Critical Analysis of Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

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The life of a slave woman is far more complex than that of a slave man, although understandably equal in hardships, the experience for a woman is incredibly different. The oppression that women have faced throughout their lives in the struggle to even be considered equal to men is more than evident in slavery, not only because they were thought of as lesser but in some ways many women actually believed it to be true. The experiences that Linda Brent, pseudonym for the author Harriet A. Jacobs, went through in her life story in Incidents In The Life Of A Slave Girl prove that the difficulties for slave women were more than significant in many different cases. For Linda Brent, her life had been a constant fight since she was six years old and looking back on it, she never saw that change over the years. When she found out she was giving birth to a baby girl, she couldn’t help but envision every single hardship, suffering and regret of her own for her daughter’s life too. Every bit of emotional anguish and grief she had felt throughout her lifetime as a slave was about to be passed on to her most prized possession, her daughter. Women who live and fight through slavery experience a different kind of life that only they themselves can imagine, and any mother who knows this could never hope for their child to go through the same agony they have endured, especially if it was going to be their daughter.

“When they told me that my new-born babe was a girl, my heart was heavier than it had ever been before. Slavery is terrible for men; but it is far more terrible for women. Superadded to the burden common to all, they have wrongs, sufferings, and mortifications peculiarly their own (Jacobs 77).” Quoted by Linda Brent (Harriet A. Jacobs) in Incidents In The Life Of A Slave Girl, she describes one of the most important contributions to the literature of slavery and to me the one major theme that comes from this passage, understanding the emotional anguish of slave women. After analyzing this particular passage from the autobiography, I have come to realize that there are many different themes depicted in this story but only one seems to be significantly evident throughout. She emphasizes that the life of a slave woman is incomparable to the life of a slave man, in the sense that a woman’s sufferings are not only physical but also extremely mental and emotional. Whether or not a slave woman is beaten, starved to death, or made to work in unbearable circumstances on the fields, she suffers from and endures horrible mental torments. Unlike slave men, these women have to deal with sexual harassment from white men, most often their slave owners, as well as the loss of their children in some cases. Men often dwell on their sufferings of bodily pain and physical endurance as slaves, where as women not only deal with that but also the mental and emotional aspect of it. Men claim that their manhood and masculinity are stripped from them, but women deal with their loss of dignity and morality. Females deal with the emotional agony as mothers who lose their children or have to watch them get beaten, as well as being sexually victimized by white men who may or may not be the father of their children. For these women, their experiences seem unimaginable and are just as difficult as any physical punishment, if not more so.

The understanding of the life of a slave woman is far beyond the knowledge of you or I, unless you have actually been an enslaved woman. These literary elements depicting the passage from this story are the only way to better comprehend the truth behind female slavery. If you are a mother, than maybe you can understand the utter attachment to your children, and therefore you can imagine what it must be like to have them taken away from you. Throughout her story, Linda Brent never loses sight of her self-respect and her desire to have a normal home and family. She is constantly fighting for herself as...
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