Haunting In American Slave Narratives
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Haunting in American Slave Narratives
Both Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl depict enslaved women hidden in attics or garrets in pursuit of freedom. These gothic allusions of people haunting or watching over either the town or the plantation are meant to suggest, among other things, a secret minority witness to the life of the slave society. Both stories portray their quests for autonomy in similar and also very different ways. Using their stories of haunting, literal and figurative, Stowe and Jacobs are able to interrogate the ideals of domesticity, virtue, and the slave society as a whole.
Not many people in those days of slavery knew the truth of what was really going on. And if they did, just pretended like they didn’t, spreading the false ideas that slaves were happy and well treated. The “peephole” or “loophole”, through which the women of Stowe and Jacobs’ narratives are able to look out onto the town or the plantation, becomes their links to the outside world. Although they have been completely cut off and isolated from society and almost everyone they love, they still find a way to stay connected. Stowe imagines this link as a haunting, where they literally are able to control and manipulate the situation. Jacobs on the other hand uses the peephole as a means of exposing the truth. She “haunts” the town of Edenton, North Carolina in a very different way. Linda Brent is able to look down upon the town and reveal all its secrets. Jacobs and Stowe use their stories of the oppressed women, and their haunting link between confinement and truth, as another link to the public. Using it as means of getting their messages out there for the public to...
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... details. She wanted it to be more about slavery than about her. This story was a literary critique, as well as a political one, in the idea that writing back in those days was seen as a means of social control. It was a way recreating yourself and having control over your own story even if not everything from your life is included. Jacobs was able to create a ‘self’ that had otherwise been controlled by others.
Jacobs’s story along with Stowe’s emphasizes the distinctive problems faced by female slaves, particularly sexual abuse and the suffering of slave mothers who are separated from their children. In spite of her suffering and possible criticism from the public, Jacobs was determined to make white Americans aware of the sexual victimization that slave women frequently faced and to stress the fact that they often had no choice but to give up their “virtue.”
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