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Harriet Jacobs Analysis

The story of Harriet Jacobs paints a broad picture of life as a woman, victim of abuse, and Black American in the south during the early to mid Nineteenth century. However, in the story, each of these identities are put through the lens of her being a slave, an experience and identity that colors and dominates each other one. Harriet Jacobs may not have significantly impacted the world, the nation, or even her state during her time as a slave, but by looking at her experiences through her eyes, the reader gains an empathetic understanding of many things they may not have, and may never truly experience.
As a woman in the south, Jacobs had a first hand look at the injustices applied to her gender in her lifetime; her perspective grants a look
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Jacobs’ life story gives a glimpse into how enslaved women lived, the challenges they faced, and how they were treated by unenslaved white women, namely their owners wives. Despite Jacobs’ treatment perhaps being on the more extreme end of the spectrum, her experiences should not be discounted or thought of as abnormal, but rather as a face for the millions of others who were treated similarly. Enslaved women were repeatedly reminded of their status by their masters, and regardless of their shared gender status, this inequality was often enforced by their mistresses. Despite stereotypes of having being more compassionate than their husbands, in some cases slave owners’ wives were crueler towards slaves as a way to maintain control. In Jacobs’ experience, mistresses often felt jealous or insecure of their husbands relations to their female slaves, and because of this were absolved of any feelings of female solidarity. The lives of black female slaves were so intolerable that Jacobs felt upset at bringing another into this life, yet despite all she suffered, Harriet Jacobs’ pride as a woman and mother allowed her and her will to persevere in the face of overwhelming difficulty. As enslaved women are not quite as present to the same degree as they used to be, at least in the United States, it is not simple for a person today to gain an empathetic understanding of life as a slave woman.…show more content…
Jacobs’ story does much to highlight these similarities and differences. Ultimately, Jacobs’ identity as a Black American determined how she was treated by others, but her identity as a slave affected the very way she thought. When she was alone or with family, the color of her skin did not matter. However, no matter where she was, her and her children 's’ enslavement would have a factor in the way she thought, from hoping for her and her children’s freedom, to praying that they did not have to suffer much more. The similarities of enslavement and skin color are just how much they affect Jacobs’ other identities. As an enslaved black woman, Jacobs knew that her beauty was a curse, and that she was unprotected in the eyes of the law. This significant lack of any protection is what leads to Jacobs being the victim of so much abuse, and indeed, what led to so many others just like her becoming the victims of their abusers. As a slave, she was born almost completely devoid of rights, and as a black person, southern society found it hard to put much effort towards caring for her. Overall, being a slave and Black American did not have the same implications for one’s life, but they did in equal parts affect how society viewed the
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