Harriet Jacobs writes her own atrocious story in the autobiographic book Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. She writes the following; "Slavery is terrible for men; but it is far more terrible for women" (Jacobs, 88). With her work Jacobs shows that the evils of slavery are worse for a woman just because of their gender. She exemplifies the imbalance of what society dictated should be the proper role for women in the Nineteenth century. As well as how this contradicted with slavery and thus preventing women from fulfilling exactly these roles.
Jacobs knew that the social group,who were“the white women”, would see her not as a virtuous woman but hypersexual. She states “I wanted to keep myself pure, - and I tried hard to preserve my self-respect, but I was struggling alone in the grasp of the demon slavery.” (Harriet 290)The majority of the white women seemed to criticize her, but failed to understand her conditions and she did not have the free will. She simply did not have that freedom of choice. It was the institution of slavery that failed to recognize her and give her the basic freedoms of individual rights and basic protection. Harriet Jacobs was determined to reveal to the white Americans the sexual exploitations that female slaves constantly fa... ... middle of paper ... ...o avoid disbelief from her audience.
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.
A perspective that was relatively secretive during Jacobs’ time. Jacobs’ narrative focuses on subjugation due to race but it also portrays many women an strong and often open roles. Women in these roles were minimal and often suffered for their outspoken roles. Harriet Jacobs’ narrative is a powerful statement unveiling the impossibility and undesirability of achieving the ideal put forth by men and maintained by women. Jacobs directs her account of the afflictions a woman is subjected to in the chain of slavery to women of the north to gain sympathy for their sisters that were enslaved in the south.
“But, O, ye happy women whose purity has been sheltered from childhood…do not judge the poor desolate slave girl too severely! (Jacobs 60) What Jacobs saying is that the slave women cannot be held liable for her lack of virtuousness. If it was up to Linda’s decision, she would have held her chastity for the partner of her choice, but that was delusional thinking in a slave system. “… I tried hard to preserve my self-respect; but I was struggling alone in the powerful grasp of the demon Slavery; and the monster proved too strong for me” (Jacobs 60) No matter how much effort Linda put in evading Dr. Flint’s sexual advances, the ending results would have been the same for Linda or any other women in slavery.
This forced both black and white women to escape their social roles and fight for something. With white woman this was to escape their husbands shadow since they were never allowed to vote and for black women it was a way to gain freedom from the plantation and to end slavery. Deborah Gray Whites book shows a side of slavery containing black women that wasn’t unmasked. Though the mythologies of Mammy and Jezebel didn’t quite match up to the everyday lives of female slaves, there is still a great deal of difference of being a slave women then a slave man or white woman. Works Cited White, Deborah G. Ar'n't I a Woman?
Modern day thought typically views slavery from one perspective that of the physically abused male slave, beaten and battered by his aggressive slave master. In Harriet Jacob’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Jacobs brings light to the other side of the horrors of slavery, the psychological abuses, in particular the psychological abuses that women in slavery face. Comparatively, Marie Jenkins Schwartz’s Birthing a Slave does depict the horrors of slavery from the perspective of women and the horrors of the abused child bearing mothers. Although some may believe that in Harriet Jacob’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Jacobs fails to get at the true horrors of the physical brutality of slavery as presented in Marie Jenkins Schwartz’s Birthing a Slave, in reality Harriet Jacobs autobiography and Marie Jenkins Schwartz’s Birthing a Slave both depict severe horrors of slavery but from the perspective of mental and psychological anguish. During the era of Jacob’s life, women are seen as moral superior beings, being deemed pure, pious, and caring and representing a God like figure.
She asked her audience and readers to excuse her and not judge her choices without considering her sufferings. She also explained how the slavery system was not fair and didn 't give her any choice to make. She says “But, O, ye happy women, whose purity has been sheltered from childhood, who have been free to choose the objects of your affection, whose homes are protected by law, do not judge the poor decorate slave girl too severely! If slavery had been abolished, I, also could have married age man of my choice; I could have had a home shielded by the law; and I should have been spared the painful task of confessing what I am now about to relate; but all my prospects had been blighted by slavery”(p.48) Jacobs felt in shame of her choices and she felt that her reader will not understand the idea of taking a white man after all her the suffering from white masters. She explains “The remembrance fills me with sorrow and shame.
Harriet Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl A recurring theme in, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, is Harriet Jacobs's reflections on what slavery meant to her as well as all women in bondage. Continuously, Jacobs expresses her deep hatred of slavery, and all of its implications. She dreads such an institution so much that she sometimes regards death as a better alternative than a life in bondage. For Harriet, slavery was different than many African Americans. She did not spend her life harvesting cotton on a large plantation.
Throughout ‘Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl’ Jacobs uses three main strategies to appeal to the middle-class women of the North. Firstly, she emphasizes topics such as sexual relations, violence and loss to shock the readers as most members of the ‘Cult of True Womanhood’ have never been exposed to these realities. Secondly, Jacobs introduces many aspects of slave culture that humanize slaves and allow the reader to see the similarities between white and colored people, inciting empathy. Finally, Jacobs contrasts the treatment and lifestyles of whites and slaves, highlighting the senselessness of the cruelty and inhumanity that the slaves faced. Jacobs also uses a pseudonym throughout the book.