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Biography And History Harriet Jacob's The Life Of A Slave Girl

962 words - 4 pages

Solid essay about biographical determinism in former slave/writerBiography and History -- Harriet Jacob's The Life of a Slave GirlTo be a good writer, you must posess a careful balance between detachment andassociation, a delicate waltz where you are not so wrapped up in the events of a story that italienates the reader, and yet not so far separated from the subject matter that the readers cannotget into it. This is espectially the case in an autobiographical narrative. In this case, it is verydifficult to detach yourself from the main subject matter, that is, yourself. Yet it must remain astory, and the story at its heart is a reconstruction of facts from the memory of the author. In thecase of Harriet Jacobs, it was also important that she make sure the readers understood slaveryfrom a woman's perspective. The hardships she had to endure not only entailed the work and thepunishments, but also the sexual aspect of being a slave-girl. Her task is difficult, because inorder for the reader to really understand her position as a woman and a slave, she must make thestory extremely personal. If it is too personal, however, the reader looses sight of the biggerpicture, and does not relate all these hardships to the condition of the general female slave. Sheaccomplishes this in two ways, through her writing style, and the writing content.The style that the novel is written varies from a dialogue to a narrative, depending on thesubject matter being written about. For example, the dialogue where Mrs. Flint confronts Linda(Jocobs) and asks her what has been going on with her husband is handled very effectively,because as a conversation between two people, we are able to pick up on the nuances of meaning.Also, it makes the situation seem to the reader as very exhilarating, because we don't knowwhat's going to happen next. Two paragraphs later, though, the story has turned back intonarrative, because Jacobs is trying to examine the entire situation in her present day, as a freewoman. She has to be detached from the conversation in order for her to draw any conclusions.The conclusion she draws is that even though they are in different circumstances, (Linda is aslave and Mrs. Flint is her mistress), they both have a shared problem as women -- that is, theproblems of infedelity. This general topic cannot be dealt with effectively unless it is done at adistance, looking back with the experience she has gained.Jacobs does this a lot -- she takes her own present-day experiences and places them in theframework of her past. When she gives us an account of the Slaves' New Year's Day, sheaddresses the readers personally, whom are all free men and women. First she gives us the factsof the matter: the auction block, the anxious waiting before families are separated. Then shecompares it to the present. In order...

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