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 accounts of the misery, degradation, and immorality of the institution of human slavery, providing the growing abolitionist movement a vicarious channel through which to disseminate itself throughout a larger audience. In Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Harriet Jacobs makes powerful use of the slave narrative, mixed with elements of the sentimental novel, to tell a life story fraught with many of the painful elements of slave life. An argument that makes its way through the autobiography is Jacobs 's impression that the plight of a slave breeds a deep mistrust of white authority figures - not just those directly involved in her life, but many with whom she comes into contact throughout her journey. Her treatment as a slave has instilled a psychological unwillingness to take at face-value anything spoken by a slave-owner, and this carries over into her waking world, both at home and abroad. The genres that Jacobs writes in is both helpful and restrictive of her ability to make this point....
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...ed, but they also presented the writers with an opportunity to give a candid report of the types of people that slaveowners truly were, and for Harriet Jacobs, an opportunity to impart understanding as to the slave mindset of paranoia and mistrust. Conversely, the sentimental novel was loved because of its ability to evoke emotion and passion, to cause vicarious joy and heartbreak. As a favorite genre of the northern readership, Jacobs was certainly constrained by elements of the sentimental novel in that it was imperative that her consternation and accusations not cross the boundary into incredulous tale-telling. But as shown, Jacobs was also able to use the frame of the sentimental novel to her advantage: By redirecting the emotive nature of her story into words from southerners to northerners, she drew in readers to join in her contempt for the southern slaveowner.
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