Narrative Of The Life Of A Slave Girl, By Harriet Jacobs

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Harriet Jacobs, as a former slave and abolitionist, aided the cause greatly by being one of the first to write a slave narrative that specifically addresses the struggles that female slaves had to endure. Though every slave experienced cruelty, women had the distinct widespread ordeal of having to cope with further physical, sexual, and mental abuses. Women during the 19th century where also caught up in the ideas that pushed for women to be domestic and virtuous, both things that Harriet was denied due to the fact that she was a slave. Knowing that it was mostly white abolitionist women reading her story Harriet chose to highlight how she, and many other female slaves, were essentially stripped of their femininity, and how because of that …show more content…
Many of the predicaments that Harriet describes herself being in as a slave creates conflict between her aspirations to independence, and her purity. Once Dr. Flint becomes her new master, at 15, she has to begin finding ways around his sexual advances and abuse (Chapter 5). A problem that many enslaved women had to face. Harriet quickly understood that for enslaved women held consequences white woman did have to face. Harriet believed, “If God has bestowed beauty upon her, it will prove her greatest curse. That which commands admiration in the white woman only hastens the degradation of the female slave” (Chapter 5). To avoid Dr. Flints forced advances, Harriet seeks help from a friend Mr. Sands, and soon enters into a relationship with him that leads to a pregnancy (Chapter 10). Once her grandmother finds out that she is pregnant, she assumes that it is Dr. Flints baby and turns Harriet away; calling her, “disgrace to [her] dead mother” (Chapter 10). Harriet’s own grandmother was willing to turn her away if she felt sure wasn’t being pure or moral enough. For Harriet it is not only a feeling of disappointment from others, but also with herself. She states, "My self-respect was gone! I had resolved that I would be virtuous, though I was a slave,” acknowledging her lack of control over the situation (Chapter 10). Due to the fact she didn’t have control over the situation Harriet felt as though, " the slave woman ought not to be judged by the same standard as others," realizing that she was expected to have the same moral code as everyone else though she didn’t have the ability to control her own life (Chapter 10). These struggles to remain virtuous, as an enslaved woman, are why Harriet had fear for her second child as soon as she found out it was a girl (Chapter 14). When Harriet says, “"When they told me my new-born babe was a girl, my heart was heavier than it had ever been before.

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