Incidents During The Life Of A Slave Girl

What was life like for slaves prior to the beginning of the Civil War? Use examples from Harriet’s narrative or information you gained from other sources to describe the institution of slavery. 

Most slaves went through violent whippings and severe deprivation inflicted on them by their white masters. Most of them told narratives and inspiring stories of a brutalized slave’s journey toward self-definition and self-assertion. Like many of these stories, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl narrates 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 (Africans in America, nd).

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Prior to the beginning of the Civil War slaves underwent physical brutality, deprivation and fierce beatings and lynching that was shocking. Jacobs focuses on slaves’ mental and spiritual anguish which makes an important contribution to the genre. Being a slave with an easy life, Linda will not have to endure constant beatings and hard physical labor. However, Linda and the other slaves around her had suffer from being denied basic human rights and legal protection. Men and women are not permitted to marry whomever they choose, and they were not allowed to marry anyone at all.

Women were frequently forced to sleep with the masters they despise. The worst about it was, families were torn apart, with children sold to a place far away from their parents. Thus, even those who were not beaten or starved were stripped from their humanity. When Linda states that she would rather be a desperately poor English farm laborer than a “pampered” slave, she underscores the point that slavery’s mental cruelty is every bit as devastating as its physical abuses (Africans in America).

There was a lot of runaway slaves that were being pursued and caught by their former owners. Dr Flint pursued Harriet continually until he died also refused to sell the children until he got tricked into it. 

What does this slave notice tell modern readers about the institution of slavery in general and about Harriet specifically? 
Through the slave notice, the reader is able to see that the slave system was generally accepted. And that there was nothing to hide or to feel guilty about. The system is one-dimensional and totally corrupt. The slaves are supposed to endure whatever their master does to them and continue being loyal. The notice warns anyone who could make Harriet escape further. This shows how the slaves were helpless with no option but to endure suffering. Dr. Flint was seen as the main symbol of the slave system. He was monstrously cruel, and hypocritical.

He never felt guilty, or felt sympathy for the victims. He was given power by the slave system, Flint never questioned his right to do whatever he pleases to his slaves. He will accept nothing less than total submission from them. Dr. Flint aptly symbolized the defining qualities of slavery: lust for power, moral corruption, and brutality. 

Do you believe that all whites held the same view about African American slaves during this time period? Use evidence from your reading to support your response.

It was evident that it may would not have been all whites who had the same view about African American slaves during this time period. This was because the writer says that in writing the narrative desired to arouse the women from the North to a realize the sense of condition to the two millions of women at the South still in bondage, who suffered. This mean that in the North there was no slavery like in the South. We are also told that as a young girl Linda dreamt of escaping slavery for a better life in the North. Meaning that life in the North was much better.

We also see Rev. Jeremiah Durham and his wife, being the only free blacks living in the North, and Linda admired their upstanding lives while she stays in their household for a few days in Philadelphia (Africans in America, nd).

Bond between Harriet and Her Relatives, Obedience and Familial Loyalty

Harriet points to some of the tensions that exist for slaves as they are forced to choose between their family needs and those of their masters. For instance, Harriet’s brother is forced to choose between father and mistress, Harriet ostracizes her grandmother through her relationship with the young lawyer, and Harriet leaves her own children for the better part of a year while she travels to England with her ward. What kind of evidence do these and other examples provide about the impact of slavery on familial loyalty?

The reader understood that the civil war was extremely difficult on the family unit. It effected the family that were long-lasting and had negative impact on many aspects of their everyday life for generations after the fight stopped. There was broken families because people were denied a secure families life. They were regarded as a property. Slaves were often not allowed to marry, and if they were, husband and wife will never live together. A permanent family could not be a guaranteed part of slaves’ lives. They had no right to live or stay together, no right on their own children, and it was common for enslaved parents and children to live apart (Africans in America, nd).

Religion and Slavery

Harriet seems to continually refer to her own moral character and blames her failings on the institution of slavery. What examples does Harriet provide? Is she convincing? What seems to be her motivation in referring to moral character? 

As Much as she was exposed to the most inhuman treatment by Dr. Flint, she never loses her self-respect or her desire to have a normal home and family. She is devoted to her children and willing to endure great suffering for their sake.

Linda totally refused her master’s claim that she is his property, body and soul. She refused to acknowledge slavery. She was an independent spirit, and Dr. Flint’s sexual harassment only increases her desire to control her own life. Linda was really clever, rebellious, and strong-willed, and from the start, she lets Dr. Flint know that she will never agree to his advances.

She struggles with her choice to engage in premarital sex with Mr. Sands, but told her readers they had no right to judge her, that, independent and slave women should be judged differently. She’d always wanted freedom but worried about what will happen to her children if she vanished (Grendler, & Leiter, 2016)

Harriet repeatedly refers to religion, specifically Christianity, in her text. Use examples from the text to illustrate her views of religion. What is the effect of these references on the overall tone and message of the text? Do you think it is effective as a literary and persuasive strategy? 

Harriet turned to religion because it was something that could help her get through her life and it was part of her heritage. Religion became the driving force in her life in part because she had little else to turn to. She was a slave with little chance for doing well in life with a little education and a small family. Much as religion didn 't remove her from slavery or get Dr. Flint to leave her alone, it kept this from absolutely killing her spirit. Also, her grandmother, parents, and first mistress had cultivated it in her. To deny religion would have been to deny the most important thing in each one of her loved ones ' lives. Although not much would be different if she had never been introduced to religion, it made her more thoughtful and gave her moral goals (Grendler, & Leiter, 2016).

Use of religion has been used effectively as a persuasive strategy, because through it the reader is able to see the realities of religion in both the north and the south. She explained that religion was a way for slaveholders to keep their slaves in check. Ministers delivered sermons about slaves obeying their masters. Religious whites in the south were often hypocritical because they thought that paying tithes and attending church services meant that their brutality, violence, lust, and greed were washed away. She strongly stated that those who practiced real Christianity were the slaves, who meekly and humbly submitted themselves to God 's will and practiced the virtues of charity, love, and patience. While some northerners were better, such as the Rev. Durham and his wife, others were afflicted by the same hypocrisy (Grendler, & Leiter, 2016).

The Fusion of African and American

How does Harriet’s description of religion in white culture serve her narrative? How does she seem to deal with the contradictions and hypocrisy that she encounters? To what extent does it justify her ideas about the immoral nature of slavery? 
She considered it as hypocritical those who were Christians but at the same time major slave owners, which they used to justify in the idea that was put forward at that time that Africans Americans were the descendants of Cain and subject to Cain’s Curse and his mark which was black skin. In 18th century America and Europe was interpreted to mean blacks and was a perfect justification for the injustices that were placed upon them, which again is a great irony (Grendler, & Leiter, 2016).

As she encounters these contradictions and hypocrisy, all that she wished the most if freedom. She wondered at the kind of Christianity that would allow someone to beat a human being until the skin came off their back and left the blood flowing as a reminder of that beating. She wondered at the mindset of those same so-called Christians that insisted slaves attend church on the one hand, but forbid them from singing certain spirituals on the other – for fear they were somehow referred to escape or to talk negatively about their masters.

She described it as the height of irony that a basis for treating blacks as less than the humans they were predicated on a scripture that was taken out of context as in the Cain’s curse story. If they followed the entire context as written clearly how would they have humiliated African American and used them to work in the fields with such a degree of success was found during the times of slavery. Her argument was that if you wanted someone to truly learn about God, and Christ’s message that you would want them to learn to read as soon as possible. You would perhaps even give them a bible to practice reading as is done widely now by missionaries in the field, which was not the case during slavery (Grendler, & Leiter, 2016).


In the preface Harriet wrote, “But I do earnestly desire to arouse the women of the North to a realizing sense of the condition of two millions of women at the South, still in bondage, suffering what I have suffered, and most of them far worse” (p. xvii-xviii). To what extent is Harriet’s story, a woman’s story? Provide examples. How effective is she in providing evidence to “arouse the women of the North”? 

In her story she was able to relate with many other slave women who went through the same predicament as herself, and she was therefore using it to highlight the experiences of those others that had no voice. Harriet stated right out that what she tried to do was to get Northern women fired up about the wrongs done to women. 

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl was significant because it allowed readers to experience the trials of a female slave in America. The reader knew about Harriet experience childhood in slavery, as well as in young adulthood and maturity. They know how Ms. Jacobs is constantly at the mercy of the sexual predations of her master and other men in her life. They also witnessed her anguish at seeing her own children enslaved.

She had effectively provided the evidence in her narrative. Mrs. Jacobs ' story, once read, I will leave nothing but pity and heart ache for her readers as they discover the life she had to endure. Harriet Jacobs wanted to show the people who did not experiencing slavery to be aware of what was exactly going on, in hopes that it would influence them from still doing it. Though you cannot help but feel sorry for her, the reader can also take her story and the hardships as those women underwent.

It is hard to pin-point the exact moment when Harriet gained her freedom. For instance, she was clearly free when her employer bought her freedom, or was it earlier, when she took control of her own life? What do you think? Use examples from the narrative to support your argument. 

It was likely that Harriet gained freedom when she took control of her life and fled to the North. This was because she mentioned it, in writing the narrative she desired to arouse the women of the North to realize the sense of the two million conditions of women living in the South. Still in bondage, who suffered. This could mean that in the North there was no slavery like in the South. We are also told that as a young girl Linda dreamt of escaping slavery to live in better conditions that she lived in the South. Meaning that she could have dream of a better life living in the North.

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