Be Thee Passionate With Long Wind Or Quick Discourse: A Comparative Analysis Of The Slave Narratives By Siblings Harriet And John S. Jacobs

1223 words - 5 pages

The world, today, is teeming with techniques and methodologies developed for the sole purpose of measurement and evaluation. It is a daily activity for scholars and average Joe’s, alike, to assign rank to items and ideas. Many entities have legitimate, effective, and efficient means to assign rank in a consistent and unbiased manner. This is ideal. However, there frequently comes times when the doling out of superlative position is nothing more than the ordering of opinions. This is certainly the case when comparing the slave narratives of siblings, Harriet and John S. Jacobs. Upon initial observation of the texts the reader will notice that there is a clear distinction between the two; length. The narrative of and by Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, is much longer than John S. Jacobs’, “A True Tale of Slavery.” What does this mean? Perhaps, it goes to show that the feminine account is a more accurate report of events, for more length must surely mean more facts and details. Maybe the difference in length is a testament to the overall quality of the narratives. Maybe Harriet Jacobs was just consumed with a fervor unmatched by her brother and this allowed her to deliver a longer, more heartfelt product. The verity of the matter is that such claims are completely relative; no pun intended. Among readers who have experienced both narratives there exists the misconception that brevity equates to a lack of passion. This claim is nonsensical and a sign of complete irreverence to the cause of John S. Jacobs, and consequently, every other slave narrator, published or otherwise. A sensible comparative analyst knows that the difference in length between the narratives is just that, a difference, and nothing more. Harriet and John S. Jacobs are two different people. They each possess their own unique genetic makeup. Thus, it only makes sense that their accounts of slavery would be, dare it be said, different!All through Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Harriet “Jacobs vacillates between the highly stylized and oblique language that characterizes the sentiment… of the antebellum period” (Nudelman 939). These stylistic shifts are far more than just defining features of the narrative. They are also representative of the many processes of emotional alteration that the narrator endures. “The newly emancipated fugitive slave Harriet Jacobs expressed conflicting responses” (Yellin 479) to many situations throughout the narrative. It is of particular interest how Jacobs attempts to “contend with conventions, which as they promote female chastity and submissiveness, deny her experience, her femininity, and, by extension, her humanity” (Nudelman 939). It was Nathaniel Hawthorne that stated, “A woman's chastity consists, like an onion, of a series of coats” and the occurrences in the narrative run in line with this ideology. Hawthorne’s onion anecdote is very befitting to...

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