Incidents In The Life Of A Slave Girl

Submitted By merigrigoryan
Words: 1850
Pages: 8

Grigoryan, Meri Prof. Morris Afro. Amer. 20

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs, describes how women are exclusively degraded under slavery. Jacobs also shows how strong a woman's bond can be with other women. Whether it was the motherhood of her grandmother or the friendship of Mrs. Bruce. Friendships between women cut across class and race lines. Jacobs uses alternative names for all the characters including herself for confidetiality purposes. For Jacobs, or Linda Brent, womanhood and friendship wasn't all she needed, it was all she had. And that turns out to be enough. The motherhood of her grandmother, who helps her hide out for many years; and her friendship with the Bruce family which helps her win her independence. While many early American novels tend to value independence and solitude, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl highlights the importance of community and friendship, particularly for a female slave seeking freedom. Whereas male slave narratives tend to highlight individualism and the solitary pursuit of freedom, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl stresses the importance of friendship, community, and womanhood in achieving independence. Right from the preface, Jacobs states what her goal is. She's trying to get Northern women fired up about the wrongs done to women. It might have worked, if the Civil War didn't happen first. “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.” (Jacobs, 281) Recognize that she does not mention slaves as both genders, but tends to say “women of the North.” She pays much more attention to the women of slavery rather than the men. Her story begins and ends with women. Jacobs describes how women are degraded under slavery during her time. Jacobs writes, "I knew the impassable gulf between us; but to be an object of interest to a man who is not married, and who is not her master is agrrable to the pride and feelings of a slave... It seems less degrading to give one's self, than to submit to compulsion.” (Jacobs, 291) She says this after telling the reader about her decision to sleep with Mr. Sands in order to stave off the attentions of Dr. Flint. Sleeping with Mr. Sands, gives Jacobs a sense of freedom of her body, instead of a man four times older than her age owning her body. While she is ashamed of her actions and embarrassed to have to admit to them, she is quick to explain that slave women do not have the choices available to white women and are often pushed into situations that they cannot detach themselves from. It is not fair to be critical of slave women who engage in premarital relations and have children out of matrimony, for in many of those cases the woman was raped. Others, like Jacobs, made the choice to give their body away freely to a man who did not take them by force. Slave women were rarely allowed to marry the man that they preferred and sometimes simply lived with him and bore his children in a marriage-like state without the protection afforded to them or their children by a legal union. White women did not have to deal with any of these agonizing situations and dilemmas and therefore were not qualified to pass judgment on slave women for their perceived lack of adherence to moral standards. Not only were black women treated differently than white women, but they were also treated differently from black men. Jacobs states, "When they told me my new-born babe was a girl, my heart was heavier than it had ever been ebfore. Slavery is terrible for men, but is far more terrible for women." She makes a good and a true point, for when her life and the life of other slave women is compared to men's, mentally, slavery takes a much larger toll on the suffering of women. Women are responsible for