Reflection Of Culture In The Slave Narrative, By John Jacobs

1266 Words6 Pages
As a reflection of the culture from which it springs, art has served the purpose throughout history of both responding to current events and pervading memes and of providing a generative force through which those elements may perpetuate and, in some cases, resolve themselves. Various genres have evolved as necessary to frame and comment on society at given points throughout history, establishing a powerful artistic repertoire. The Slave Narrative is a prime example of this phenomenon, having arisen out of the collective need for a people to respond to their situation in a manner that the surrounding society would not only allow, but embrace for its ambition, vision, and enlightening nature. Through it, the world was opened up to firsthand…show more content…
Because she writes to a white northern audience, Jacobs must be careful not to offend the sensibilities of her readers and thereby reduce the credibility she has gained with the slave narrative. She wants to explain why slaveowners are not to be trusted, and why slaves might be inherently distrustful of white people, without making it sound as if she thinks all white people are untrustworthy. She writes, “Slaveholders pride themselves upon being honorable men; but if you were to hear the enormous lies they tell their slaves, you would have small respect for their veracity. I have spoken plain English. Pardon me. I cannot use a milder term” (67). Here Jacobs invites the reader to empathize with the slave mind, to recognize that if they were in the same situation, they would equally mistrust the slaveowner. In this passage in particular, the two genres of the book seem to flow in and out of each other: Jacobs is certainly speaking from a slave point of view, but with the particular aim of appealing to the readers ' better qualities through two particular appeals. The first, “If you were to hear the enormous lies they tell their slaves, you would have small respect for their veracity,” asks for the readers understanding and humanistic connection, while…show more content…
After relaying a story about a slaveowner who lied about an escaped slave and the “difficulties” she faced in the north (67), Jacobs opens up about what southerners actually think of northerners: “Southern gentlemen indulge in the most contemptuous expressions about the Yankees [...] When southerners go to the north, they are proud to do them honor; but the northern man is not welcome south of Mason and Dixon 's line, unless he suppresses every thought and feeling at variance with their "peculiar institution"” (69). While it is certainly imaginable that even those northerners who were not exactly friendly to slavery would be willing to hold their tongues while in the presence of southerners, no doubt they would not be happy to hear that their hosts were slandering them out of company, and by awakening such emotions in her readers, Jacobs opens them to empathizing more with her claim that these men are not to be
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