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Incidents In The Life Of A Slave Girl

1673 words - 7 pages

Harriet Jacobs and Harriet Beecher Stowe were among the many feminists and writers whom fought for the abolition of slavery during the nineteenth century. Jacobs and Beecher Stowe wrote personal slave narrations that served as a powerful feminist tool. Both books illustrate how white women were idealized as pure, angelic, and chaste while black woman were idealized as possessed and contained an uncontrollable, savage sexuality. Harriet Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of A Slave Girl brought the sexual oppression of captive black women into the public and political arena. In the Incidents of a Slave Girl Jacobs revealed her real feelings and emotions behind what it was like to be not only a woman, but also a black woman escaping slavery. Not only does Jacobs' narrative focuses on subjugation due to race but it also portrays many women an strong and often open roles. It illustrates how women in these roles were very minimal and is often suffered for their outspoken roles. Jacobs' will power and strength shown in her narrative are characteristics of womanly behavior in the emerging feminist movement.In the Incidents Jacobs portrayed herself as Linda Brent. Linda was born as a slave in the household of a miraculously benevolent mistress. She lost her mother at the age of six, but her mistress who was her mother's half-sister took good care of her. Her mistress bequeathed onto her the gift of literacy. The degradative reality of slavery was hidden from the author till she entered her early teens. Within a year both her mistress and her father passed away, and the household of Dr. Flint acquired her. Linda's spoke highly of her mistress, "she taught me to read and spell; and for this privilege,which so rarely falls to the lot of a slave, I bless her memory" (Jacobs AD 469). At an early age Linda had already violated one of the most important rules forced on slaves, that slaves were prohibited to expand intellectual capability. This meant that they are not allowed to read or write. The white men made this law purposely so that African Americans could not rebel against them. Those that were caught with a book would suffer enormous amounts of pain. By continuing to teach herself to read and write Linda was able to establish her own intelligence and eventually outwit her own master.Harriet Jacobs' narrative is a powerful statement revealing the impossibility and undesirability of achieving the ideal put forth by men and maintained by women. The slaveholders used their superior position of power to rape, beat, abuse, and molest black women who were weaker than them. The slave owners were portrayed as heartless men and the slaves were portrayed as their victims. Linda Brent bared how she was sexually abused by her master, "He threatened me with death, and worse than death, if I made any complaint to her. Strange to say, I did not despair. I was naturally of a buoyant disposition, and always I hoped of somehow getting out of his clitches" (Jacobs AD 471). In...

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