The Life Of A Slave Girl By Harriet Jacobs

1996 Words8 Pages
Slaves are aware of their positions in society and have the choice to comply with their masters’ demands in order to gain a greater benefit to themselves often in the form of physical protection from abuse. Within the plantation hierarchy, the house slave was considered higher up than field slaves due to their close proximity to the master (Hall 566). The house slave’s position in the plantation microcosm evoked not only favor from the master, but jealousy from the field slaves. The fair-skinned, house slave woman and her master’s control over her mental psyche is a defining factor of her identity in relation to the other slaves on the plantation. Linda Brent in Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl is an excellent model of the mental bondage endured by light-skinned house slave women because she makes a conscious choice to continue her mental bondage in order to gain physical freedoms. Although many house slaves, like Linda, were granted physical freedoms, they experienced an unfathomable level of mental bondage that defined their character and prompted them to pick their own place in society. First, the privileges that house slaves received compared to field slaves are due to the complicated familial dynamics that exist on a plantation. “Many house negroes were, in fact, the psychologically dominated, mixed-race offspring of the master class by slave concubines” (Hall 657). With this in mind, masters often protected their “family” by allowing them to do less strenuous jobs around the house. Frederic Douglass, for example, in his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, is fair-skinned and assumed to be the child of his original master (17). Douglass was allowed to work in the house and was eve... ... middle of paper ... ...lorism posited a particular group into circumstances that subjected them to more psychological controls, which ultimately influenced their mental decisions. With a racial divide and often an identity crisis, slaves clung to their masters for protection because they did not want to experience the same maltreatment as the lesser group in the plantation hierarchy. In the context of slavery, Linda Brent continued to subject herself to her master’s sexual demands in order to escape physical abuse. In the same sense of fear, characters such as Maude made immoral decisions to protect her and her children’s’ “legacy.” In either circumstance, the physical characteristics of being light-skinned and privilege to be a house-slave or an aristocrat in society contributed to the choice to seek protection through submission to physiological control in the master-slave relationship.
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