Incidents In The Life Of A Slave Girl English Literature Essay
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs explains and gives a different angle to slavery, and shows how the author struggled to free herself and her children. Jacobs’s book is considered to have played a pivotal role in the abolition of slavery in the United States. Many authors have used literature to get across messages that would aid then in their revolutions. For instance, Martin Luther King’s a letter from Birmingham Jail was a letter to clergy men that were opposed to the quest of equality that African Americans were fighting for (King 24). Similarly, Jacob’s Incidents in the life of a slave girl is literature that aided in the quest of abolition of slavery. The paper focuses on how Jacobs’s book was effective in the abolition of slavery.
The different chapters in the book highlight the problems and the struggles of a slave girl. Compared to other slave themed stories Jacobs’s is quite different as she gives first hand information and properly explains her plight as a slave. This book was effective as it also motivated feminists to join in the fight for the abolition of slavery. Through her book where she tells of her story as a slave and later as a free woman, she was able to gain social and cultural experience and use it in her book. The freedom she dearly yearns for is an ideal expression of how slavery robbed slave women of their freedom (Spence 4). This would help her create awareness and gain support to persuade the northern women to join the abolition movement.
Her arguments were effective as it was able to convince and change the opinion of the Northern white men who could effect change to join the abolition movement. This was accomplished through their wives. White northern women that read literal fiction read the book and tried to change their husbands’ opinion on slavery. She is cautious when telling her story so as not to offend the white audience as she tries to secure herself as a trustworthy source of information. With this, Jacobs was able to appeal to their sympathy and understanding of the female audience made them view Jacobs and other female slaves as women as being in the same situation.
Jacobs’s incidents in the life of a slave girl is effective in the abolition of slavery in that she tried to find ways to make the northern women hate and despise slavery. A good example is how she narrates of her misfortunes as she compares and highly holds the privileges of a white woman. She also tried to persuade the white women to support the abolitionist movement by trying to show that slavery stopped and removed happiness from the lives of the white mistress as their husbands disregarded their marriage vows to an extent of fathering children with the female slaves. This echoes Fitzhugh who in The Blessings of slavery considers slavery extraction of happiness (141).This brought pity and made the northern white women empathic with what the white mistresses and also instilled the fear that with slavery, the same thing might happen to them.
The target audience of Jacobs’s incidents in the life of a slave girl is quite wide. The larger audience was the Americans that were not convinced enough to join the abolitionist movement, or the fight against slavery. Primarily, the larger target was women. Women took a significant role in changing the minds of their husbands and their opinions. For example, the middle class Christian white women was the primary audience of the book. Jacobs used the sexual harassment in the book as a way of stimulating the Christian women to take up the fight against slavery. This was accomplished as they felt that sexual harassment was a corruption of the Christian moral influence. Just like Martin Luther King Jr., Jacobs finds ways to reach her target audience as she uses scenes that a particular audience would relate with in one way or another. For instance, the sexual harassment scenes appealed to the Christian women; on the other hand, the narration of how Dr. Flint disregarded his marriage vows to his wife appealed to every other woman that held marriage and marriage vows sacred. At that time, women did not have a voice that would influence change in society but by persuading them and getting them to sympathize with the female slaves and their plight; they would in turn persuade their husbands to join the fight against slavery.
Jacobs’s book is quite convincing in so many ways as it was able to capture the attention of her target audience. The use of the first person made this more convincing, as the book was not fiction it was all based on the story of a real slave. One would say that the book was able to change and persuade a number of Americans to join the war against slavery. Christians joined the quest as they saw the treatment that the female slaves got from their masters was against the Christian morals. She symbolically used narrations of her life as a slave and her struggle to free herself and her children to convince the white women to join the abolitionist movement.
There are quite a number of rhetorical strategies that Jacobs uses in her book. She uses the arrangement of the whole book to create transitioning of her life story step by step until she becomes free. She also uses logos and ethos as persuasive way of appealing the emotions of her intended audience. In King’s letter, he uses the same rhetorical strategies to persuade his target audience. For instance, Jacobs narrates her sexual harassment by her master then backs up how wrong this was by talking about his marriage vows to his wife that he did not keep. This was done to show how wrong the master’s actions were. The whole book is based on narration of her life therefore there was no need to use examples to explain a point but instead, she used strong points to emphasize on something that she clearly needed to put across. When she states that the white woman should not judge what she did as it was a way of trying to escape her master’s sexual harassment.
Generally, I find the book persuasive by all accounts. The struggle of being a girl slave and the mistreatment she went through at Dr. Flint’s hands sound as real as they could be. How Harriet hid in a dilapidated house when she escaped and peeped through a hole she had drilled proved her motherly instinct and was convincing. This part of the book persuades women as any woman that has child would understand motherly instincts and empathizes with Jacobs. Another very convincing part of the book is where Mrs. Flint finds out about her husbands’ ways and is disappointed and sad. These two narrations are very convincing to the readers. This is because it is a feeling that anyone, especially a woman would relate with. This convinced the readers instantly as long as they had the same feeling, or could empathize with her. Narrations like this in various parts of the book made the book more convincing in so many ways. This made it a reality that the story is based on what happened and not fictitious as one might choose to believe.
There are many books and literature works that have been written in the fight against slavery, but Jacobs’s incidents in the life of a slave girl is quite unique as compared to other works. Her book is real and it served a deeper purpose. Similar to King’s letter from Birmingham jail, her book serves the purpose of persuading people to join the quest against slavery. Therefore, the rhetorical strategies that she uses in her book helped the greater purpose of her book. A little twists and manipulation that persuaded the women audience to join the quest to fight against slavery. Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents In The Life Of A Slave Girl was effective in the abolition of slavery as it was a persuasive channel to bring and convince more people to join the fight against slavery.