Motherhood in Harriet Jacob's Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

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Motherhood, in its simplest definition is the state of being a mother; however, it isn't as clear cut and emotionless as the definition implies. Motherhood holds a different meaning for everyone. For some it is a positive experience, for others it's negative. Different situations change motherhood and the family unit. Slavery is an institution that twists those ideas into something hardly recognizable. The Master and the Mistress are parental figures. Slaves never became adults; they are called boy or girl no matter what their age. They are forced into a situation where biological parents have no say over their children. The slave owners control the slaves' lives and destroy the traditional idea of motherhood and family. Harriet Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl deals with the issues of being a woman in slavery. The mothers throughout the narrative are powerless in keeping their children from harm. They watch as their children are hurt or sold and can't do anything about it. The mothers use everything in their power to protect their children and succeed in their motherly duty.

Many women are born with a maternal instinct. This instinct surpasses all other emotions. As soon as a child is born she will give her life for that child and devote her life to the safety of her child. Slavery complicates this. Mothers had no control over what happened to their children; they were helpless. Mothers watched their children beaten and raped. They were forced to bear the children of their master. They raised children that were born from that pain and torture and knew that child would have the same life. Slaves wished for what they thought was best for their children: death. It is inconceivable for a modern...

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...triumphs. Her responsibilities as a mother overpower anything that gets in her way. She wants a good life for her family, not a life in slavery with the possibility of losing her children. She doesn't only want freedom for her children; she wants a good life. Even when she is free Linda still needs more for her family; she wants a home of her own. Linda saw many families ripped apart by slavery. The pain she witnessed allowed her to persevere for the unity of her family. She overcomes many obstacles and endures a lot of pain and suffering to finally gain freedom for herself and her children. The reader can be sure that she will work hard to buy her own house for her family and continue to strive to provide the best for her children.

Works Cited

Jacobs, Harriet. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. New York, NY: W. W. Norton &

Company, 2001.

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