Harriet Jacobs’s “Incidents In The Life Of A Slave Girl” Critical Thinking Sample
Type of paper: Critical Thinking
Topic: Slavery, Jacobs, Slave, Family, Children, Literature, Life, Childhood
In the nineteenth century, slavery was an explosive issue in the United States, which was rapidly expanding towards the West. Slave narratives were prominent during the period as they gave legitimate information about the institution of slavery, the cause for an anti-slavery movement, and the troubles faced by the slaves . The slave narrative “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl” written by Harriet Jacobs and published in the year 1861 gives an account of the author’s autobiography, which includes her experiences as a slave. The narrative includes significant information about the abuse of slavery and the struggle of the slaves for their self-respect and self-determination. Jacobs’ story focuses on the problems faced by enslaved women in the form of sexual abuse and harassment . It also emphasizes on the torture faced by slave mothers due to separation from their children. Due to the distinctive viewpoint of the narrative, it stands as one of the important slave narratives of American history.
Born into a slave family in the year 1813 in North Carolina, Jacobs spends a happy childhood until the death of her mother at the age of six. For six more years, until Jacobs reaches the age of twelve, she lives a joyful slave life under her mistress Margaret Horniblow, who teaches Jacobs how to read and write. After the death of Horniblow, her niece turns Jacobs’ life into hell. The new mistress’ father Dr. Flint sexually harasses Jacobs and in the fear of rape, she involves in a sexual relationship with a white neighbor Mr. Sands through which, Jacobs bears two children . In the year 1835, furious with Jacobs’ relation with the neighbor, Dr. Flint sends her to work on a plantation threatening to trouble her children. Jacobs runs away from the plantation and hides in an attic at her grandmother’s house for seven years. Unable to sit down or stand upright in the tiny attic, Jacobs eventually becomes handicapped.
In 1842, Jacobs finally escapes to New York, where she finds work as a nanny in the house of an abolitionist author, Nathaniel Parker Willis . She eventually units with her children and joins the anti-slavery movement. The narrative creates awareness in white Americans about sexual victimization of the slave women as they had no option but to surrender themselves to the slave masters. It presents every detail about the horrors of slavery. Contrary to other slave narratives that have always stressed on the horrible childhood of the slaves, Jacobs’ story gives an account of her happy childhood, which implies that there were a few slave masters who were kind towards their slaves . Jacobs describes how slavery distorts emotions between human beings. She states how the slave masters separated the children from their parents by selling them to far places.
Though Jacobs has not experienced physical labor and brutal treatment, she suffered the most through the denial of basic human rights and protection through law . She explains that the mental suffering of the slaves is as annihilating as physical abuses. The slave narrative enhances the view on slavery by including facts that are difficult to believe. The slave mothers had no right to raise their children. Husband and wife had no opportunity to live together forever. Slaves were mere objects sold and bought at the will of the slave masters . Jacobs mentions that the human relationships had no choice to survive due to the brutal institution of slavery. The story explains how a woman hides in the attic without any physical movement for seven years. It makes a note of how slaves were prisoners in the homes of their employers in the name of domestic servants.
Yellin, Jean Fagan. Harriet Jacobs: A Life. Basic Books, 2005.