Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

1638 words 7 pages
In "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl", Harriet Jacobs writes, "Slavery is terrible for men; but it is far more terrible for women" (64). Jacobs' work shows the evils of slavery as being worse in a woman's case by the gender. Jacobs elucidates the disparity between societal dictates of what the proper roles were for Nineteenth century women and the manner that slavery prevented a woman from fulfilling these roles. The book illustrates the double standard of for white women versus black women. Harriet Jacobs serves as an example of the female slave's desire to maintain the prescribed virtues but how her circumstances often prevented her from practicing. Expectations of the women of the era resided in four arenas: …show more content…
Sexual harassment was taken as a matter of course, "I now entered my fifteenth year, - a sad epoch in the life of a slave girl" (26). Sadly, sexual abuse was accepted almost as a rite of passage for a female slave, that at a certain age, her purity would be stolen. A female slave could not expect to find safe harbor even from the other woman of the house, "The mistress, who ought to protect the helpless victim, has no other feelings towards her but those of jealousy and outrage" (26). As opposed to acting on behalf of the female slaves, the mistress saw the slave as the problem. Without any help, Jacobs had to keep her master from trying any sexual acts to keep her purity. Importance of this purity is highlighted in the passage describing her rebellion to build a separate house where he could be alone with her. Jacobs viewed the defense of purity as passionately as any woman but slavery had placed her in circumstances that left her its certain loss. Enslaved women could not even maintain purity if subscribing to the idea of sexual relations occurring within a marriage, as it was typically denied by law or the owner. Jacobs had fallen in love with a free black man. “ We became mutually attached, and he proposed to marry me. I loved him with all the ardor of a young girl's first love. But when I reflected that I was a slave, and that the laws gave


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