Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs

745 Words3 Pages
Imagine living day to day unable to control anything that happens, being shoved around like a nobody, and treated so poorly that the only way to escape this torture is to run away. Harriet Jacobs goes through three stages in her life, Innocent, Orphan, and Warrior. Nellie McKay defines the stages in her opinion through the essay “The Girls Who Became the Women.” Jacobs illustrates her life and the true stages through her autobiography Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Jacobs goes from being a harmless slave child to being rebellious, through three life changing stages.
Innocence is a very short stage during Jacobs’ childhood. In this stage she is completely “unaware of her slave condition” (McKay 241). In her childhood, “she [lives] with and [enjoys] the love and security” of her grandmother after her mother, father, and mistress pass away (241). These family members help her get through the beginning of her life and try to do what is best for her by making sure she doesn’t have to go into slavery until the last possible moment. According to McKay, Jacobs ends the Innocent stage when she is six.
Jacobs actually goes through the Innocent stage from the day she is born until the age of twelve. While Jacobs’ mother is “on her death-bed her mistress [promises] that her children should never suffer for any thing” and she holds to this promise until she dies six years later (Jacobs 5). Jacobs’ mother never wants her children to suffer, therefore her mistress feels as if she has to take this role over and make sure they don’t struggle. When her mistress dies, Jacobs is “sent to spend a week with [her] grandmother” (6). She strictly relies on her grandmother’s help, no matter what the situation is. The stage of Innocence truly ends...

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...egins to view life differently. Lastly, the Warrior stage is when she begins to escape because she views life on her own, becomes independent, and acts more like a mother figure to Joseph and Louisa. Not only does this autobiography make one wonder why slavery ever existed, but also how anyone survived this torture. One wouldn’t realize how women were treated during slavery without this story by Harriet Jacobs.

Works Cited

Jacobs, Harriet. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Ed. Lydia Maria Child. Orlando, Florida: Harcourt Brace, 1973. Print.
McKay, Nellie Y. “The Girls Who Became the Women: Childhood Memories in the Autobiographies of Harriet Jacobs, Mary Church Terrell, and Anne Moody.” Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: Contexts, Criticism. Ed. Nellie Y. McKay, Frances Smith Foster. New York, N.Y.: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2001. 236-253. Print.
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