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

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

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Imagine yourself a female slave, living a life of service on a large plantation during the early-19th century. Imagine waking every morning at dawn to begin a never-ending day of cooking, cleaning, washing, and sewing. Imagine being at the beck and call of a master who not only uses you for daily chores, but also for his personal sexual pleasure. Imagine the inexhaustible fear of his next humiliating request and the deep feelings of shame and remorse for your inability to stand up against him. Imagine lying in bed at the end of the day wishing God would carry you to heaven so you would not have to wake and experience this hell on earth all over again.

These illustrations, along with many others, are the types of images Harriet Jacobs instills upon her readers in her personal narrative Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. With basic knowledge of what comprises a slave narrative, one might assume Jacobs' attempt at a personal creation has the same goals as many others, to teach her audience of the personal hardships of slaves and to inspire a form of hope that an end of slavery is near. Upon the reading and analysis of this narrative, however, it is easy to see how Jacobs' narrative differs from her colleagues. Jacobs' intentions are laid out when she states, "Slavery is terrible for men; but it is far more terrible for women"(825). It becomes evident that Jacobs is writing for all female slaves and wants her audience to understand that being a woman in slavery was the most difficult situation a human being could endure. Although a very large endeavor, Jacobs' succeeds in her task by creating a narrative that speaks out to one particular audience, free white women of the north. By creating a narrative that is truly feminist, bo...


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... things that are necessary to evoke the desired change.

Harriet Jacobs was a slave - her story, that of her own life. Jacobs shares her life with the hopes of ultimately bettering the lives of many others. She does not believe that change happens over night, but she does believe that it happens. One might believe her feminist approach was one sided and would have been more successful if written for a larger audience. One can also argue that Jacobs approach made her efforts outstandingly successful because rather than touching the outskirts of the hearts of many, she deeply penetrated the hearts of a smaller mass and it is those hearts that will join her in her push for change. Harriet Jacobs set out to alter conventions and give slave women a better life and a better outlook. Looking at how far we have come today, how can we not consider her efforts a success?

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