Jacobs & Douglass: An Insight Into The Experience Of The American Slave

1189 words - 5 pages

The slave narratives of the ante-bellum time period have come across
numerous types of themes. Much of the work concentrates on the underlining ideas beneath the stories. In the narratives, fugitives and ex-slaves appealed to the humanity they shared with their readers during these times, men being lynched and marked all over and women being the subject of grueling rapes. "The slave narrative of Frederick Douglas" and "Harriet Jacobs: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl" themes come from the existence of the slaves morality that they are forced compromise to live. Both narrators show slave narratives in the point of view of both "men and women slaves that had to deal with physical, mental, and moral abuse during the times of slavery." (Lee 44)
Violence was almost an everyday occupancy in the life of a slave, Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs had to accept that from the start. In "The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave" Douglass portrayed his first and worst experience of violence, "being stripped away from his mother when he was just a baby" (Lee 33). He told his story like it was something that was supposed to occur, not knowing his own family and not even knowing when he was born. It was not unusual for children born in slavery. His mother was a slave and his father was a white man. He was told that women that gave birth in slavery were subject to this, because they still had to be productive. On the other hand Jacobs depicts family life among slaves as one that remains intact in a comfortable environment. She details a family, in which each member had minimal rights and little to no say so on how they spent free time or their earnings.
Many of the scholars of the 20th century slave narrative genre have
many times overlooked the apparent gender-related distinctions between the narratives of
men and women. Critics have almost always cited the hunger for
literacy as one of the most prominent themes found in slave narratives; scholars
repeat that the average slave narratives stress the importance of learning to read and
write. Douglass uses irony and a sense of unawareness in his narrative to describe "the toils of women through his aunt’s afflictions but failed...to accurately address and interpret," (James 34) these strategies attempt to validate his role as a "fugitive American slave narrator, seeking a written document to prove that"(James 27) he has obviously suggested through language the free territory he claims. The connection for Douglass between the wanting of literacy and personal worth is what he focuses on primarily throughout the narrative. Douglass establishes himself as a man who is deserving of freedom, and that itself is a major significance to other slave narratives. This generalization doesn't extend to the slave narrative written by Harriet Jacobs who focuses on the brutality that women slaves face compared to men slaves. She states many times the fact that women slaves are degraded...

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