Octavia Butler's Kindred vs. Harriet Jacobs' Incidents In The Life of a Slave Girl

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Octavia Butler's Kindred vs. Harriet Jacobs' Incidents In The Life of a Slave Girl

According to 'the conventions for slave narratives', it is possible to categorize Kindred by Octavia Butler as a slave narrative. However, the circumstances that take Dana back in time are imaginative and fantastical compared to slave narratives such as Incidents In The Life Of A Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs. While reading Kindred, one doesn't really get the experience of the slaves, but how Dana feels as she participates in slave times. Compared to the lives of slaves, her life is much easier and she has the luxury of knowing she is not and never was a slave. In contrast, Incidents In The Life Of A Slave Girl is a direct portrayal of slavery through the eyes of a slave. Although the viewpoints are very different, there are similarities in their experiences and in the way each responds and fights for their freedom.

The first parallel exists in how both Dana and Jacobs are taught to view themselves. Jacobs states, ? I was born a slave; but never knew it till six years of happy childhood had passed away? (Jacobs 7). Jacobs? father allowed her the freedom to grow up happy and unfettered by slavery. Once she did realize she was a slave, her mistress further encouraged independent thought with kind treatment and by teaching Jacobs to read. Therefore Jacobs had little worries about slavery for the first twelve years of her life.

Dana grew up in 20th century America, where life for African-Americans is drastically changed. She never had to worry about slavery nor gave it much thought beyond what she read in books or learned in classes. She is even married to a white man. When transported back in time she is truly perplexed by the treatmen...

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...wn time where

slavery doesn?t exist, and Jacobs, desperate to save her children and give them freedom.

As stated earlier, Jacobs and Dana experience slavery from very different perspectives. Dana is well educated and prior to going back in time, has only read about slavery, while Jacobs, although literate, is born into slavery and knows nothing else. Yet these major differences do not change the veneer of slavery. Both are considered property and both had to endure and watch others endure unimaginable cruelties. It seems only natural that the similarities in their experiences produced similarities in how they reacted and how they escaped to freedom.

Works Cited:

Butler, Octavia E. Kindred. Boston: Beacon, 1988.

Jacobs, Harriet. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Ed. Jean Fagan Yellin. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1987.

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