…Superadded to the burden common to all, they have wrongs, and sufferings, and mortifications peculiarly their own” (Jacobs 23), she refers to a masculine but horrible face of slavery in the context of femininity. In addition to what the slaves, whether they are male and female, suffer from, a female slave has to suffer vehemently from a torrent of emotional anguish first as an object of lust and then as a mother. Different from other slave narratives, Jacob has used the scope to view slavery from a quite different angle. Jacob notes that most of the lave narratives of her era have a common pattern of depicting the graphic details of whipping, physical torturing, etc. Subsequently these narratives uphold a dangerous escape of their slave protagonists to the North. But Jacob depicts a quite different situation for a female slave. She shows that for a female slave, any attempt to escape from the slavery was more of a heart-piercing dilemma because of their progenies. She could neither endure the torture nor leave their children behind and run away. So, their only way was to submit to their fate. But when other women would let themselves collapse under the crushing torture of slavery, Linda retains her mental strength to oppose Mr. Flint’s desire. Linda’s mental strength is evident in a speech: “When he told me that I was made for his use, made to obey his command in every thing; that I was nothing but a slave, whose will must and should surrender to his, never before had my puny arm felt half so strong” (Jacobs 46). Indeed, this simple comment of Linda tends to summarize the gist of the whole narrative as well as of the evil of slavery in American society during the early nineteenth century. It can be viewed from different perspectives and angles. As a mother, Linda violently fights against slavery. She wants to save her children from the evil of slavery. She plays hoax on Mr. Flints in order to attain freedom for her children, Benny and Elena. She had to spend innumerous sleepless night in the tight attic in which she can hardly stand. But her only pleasure is that she can see her run around her Aunt Martha’s house freely. Indeed, for any male reader, such sacrifice may seem to be something mere, but the pains, sufferings and angst she undergoes during those days of slavery are
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Harriet Jacobs alias Linda Brent begins her distressing story with the Biblical words that declare the book’s motive, “ Rise up, ye women that are at ease! Hear my voice, ye careless daughters! Give ear unto my speech” (Isaiah 32:9 / Brent 3). The two literary works have something in common.
Linda’s story endeavours to provoke the compassion of her readers in order to endorse humanitarianism. However, this is not done in the usual way of depicting a female as a weakling who just accepts all that is handed to her. Most writers attempt to bring out compassion in a character by using the stereotypical ‘damsel in distress’ role.
The primary focus of the novel is to portray women in different relationships: mother-daughter, friends, mistress-slave etc. The story not just depicts these relationships, but the writer seems to show that relationships were the supporting forces in the violence stricken life of slave girls.
However, there are many mistreatments that can only be imagined by the modern individual, in slaveholders’ households toward slaves. The abuses seemed to have gone beyond what has been observed in the past centuries that many slaves tried to free themselves from their situation, even wanting to be dead rather than continue to live as a slave.
" retorted the mistress. "There is no such place for the like of her and her bastard” (172) In this quote, a sobbing mother witnesses her child dying, this quote means a lot to me since it demonstrates the extremes of incarceration and merciless slavery that was going on during that time.
The book gained critical acclaim when Jean Fagan Yellin, through painstaking research of the correspondence between Jacobs and Child, and Jacobs and Amy Post, another abolitionist sympathizer, credited the book to Jacobs. The book is a mix of the genres of domestic literature and the slave narrative, while at the same time being an autobiography.
Incidents In The Life Of A Slave Girl is an autobiography written by Harriet Jacobs who disguised herself as the protagonist called Linda Brent. It is her personal account of her life as a black slave girl in America.The female slave is stereotyped to receive treatment as a subordinate rank. (Moon 455). Female slaves were expected to surrender completely to their owners.
Born a slave in Edenton, North Carolina in 1813, she was owned by a kindly mistress and, because orphaned, raised by her maternal grandmother, Molly Horniblow, a free woman, who is the Aunt Martha of her book She learned to read, write and sew, was a bright girl and hoped her mistress would free her.
However realizing the significance of the story she ventured to publish the book under the pseudonym Linda Brent and under auspices of other promiment abolishinists of the time –Amy Post and L. Maria Child.
Writing under the pseudonym made many experts doubt the
Slavery in America dates back to early 1500 as the first African slaves arrived in America in 1501. Slavery has a tremendous negative impact on the lives of the victims according to Harriet Jacobs. The thesis of this study is the effects of slavery to humankind.
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