The Classic Slave Narratives: Harriet Jacobs, Frederick Douglass And Olaudah Equiano

2403 words - 10 pages

The book The Classic Slave Narratives is a collection of narratives that includes the historical enslavement experiences in the lives of the former slaves Harriet Jacobs, Frederick Douglass, and Olaudah Equiano. They all find ways to advocate for themselves to protect them from some of the horrors of slavery, such as sexual abuse, verbal abuse, imprisonment, beatings, torturing, killings and the nonexistence of civil rights as Americans or rights as human beings. Also, their keen wit and intelligence leads them to their freedom from slavery, and their fight for freedom and justice for all oppressed people.
In the autobiographical writings Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Harriet Jacobs’ reflects on the times that her master Dr. Flint consistently tried to molest her sexually. In spite of her fears of horrible repercussions such as beatings or torture if she refuses to submit to him, Harriet always manages to evade his proposals to become his mistress by out-smarting him. She defends herself from his numerous attempts to seduce her, by the power of her mental strength and intelligence, and her Christian morality. While she fears him each time he secretly approaches her with his sexual propositions when he caught her alone, she could always think of ways to protect herself. For example she protects herself from the dangers of his sexual advances by removing herself from the master’s presence any opportunity she gets. She sometimes stays with her grandmother or aunt at night to protect herself from him. They are both Dr. Flint’s former slaves too who live on the plantation where she lives. Even though he threatens to kill her if she tells anyone, she tells his wife about his sexual advances, and Mrs. Flint invites Harriet to sleep in a room near her to keep an eye on her to protect her from Mr. Flint and to keep them apart. However, she discovers that Mrs. Flint’s motives are not to protect Harriet at all, but to protect herself from the humiliation of his attraction to Harriet and keep her from becoming his mistress. She was not able to hide her true feelings about Harriet. Harriet writes, “I was the object of her jealously, and consequently, of her hatred; and I knew I could not expect kindness…” (Jacobs, p. 477)
Though Harriet is very successful at avoiding Dr. Flint’s sexual abuse, she suffers through his verbal and physical abuse, which includes demeaning sexual comments he makes to her and he reminds her that she is his property and does not have a legal right to disobey his commands; he also slaps her when she disagrees with his proposals or expresses her feelings about anything that he does not agree with. Her next strategic move is to consent to a relationship with a white man Mr. Sands, of greater status in the community than Dr. Flint, though it was compromising to her grandmother’s (who she loves and respects dearly) and her own Christian beliefs and morals. This was Harriet’s way of avoiding the sexual exploitation of her...

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