Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs – Book Report/Review Example
The paper “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs" is a thrilling example of a book review on literature. In the midst of extreme oppression and hardship, slaves resisted their condition and created their own ways of living. How did slaves create their own culture and ways of life? How did slaves resist slavery? How were hardships related to a slaves gender?
Slaves revolted against their masters, ran away or sabotaged the work of their masters by pretending to be sick or intentionally underperforming so as to harm their masters in any way they could. These were acts of hitting back against slavery; which discriminated against racial minorities. In Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl the main theme being explored is escaped from slavery and this is what slaves did in the midst of extreme oppression and hardship. There are several instances of slavery in the book. First, when Linda, the female protagonist finds out that her children Benny and Ellen are going to be given the same treatment from Mr. Flint as she had (she had been sent to work as a farmhand after refusing the sexual advances of her master Mr. Flint even after accepting the advances of Mr. Sands just so that Mr. Flint would leave her alone) she escapes to Aunt Martha; her grandmother.
Mr. Flint, who was under the impression that Linda had escaped, unknowingly sells her children to Mr. Sands; who happened to be their father. Linda managed to stay in hiding until she finally escaped to the north. At the time, the northern states in the union had abolished slavery and many slaves were escaping to the north.
William, Linda’s brother also escapes from slavery from his master Mr. Sands. Mr. Sands has been a good master to the Brent’s since he did not treat either of them cruelly. However, he does not in any way acknowledge that he is the father of Benny and Ellen. Linda accepted his sexual advances against her will, just to be rid of Dr. Flint and he fathered her children.
Running away from slavery was anything but easy; although it was easier for those in the upper north because of their proximity to the northern states that had abolished slavery. Most of the escapees were young men who were considered prized possessions by their masters. Escapees risked being separated from their families for good or they have to face the death if caught by their slave masters. Linda did not want to be separated from her children and so initially, escape was impossible. There was also the fact that they were children and the only option she had was to hide in the attic of Aunt Martha. “A small shed had been added to my grandmother’s house years ago…the storeroom opened upon a piazza…to this hole, I was conveyed as soon as I entered the house” (Jacobs 173).
Because of their gender, men had an easier time escaping from slavery. To some extent, young women could also manage the escape from slavery. Because of their physical capabilities, male slaves were subjected to fieldwork; with the housework being the preserve of female slaves. After the end of the international slave trade, slave owners had to rely on the reproduction of their population of slaves if they wanted to increase their numbers of slaves. For that reason, they did not want to risk the health of their female slaves and this put the female gender in a better position with regard to treatment by their masters.
Rebellions against their masters were one of the ways slaves hit back against the institution of slavery. In more than 200 years of slavery, there were about 200 revolts against slavery in the United States. Few of these gained successes but they provided a background that led to the abolition of slavery in the United States. The Gabriel Prosser’s rebellion, the Denmark Vesey’s uprising, and Nat Turner’s uprising all took place in the 19th century. The Gabriel Prosser uprising took place in 1800 when Gabriel Prosser and his recruits planned a match through Richmond. He was unsuccessful since he was betrayed by the weather and one of his recruits. The Denmark Vesey’s uprising of 1822 was started by a free man and again, he was betrayed before launching the attacks he had planned in the city of Charleston against the white majority. Perhaps one of the most successful of revolts was Nat Turner’s revolt of 1831 which started when Nat Turner and his followers attacked and killed his master’s family and other slave owners. His revolt did not have any plan and as they progressed they were joined by other slaves. This was also the beginning of white vigilantism, which instituted revenge attacks against slaves.
While many slaves were suffering under slavery, many feared the thought of revolting because slave owners would mistreat the family members of the escapees. The other means of hitting back at slavery was to feign illness; something female slaves were exceptionally good at. Sabotage of the work in the farms was common like working slowly, playing dumb, destroying tools or even setting fire to the houses of the slave owners. Female slaves were expected to give birth, and one of the ways of resisting was preventing pregnancy. This is how slaves, pertaining to their specific genders, resisted slavery.