In her story Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Harriet Jacobs presents what life was like living as a female slave during the 19th century. Born into slavery, she exhibits, to people living in the North who thought slaves were treated fairly and well, how living as a slave, especially as a female slave during that time, was a heinous and horrible experience. Perhaps even harder than it was if one had been a male slave, as female slaves had to deal with issues, such as unwanted sexual attention, sexual victimization and for some the suffering of being separated from their children. Harriet Jacobs shows that despite all of the hardship that she struggled with, having a cause to fight for, that is trying to get your children a better life and fighting to be able to achieve freedom on your own, can give one a stronger will to live.
To illustrate her opinion, Jacob describes how many female slaves in the 19th century had enormously more adversity to cope and manage with then did male slaves. Sexual assault from the male slave owners and harassment from the female slave owners was commonplace. Many slave girls would start to be harassed and sexually assaulted around the young age of only 15, “But I had now entered my 15th year – a sad epoch in the life of a slave girl. My master began to whisper foul words into my ear” (26 Jacobs). This clearly shows that not only did female slaves have to deal with these kinds of harsh conditions; they had to begin to cope with these circumstances at a very young age. Throughout the novel Jacobs demonstrates the inner strength that these young girls had to develop to deal with their day-to-day lives.
Not only did these girls have to deal with the sexual assault from the male slave owners, th...
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...sweet little faces were looking up at me, as though they knew I were there, and were conscious of the joy that imparted. How I longed to tell them I was there”(97). She tolerated being locked away in an enclosed dark space for 7 long years in order to free her children from the current master that owned them as slaves, showing how having someone to put ahead of yourself makes you stronger and more resilient as a person.
Harriet Jacobs uses her story to show that despite how slavery was portrayed to those who lived in the North, in reality it was an abusive way of life. She also displays how much difficulties female slaves had to go through compared to male slaves. She uses her narrative to depict how important it is to have something to fight for whether it be your children, trying to achieve your own freedom, or trying to fight for your race to be better treated.
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