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English Class: Incidences in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs

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Prompt: Select one title: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl or The Living Is Easy. Write an essay in which you discuss how Black women choose self-definition (how they define themselves) in your selected text. Consider that this choice may be articulated through literary modes of expression (genre – autobiography/slave narrative/fiction) as well as through themes in the literature. Your discussion should demonstrate knowledge of historical legacies of Black women’s representation that have been foregrounded in supplemental readings and course lectures. Please cite accordingly. 


     Must contain a clear and concise thesis statement

     Paper Length: 4-5pages

     MLA Citation – 1-inch margins all around, 12pt. font, double spaced, Times New Roman, works cited page



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English Class: Incidences in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs

In this narrative, "Incidence in the Life of a Slave Girl," Harriet uses Linda Brent's fictional name to describe her own life as a slave in a white household. Her work is focused on the moral predicament and the vulnerability of black women who are, until today, powerless against the sexual abuses of white men. Linda, the protagonist in this story, wants to justify chastity and live a respectable life, but because of the place of women in society in the era of slavery, it is becoming impossible. Linda's master is lustful over her and constantly gets harassment. Linda is often in remorse and shame as she tries to establish her moral character to show her adherence to the contemporary ideas of female sexuality. Linda is guided by the principles and the street morals that were instilled by her grandmother in her childhood and early adult life. Linda tries to maintain a chaste life, but it proves to be impossible to have the ideas of chastity fulfilled as they are in a women powerless society dominated by white men. Like Linda, women have and continue to have challenges in the man-dominated society in the strive to have a life free from sexual oppression.

There is an overgrown quest for women's freedom and how women perceive themselves within the shackles of slavery and oppression. Women, particularly the mistresses, have the tendency to have cruelty on the enslaved women; in contemporary life, we would address the vulnerable women in the whites’ society. Linda perceives herself and other women under similar oppression as women of dignity even though they are stripped off from the same. Linda condemns these behaviors of oppression and feels that the abolition of the institution of slavery could improve the fight for the rights of women as they are rendered powerless within this institution (Maallem, 214).  Linda sees women at some point inflicting pain on themselves; she describes, for instance, that the white women who have fallen victim to sexual abuse and having children with their white male misters telling their husbands to sell off their consequent illegitimate children. The act of women proposing the sell-off of their children once gotten as a result of abuse is a suggestion that women are being enemies of their own liberation. Women are getting punished for their own abuse.


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