The perception of an African American slave has always been that women and men are incompetent and weak, however in Harriet Jacobs book Incidents in the life of a Slave Girl we receive an in-depth view of what the slaves were forced to endure during the slave period. The sexual advances from Jacobs’ master and his jealous wife’s wrath should have caused her to break and become bitter, but instead of Jacobs becoming submissive, it created a fighting spirit inside of her. Jacobs showed elements of active resistance when she was faced with Dr. Flint’s constant sexual harassment.
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Jacobs displays resistance when Dr. Flint first approaches her in a vulgar manner. In chapter four we start to see that Dr. Flint is developing a sexual appetite for Linda (Harriet Jacobs). Linda is now fourteen years old and is a new target for her master’s mind games. Linda expresses his craving for despair when she insists, “master[s], restless, craving, vicious nature roved about [the] day and night, seeking to devour, had just left me” (29). His sights are now set on Linda and he did not waste any time in declaring who she belonged to. Dr. Flint voiced that he can do whatever he wanted to her at any time. Jacobs felt the need to defend her honor at that stage and resisted the act by choosing to ignore his words even though they stung to hear.
Linda displays resistance when she decides to never be conquered. Linda has now been on this plantation for two years and has seen and experienced many horrendous episodes that a fourteen-year-old should not have to endure. She notices that her brother Benjamin is having a difficult time respecting his master and is in the process of running. She advises him to be good, but makes a long-lasting commitment in her mind. Linda declares, “I had not lived fourteen years in slavery for nothing. I had felt, seen, and heard enough, to read the characters, and question the motives, of those around me…I resolved never to be conquered” (31). Jacobs may not have resisted physically, but she was resisting mentally and this led to a long battle between her and Dr. Flint.
Linda portrays elements of resistance through the countless advances Dr. Flint implores on her. Dr. Flint has now been sending Linda countless signals that he wants her. On one of these accounts, he discovered that Linda could write. Now she is being subjected to countless vulgar letters from her master daily. One day she tells him that she is going to tell her grandmother, but he threatens her with death, instead of her feeling any despair she holds on to, “hope of somehow getting out of his clutches” (Jacobs 51). Dr. Flint is constantly trying to break her spirit, but she resists the urge to wallow in despair and remain hopeful that she will be free soon.
Linda shows signs of resistance when she wishes to be married to a free slave. Dr. Flint takes a more obsessive stance when it comes to Linda. He is not very happy about her wanting to marry a free slave man and becomes even more enraged when she declares her love for him. Dr. Flint tries to deter Linda from her choice of a husband but loses his temper when she said, “If he is a puppy I am a puppy, for we are both negro race…The man you call a puppy never insulted me, sir; and he would not love me if he did not believe me to be a virtuous woman” (Jacobs 61). In this instant, she is not willing to consent to his request to marry one of his slaves. This act of resistance causes Dr. Flint to lash out and become even more obsessive toward Linda.
Linda mentally demonstrates resistance by not believing the lies the slave owners say about the north. Slaveholders of this time pride themselves on being honorable men, but “if you were to hear the enormous lies they tell their slaves, you would have small respect for their veracity.” (Jacobs 67) Their main job was to instill fear in their slaves so they would not leave the plantation. Many slaves believed this story, but not Linda. She voices that opinion by saying that, “intelligent slaves are aware that they have many friends in the Free States. Even the most ignorant have some confused notions about it” (69). Linda knows there is help in the North, and since she has this feeling of hope she is resisting the mindset Dr. Flint is diligently trying to force on her.
Linda displays elements of resistance when she gets pregnant. Linda has now sent her lover away for fear of him being harmed by Dr. Flint. Now Dr. Flint is hacking a plan to build her a house so he can have easy access to peruse her. As a slave, she had no right to refuse his offer. Now Linda is left to perform an act that is against her character to stay out of Dr. Flint’s clutches. Linda decided to take a lover at the age of fifteen as to stop Dr. Flints advances. Linda expresses her triumph after she tells Flint that, “I will never go there. In a few months [,] I shall be a mother “(Jacobs 87). Linda has made a very big stand against Dr. Flint by getting pregnant by another man since she is his property in body and mind. Linda’s pregnancy is a major act of resistance since he did not want anyone else to touch her but him.
Linda experienced many events in her life that caused her to grow up faster than the average child should, but manages to escape by the help of her grandmother and a few white friends. Until the end of the story, Linda continues to reject Dr. Flints advances and soon finds herself in a very lucky position in the end. Linda held on to her view of not being conquered by anyone, male or female and ended up being a free woman. Harriet Jacobs truly does embody resistance in this book, Incidents in the life of a Slave Girl.
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