The Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Harriet Jacobs' book The Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Harriet Jacobs' book The Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl was first published in 1861. The story is told in the first person, with the author using the pseudonym Linda in the narration. It is a heartbreaking work of narration in which Jacobs reveals the difficulties that slaves face, including sexual compulsion, servitude, and harsh injustices.

The portrayal of enslaved women

Of course, people have long considered and discussed the plight of males who are subjected to slavery, particularly those from minority groups or from lower socioeconomic classes. On the contrary, the narrator's situation is quite different. Instead, in this context, Jacobs brings out the challenges that an enslaved woman would face. More interestingly, in this case, it is the white woman who is enslaved and not a person of color, as it has always been perceived. According to her, the consequences are even direr, and no one would like to have the same taste of what it feels to be an enslaved woman. Ostensibly, the situation portrayed by Linda in the text gives a clear change of understanding that people have always had concerning slavery.

A different perspective on slavery

People always view slavery as maybe providing cheap or unpaid labor for someone else. At the time when the author wrote Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, slavery was rampant, and many colonial masters employed slaves, who were mostly captured from Africa to work on their plantations. Conversely, the case of the narrator is relatively different. If anything, it unveils the other form of slavery, which gives slavery a different point of view. The narrator is a slave, though not employed to work on a farm. She is her father's slave. Despite being born and raised in a white family, where the parents were also well educated, Linda goes through series of challenges after the demise of her mother (Jacobs 13).

Facing sexual exploitation

The narrator's father, Dr. Flint turns crueler after the death of his wife and Linda has to live with her mother's mistress. Dr. Flint demands that his daughter, Linda must have a romantic relationship with him or else he sells her off to work on a plantation. On the other hand, according to the narrator, indulging in sexual intercourse with her father is the last thing she can think about doing. Instead, Linda makes up her mind to be sent to work on a plantation than having a relationship with Dr. Flint. She would rather carry Mr. Sand's pregnancy than being raped by her father (Jacobs 53). The text in this book is significant to the learners' experience. It does not only intrigue a thoughtful analysis among the readers but also enables the readers to relate the major themes with the contemporary life.

The relevance of Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

The 18th century when Jacobs wrote Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl marked the peak of colonialism. During this time, the poor suffered plenty of social injustices such as slavery, economic exploitation, sexual harassment, among other bitter prejudices (Jacobs 14). Therefore, the relevance of Jacobs's book is seen clearly to the readers. It points to the history and the facts that followed civilization, with slavery being the most prominent theme just like the title of the book suggests. A deeper analysis of the book shows that the author's audiences were the white women from the north of America.

Challenging societal ideals of women

The essence of writing this book during this era was because there was the idea that the highest role of women during this time was to take care of the domestic chores, to be submissive to their husbands, to be pure, and pious. However, the slavery that the narrator experienced did not adhere to the principles mentioned above. Instead, in her situation, the female slaves did not access their fundamental rights of getting Christian education; they were violated, turned into sexual objects, and separated from their families. Precisely, they were not only dehumanized but also defeminized. The assertions mentioned above justify the importance why a woman wrote the text, more so during the 18th century.

The lasting impact of slavery

Slavery is one of the social injustices, which might have happened several years ago in the history of America. However, it is worth noting that the aftermath of slavery is still felt even in the contemporary society (Garfield 9). The scar is hard to cover, and people have to deal with it. The ways in which slavery shaped the literature, history of America is still visible today, and there is the high likelihood that it will still shape the future history of America. In this way, the concepts addressed by Jacobs have a close relation with the shaping of the modern world and its significance should not be overlooked. Concisely, it would also be imperative to add to the account that culture and history are critical to human understanding. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl reveal to its readers that history and culture are evolving. The past determines the future; hence, a deeper understanding of the two would be substantial.

Works Cited

Garfield, Deborah M, and Rafia Zafar. Harriet Jacobs and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: New Critical Essays. Cambridge [u.a.: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1996. Print.

Jacobs, Harriet A. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Dover Publications, 2012. Internet resource.

Deadline is approaching?

Wait no more. Let us write you an essay from scratch

Receive Paper In 3 Hours
Calculate the Price
275 words
First order 15%
Total Price:
$38.07 $38.07
Calculating ellipsis
Hire an expert
This discount is valid only for orders of new customer and with the total more than 25$
This sample could have been used by your fellow student... Get your own unique essay on any topic and submit it by the deadline.

Find Out the Cost of Your Paper

Get Price