Swallow Barn and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Swallow Barn and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Length: 1737 words (5 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
Swallow Barn and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Relationships, regardless of the nature, can be as subjective as their individual participants. As

well, stories are usually told from a single perspective. The works of literature, Swallow Barn and

Incidents In The Life Of A Slave Girl, that will be examined in this essay are as different as black and

white, figuratively and literally. It is no wonder then, that the relationships between master and slave

are depicted with the same degree of variation. To understand such a diverse set of paintings –

literature, it is necessary to know the artists who have produced the works: to include their race, social

standing, economic situation, politics and gender. This essay will attempt to shed light on all.

Swallow Barn, by John Pendleton Kennedy, is romantic portrayal of the Old

South.(Andrews,59) Kennedy wrote about a life that he knew and from a perspective that was familiar.

While “Kennedy did not grow up on a plantation but in the city of Baltimore, where his father, a

prosperous merchant, and his mother, who came from a highly regarded Virginia family, gave him

every educational advantage; eventually graduating first in his class from Baltimore College”. (59)

“He was admitted to the Maryland state bar in 1816, and later married Elizabeth Gray, the daughter of a

wealthy manufacturer.” (59) According to the text, “Kennedy was no stranger to plantation life, having

often vised the Bower, the ancestral home of his wife's family in western Virginia.” (59) It can be

theorized that this exposure, without total immersion, into the Southern plantation prompted a

romanticized ideal of this lifestyle; thus, producing the same in Swallow Barn. This idea begins

immediately for the reader with Kennedy's description of “Swallow Barn as an aristocratical old

edifice, that squats, like a brooding hen, on the southern bank of the James River. It is quietly seated in

1

a kind of shady pocket or nook, formed by a sweep of the stream, on a gentle acclivity thinly sprinkled

with oaks, whose magnificent branches afford habitation and defence...” (60) In this description, the

reader can be led to assume that life for the inhabitants of this sanctuary is likely protected, calm and

amiable. This would include the relationships of Frank Meriwether and his slaves. This is supported

further by the anthologists who said, “Kennedy portrayed black people as serene in their

servitude”.(Andrews, 59) Was this intentional? I believe that it was. However, these master and slave

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Swallow Barn and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl." 123HelpMe.com. 15 Nov 2019
    <https://www.123helpme.com/view.asp?id=168830>.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Christian Slave Owner's Justification of Slavery in Harriet Jacob's "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl" Contrasted with the Bible's Views on Slave

- Despite the fact that Christianity teaches the values of respect, goodwill and generosity, etc., Christian slave holders seem to exclude themselves from these standards, which is indubitably hypocritical. African American slavery is reducing a human being to the condition of property, the same as other goods, wares, merchandise and chattels. The treatment of slaves was customarily lamentable because slave masters had their profit in mind rather than the well-being of their slaves. Due to the way that slavery was practiced in the South, it and Christianity cannot coexist....   [tags: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, slavery]

Research Papers
735 words (2.1 pages)

Essay on Despair in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

- Despair in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Linda Brent, Ms. Jacobs' pseudonym while writing "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl," became so entrenched in hatred of slaveholders and slavery that she lost sight of the possible good actions of slaveholders. When she "resolved never to be conquered" (p.17), she could no longer see any positive motivations or overtures made by slaveholders. Specifically, she could not see the good side of Mr. Flint, the father of her mistress. He showed his care for her in many ways, most notably in that he never allowed anyone to physically hurt her, he built a house for her, and he offered to take care of her and her bastard child even though it...   [tags: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl]

Research Papers
777 words (2.2 pages)

Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl and Harriet Wilson’s Our Nig

- The Cambridge Introduction to the 19th-Century American Novel, the traditional sentimental novel’s storyline focuses around a young woman finding her way through life, usually without the support of a conventional family. The women overcome life’s hardships, and “the key to these women’s triumphs lies in their achievement of self-mastery” (Cane 113). According to Gregg Cane, these didactic novels are targeted at young women to instill the idea that a domestic home, marriage, and family are what construct a morally good woman....   [tags: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl]

Research Papers
1868 words (5.3 pages)

Power of Harriet Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Essay

- The Power of Harriet Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Harriet Jacobs, in the preface to her book, wrote: I do earnestly desire to arouse the women of the North to a realizing sense of the condition of two millions of women at the South, still in bondage, suffering what I suffered, and most of them far worse.  I want to add my testimony to that of abler pens to convince the people of the Free States what Slavery really is (335). With this statement, Jacobs specified her purpose for writing and her intended audience.  This insight gives readersan understanding of why she chose to include what she did in her story as well as why she chose to exclude other details.  Although thi...   [tags: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl]

Research Papers
642 words (1.8 pages)

John Pendleton Kennedy 's Swallow Barn Essay

- With movements such as Nat Turner’s rebellion in Virginia in 1831, Southern whites felt strongly pressured to defend slavery. Many attempted to justify their actions and state that slavery was good for society; “a positive good rather than a necessary evil”. Southern whites had the idea of Paternalism meaning it was their duty to protect and take care of their slaves and they were considered family. However, slaves such as Harriet Jacobs and Solomon Northup thought differently. Harriet Jacobs was treated more as property than a family member and thousands of slaves such as Northup were punished harshly for miniscule reasons....   [tags: Slavery, Slavery in the United States]

Research Papers
723 words (2.1 pages)

Essay on Traditions in Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

- A Medley of Traditions in  Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl     Though considerable effort has been made to classify Harriet Ann Jacobs'Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: Written by Herself as another example of the typical slave narrative, these efforts have in large part failed. Narrow adherence to this belief limits real appreciation of the text's depth and enables only partial understanding of the author herself Jacobs's story is her own, political yes, but personal as well....   [tags: incidents]

Research Papers
3751 words (10.7 pages)

Stirring up the North to See the Horrors of Slavery: Harriet Jacobs’s Narrative "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl"

- Educating the North of the horrors of slavery through the use of literature was one strategy that led to the questioning, and ultimately, the abolition of slavery. Therefore, Harriet Jacobs’s narrative Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl is very effective in using various tactics in order to get women in the North to pay attention and question the horrifying conditions in the South. By acknowledging that not all slaveholders were inhumane, explaining the horrific abuse and punishments slaves endured, and comparing the manner in which whites and slaves spent their holidays, Jacobs’s narrative serves its purpose of arousing Northern women to take notice of the appalling conditions two millio...   [tags: Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave G]

Research Papers
1088 words (3.1 pages)

Slave Women in Harriet Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl and Toni Morrison's Beloved

- Slave Women in Harriet Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl and Toni Morrison's Beloved Slavery was a horrible institution that dehumanized a race of people. Female slave bondage was different from that of men. It wasn't less severe, but it was different. The sexual abuse, child bearing, and child care responsibilities affected the females's pattern of resistance and how they conducted their lives. Harriet Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, demonstrates the different role that women slaves had and the struggles that were caused from having to cope with sexual abuse....   [tags: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl]

Research Papers
1581 words (4.5 pages)

Slavery and Christianity in Harriet A. Jacob’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself

- The Incongruity of Slavery and Christianity in Harriet A. Jacob’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself Slavery, the “Peculiar Institution” of the South, caused suffering among an innumerable number of human beings. Some people could argue that the life of a domestic animal would be better than being a slave; at least animals are incapable of feeling emotions. Suffering countless atrocities, including sexual assault, beatings, and murders, these slaves endured much more than we would think is humanly possible today....   [tags: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl]

Research Papers
1695 words (4.8 pages)

Essay on Incidents In the Life of a Slave Girl

- Incidents In the Life of a Slave Girl No one in today’s society can even come close to the heartache, torment, anguish, and complete misery suffered by women in slavery. Many women endured this agony their entire lives, there only joy being there children and families, who were torn away from them and sold, never to be seen or heard from again. Thesis In the book, Incidents in the Life of Slave Girl, Linda Brent tells a spectacular story of her twenty years spent in slavery with her master Dr....   [tags: Linda Brent slavery Slave Essays]

Research Papers
1784 words (5.1 pages)


relationships work as they are depicted in Swallow Barn.

To understand how slavery in any context can be accepted without resistance, we first must

acknowledge that it probably wasn't. However, for the successful telling of the story of Swallow Barn,

Kennedy did not need the range of the story to include racial tensions and issues. Additionally,

creating anomosity of this nature, which revolves around such an obviously amiable, well-natured

character, as Frank Meriwether, would be inconsistent. This can be seen in Kennedy's initial

introduction and description of Meriwether, as follows: “Frank Meriwether is now in the meridian of

life; -somewhere close upon forty-five. Good cheer and a good temper both tell well upon him.”

(Kennedy, 62) Again, as with Kennedy's first description of Swallow Barn, the reader immediately

begins to feel a comfort with this character. There is nothing to suggest he would be a difficult or mean

to anyone, including his slaves. Kennedy's description of Frank Meriwether is strikingly similar to

Jane Austen's Emma Woodhouse, in Emma. Austen describes Emma has pretty, rich, and someone

who has not been very “vexed” by life. Perhaps it is this previous exposure to Emma that allows me to

expect or accept Kennedy's light nature for the inhabitants of Swallow Barn. From this, the first

introduction of slaves seems to fit when we read, “the family linen is usually spread out by some sturdy

negro women, who chant shrill ditties over their wash tubs, and keep up a spirited attack, both of

tongue and hand, upon sundry little besmirched and bow-legged blacks.” (61) Later when we are

2

introduced to Carey, the negro who takes care of Meriwether's horses, we are told that “Carey, who, in

his reverence for the occupation, is the perfect shadow of his master.” (65) We anticipate a respect,

regardless of the subservience, from master and slave. The relationship is quite dynamic and engaging.

We learn that Carey speaks his mind to Meriwether; and while “Meriwether gets a little nettled by

Carey's doggedness, he generally turns it off in a laugh.” (65)

The relationship between master and slave in Swallow Barn is one of mutual respect. While it

must have been understood that their was not equality at this time in history, Kennedy did not need to

pursue any of these issues dramatically for this story. It can be debated as to whether Kennedy was

promoting the Southern Plantation lifestyle. It is my belief, from what I have read, that these were not

motivations for the story. The story, and its author, do not seem to have any agenda other than to

entertain. If the master and slave relationships had been different, like the ones to be discussed by

Harriet Ann Jacobs, an argument for a different intent could be made.

Incidents In The Life Of A Slave Girl, by Harriet Ann Jacobs, offers a much different

relationship between master and slave. As was done with Kennedy, before examining Jacobs'

characters in this work, it is important to understand the author. “Jacobs was born a slave in Edenton,

North Carolina, and was the first woman to author a fugitive slave narrative in the United States.”

(Andrews, 125) It is significant to consider that while Jacobs changed names and locations, Incidents

is considered an autobiography. Jacobs' primary motive in writing Incidents was to address white

sympathizers, particularly women, over slavery. (126) “Jacobs faced a task considerably more

complicated than that of any African American woman before her because she felt obliged to disclose

through her firsthand example the special injustices that black women suffered.” (126) Therefore,

Jacobs deals with complex issues between the master and slave. For her, the situation was doubly

perilous, because of the victimization of slave women by white men. Jacobs dimensions for Linda

3

Brent's problems also stem from her light skin and beauty. As we have discussed, Incidents plot is of

the tragic mulatto.

Linda Brent's early childhood did not encompass struggles like she would face as a maturing

woman. She says, “I was born a slave; but, I never knew it till six years of happy childhood had passed

away.” (Jacobs, 127) From the onset, the reader is swayed by the inference that despite a happy

beginning, there is worse to come. Jacobs style is to quickly tell the reader that regardless of the

situation, once a person realizes that are a slave, there is no more good to life. This is evidenced in the

reflection about her grandmother's relationship with with her owners who “took special interest to take

care of such a valuable piece of property.” (128) Earlier in life, Brent's relationship with her mistress

was seemingly pleasant. She says, “no toilsome or disagreeable duties were imposed upon me. My

mistress was so kind to me that I was always glad to do her bidding, and proud to labor for her.” (129)

When Brent was twelve, this favorable situation changed when her mistress died. From this point,

Brent becomes the property of the daughter of Dr. Flint. It is this relationship that will dominate the

story and be told from the authors point of view.

The relationship between Dr. Flint and Linda Brent was exceedingly complicated. When Brent

turned fifteen, Flint “began to whisper foul words in her ear.” (134) Despite the age difference, Brent

became a sexual object to Flint. She began to treat the comments with indifference or contempt;

however, Flint's age and situation required that she endure the treatment. (134) An ever present

animosity toward Flint can be seen in this early description, “he was a crafty man, and resorted to many

means to accomplish his purposes. Sometimes, he had stormy, terrific ways, that made his victims

tremble; sometimes he assumed a gentleness that he thought must surely subdue.” (134) According to

Brent, Flint “met her at every turn, reminding her that she belonged to him, and swearing by heaven

and earth that he would compel her to submit to him.” (135) And so, the story and this relationship

4

continues in such a manner. Despite Brent's escape, until Flint's death, she appeared to have no real

freedom.

Referring back to a literary plot significant for Jacobs' time, the tragic mulatto, it is important to

understand the perspective of the author. While Incidents is a biographical account of Jacobs' life, the

story is presented in a epistomelogical format. Watching the tug of war between Brent and Flint, and

the good versus evil these characters encapsulate, the reader should try to understand the agenda of the

author. As well, a greater understanding of the author's style of writing can be gained by reading other

novels that may have been an influence for plot and structure. In particular, while reading Jacobs, I

thought of similar characters from Samuel Richard's, Clarissa . In Clarissa, Clarissa Harlowe is

victimized repeatedly by Lovelace, whose desires are similar to Flint's- sexual submission. Clarissa is

the model for all that is pure and perfect; while Lovelace is the antithesis. Between the two, as with

Brent and Flint, there is a constant struggle to wit and out-wit.

Swallow Barn and Incidents In The Life Of A Slave Girl owe a great deal of their literary effect

because of the relationships between the masters and slaves. These books came from strikingly

different authors with very different goals; which I believe were achieved with these intentional

characters and their relationships. Kennedy does not focus on the struggles between masters and

slaves. It has been said that one of his greatest strengths was his ability as an author to be agreeable.

(Andrews 60) Jacobs, on the other hand, succeeds because in tragedy, all is not agreeable. She wrote

to attract a particular reader and grab hold with as much emotion as possible.

5

Works Cited

Jacobs, Harriet Ann. Incidents In The Life Of A Slave Girl. 1861. The Norton Anthology

of Literature of the American South. William L. Andrews, et. al, eds. New York:

W. W. Norton & Co. 1998. C. 125 – 153.

Kennedy, John Pendleton. Swallow Barn. 1832. The Norton Anthology of Literature of

the American South. William L. Andrews, et al, eds. New York: W. W. Norton & Co.

1998. C. 58 -63
Return to 123HelpMe.com