The Influence Of Incidents In The Life Of A Slave Girl By Harriet Jacobs

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Harriet Jacobs, embodying women’s struggles to overcome a male-dominated society, demonstrates how agency is not limited to well-off white women. Jacobs, the first woman to write a slave narrative, was not even legally recognized as person, let alone as an individual on equal standing with any man, black or white. Although Fern and Jacobs both struggled to navigate complex relationships in a male dominated society, Fern at least enjoyed the luxury of citizenship. Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl was extremely influential because it relayed the struggles of African American women struggling in the same society as white women, just in a very unique, often amplified way. Fern saw how women were seen as vessels to serve men’s needs …show more content…
Knowing the troubles African American women went through to resist rape and attempt to escape the wrath of slavery solidifies the importance of Franny Fern’s abolitionist agenda. There is no good in female slaves obtaining freedom just to be catapulted back into an oppressive culture where males dominate their wives and women could not support themselves financially. Both Fern and Jacobs knew the harm associated with complacency and instead, promoted women’s autonomy. Fern and Jacobs’ success extends to their ability to relate their lives to a common audience and represent the restrictiveness of patriarchal influences in a unique way. Both women are clever and confident in their literary and practical approaches to oppression. Fern exposes the hypocrisy of gender roles and marriage norms with crafty and humorous language. Jacobs is self-assertive and cognizant, allowing her to expose the disconnect between Christianity and the behaviors of religious slave owners. By focusing on the root problem in gender inequality, Fern and Jacobs effectively created a platform of literature written for women, by …show more content…
These problems are observed through both women’s experiences of shame and disconnection from family and friends based on their choices. Isolation and judgement faced by these women shows how deeply the ideas of patriarchy and gender roles were embedded in the lives of Americans in the nineteenth century and highlights the important timing of Fern and Jacobs’ intervention. These women sparked a movement that grew to encompass abolition of slavery, marriage and divorce reform, prison reforms, and woman’s suffrage. These women were not just two separate forces happening at the same time; Fern’s sister in law purchased Jacobs’ freedom, which, although controversial for Jacobs, shows the connections made by abolitionists. It was important for these women to stand together and enact actual change, not just preach it to the public. Even though they made a significant impact on American literature, neither Fern nor Jacobs was particularly happy with the outcome of their lives. Fern always having to face the criticism of males with superiority complexes, and Jacobs struggling to come to terms with her freedom, never saw true abolition of patriarchal influences in society. To this day, gender and racial

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