Incident in the Life of a Slave Girl

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Incident in the Life of a Slave Girl

No one ever questioned T.S. Eliot as to whether or not he is a human being. Harriet Jacobs is just as much of a person, but looked down upon as a possession, as an animal. T.S. Eliot: white, popular, praised. Harriet Jacobs: African-American, hidden, questioned. In comparing Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl and T.S. Eliot?s ?The Fire Sermon? there lies a correlation between the two literary works. While T.S. Eliot never experienced the life of a slave, ?The Fire Sermon? alludes to white supremacy tainted with dirty scenery, while Harriet Jacobs describes a world where the color of skin can make you feel as if you hadn?t bathed in weeks. Religious references to scriptures also appear in both literary texts. While neither T.S. Eliot nor Jacobs preach religion, the presence of godliness and spirituality explain how different races use religion as a means of escape. Understanding the significance of the historical contexts that shape these works tell why Jacobs and Eliot write at this time and what difference it makes within the text itself.

Historical contexts and the continuing literary value of texts mold the way in which they can be received and survive among competing authors. T.S. Eliot wrote during a time where slavery was illegal. It might have been common for African Americans to hold jobs that were looked upon as ?dirty work? such as being housemaids, cooks, etc. but the extent of brutality among African Americans and the work that they did was voluntary. Harriet Jacobs?s character, Linda Brent, had no such luck. When Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl was written, Lincoln was president but slaves were still being beaten and housed in plantations. Almost overnight, T.S. Eliot?s works became infamous; Eliot being a white male poet rising to infinite proportions. With a Nobel Prize under his belt as well as other numerous merits, anyone who questions the validity of his writings will almost always be argued with. On the other hand, Harriet Jacobs faces what Rafia Zafar calls a ?double negative of black race and female gender?(). Incidents has not received any sort of awards for literature although the book cover itself states it as ?one of the most important books ever written documenting the traumas and horrors of slavery in the antebellum South?(). Jacobs?s novel has yet to be recognized as a ?
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