Dr. Albert Farr
29 September 2014
The Influence of Harriet Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Harriet Jacobs, in the preface to the book, wrote: 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 suffered, and most of them far worse. I want to add my testimony to that of abler pens to convince the people of the Free States what Slavery really is (335). With this statement, Jacobs specified her purpose for writing and her intended audience. This perception gives readers an understanding of why she chose to include what she did in her story as well as to why she chose to exclude other details. Even though this work is presented as a narrative of her own life situations, there were many occasions when she described conditions of which she was not directly involved. For example, she titled one chapter "Sketches of Neighboring Slaveholders" and dedicated this section to recounting some of the disturbing experiences of other slaves from other plantations. It was her hope to paint a picture of slavery as a cruel and immoral institution. She did certainly include many of her own experiences, but she was very careful in how she included them. She sought to gain the compassions of the middle class white women of the North to boost their protests against slavery. Nevertheless, she understood that she must defend some of her actions so as not to advance the claims of the South that slaves were no better than animals that must be kept under strict control for their own good. For instance, she pleaded with her readers to forgive her sins before she told of the circumstances of her first pregnancy. She did not want to alienate them by offending the high value they placed on virtue. Instead, she made every effort to portray herself as a moral and virtuous character that was corrupted by the evils...
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