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Slavery As A Providing Theme In Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Novel

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In “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl” Harriet Jacobs has been through trials and tribulations throughout her life as a slave. She goes through phases of being in a happy home, to learning how to read, then to cruel scrutiny of her master, to nearly freedom. During the 1850s, when Jacobs was writing her book, slavery was a highly explosive issue in the rapidly expanding United States thus sparking the Civil War. Slave narratives were the dominant literary mode in early African-American literature. Thousands of accounts, some legitimate and some the fictional creations of white abolitionists, were majority prominent during this era. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl chronicles the abuses of slavery, the slave’s struggle for self-definition and self-respect, and the harrowing details of a dangerous escape. However, Jacobs’s story also emphasizes the special problems faced by female slaves, particularly sexual abuse and the anguish of slave mothers who are separated from their children. The moral, familial, and religious implications when it comes to the roles they play in the book is a violate complexity affecting her day to day life; with the added burden of slavery placed upon her shoulders, her struggle in life reach an overwhelming capacity for the average person; however Harriet has proven herself to not be one of the average by choosing to take the shackle placed upon her and thrusting them back at the people who would see fit. She knows what they consider to be station in life.

Analyzing religious implications it was depicted that under slavery, religion becomes an instrument for evil, while slaves use it for a prayer for a better tomorrow. Slave holders used religion to keep their slaves in order. They would hire free black men to deliver sermons to their slaves on the importance of obedience. “They seem to satisfy their consciences with the doctrine that God created the Africans to be slaves. What a libel upon the heavenly father, who “made of one blood all nations of men!”” She believed that the white man thought he was ordained by God to basically treat them like absolutely nothing. She knew better than that. She knew she was meant for better not just slavery.

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Family meant everything to Jacobs. She even risked her life to gain freedom for her children. Slavery is a family affair, when born it determines the status in this world. It is an emotional and physical anchor. Jacobs saw black families as kind and loyal, while white families where motivated by greed and selfishness. “My friends feared I should become cripple for life; and I was so weary of my long imprisonment that, had it not been for the hope of serving my children, I should have been thankful to die; but for their sakes I was willing to bear on.” There she clearly states she could become cripple, but for her kids she pushes on to continue to fight and never give up. “I can testify, from my own experience and observation, that slavery […] makes the white fathers cruel and sensual; the sons violent and licentious; it contaminates the daughters, and makes the wives wretched.” In white families the hatred and malice is flowing in between each other constantly.

Morally slavery was absolutely wrong, but back in that time period white people thought they were inclined to have people as property, it was their right. Most slave narratives emphasize the physical brutality and deprivation that slaves were forced to endure, presenting gory descriptions of beatings and lynching’s, but Jacob’s focus on slaves’ mental and spiritual anguish makes an important contribution. She shows us that slave masters just don’t beat and rape you, but they torture your mind, they make you feel less of a person. She specifically targets women in children in her book. “Slavery is terrible for men; but it is far more terrible for women. Superadded to the burden common to all, they have wrongs, and sufferings, and mortifications peculiarly their own.” Women succumb too many more sufferings due to their gender.

“Dismantling “The Master’s House’: Critical Literacy in Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl” and “Seduction or Rape: Deconstructing of the black female body” both bring great points to the table that Jacob’s convey in her story. They are significant in the way that they break down the concept of the master being the head of the household and how it can come to ruins in seconds. It showed its importance by stating black oppression and ties in with the master possessing the power of whatever will says him to do to his slaves. Her text shows that she detest the power that the master so call claims on her. It ties in perfectly with these articles.

In conclusion, this essay has awoken my eyes to see more than just slavery as being more than just enslaved by another person. It shows that Africans back then, went through much more tremendous acts of just hard labor. They went through cruelty, oppression, worthlessness, and being in a constant fear of the master. Being able to pray to God and know that he is listening gave them hope for a brighter tomorrow. Being able to see family or a chance to say goodbye put joy into their hearts. Being able to have a choice in life brings personal freedom to their burdened lives. Slavery has had many implications, but what does not kill you makes you stronger.


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