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How can I convey that Jacobs needed to write Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl as...

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forwardprogress | Student, College Sophomore | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted September 19, 2012 at 4:33 AM via web

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How can I convey that Jacobs needed to write Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl as an act of self-emancipation?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 22, 2012 at 7:31 AM (Answer #1)

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You might like to consider the revelations that Harriet Jacobs makes about her sexual history and in particular the way in which she explores in Chapter X how she acquiesced to sex with her master. There is a sense in which all of her experiences are just so terrible that Harriet Jacobs has to write them down as a way of exploring her own story and in particular, making important arguments in defence of herself and what she did. Although this account of slavery is terrible on the one hand, on the other hand we can view it as being self-emancipatory through the powerful arguments she makes. Consider the following famous quote from this text:

Pity me, and pardon me, O virtuous reader! You never knew what it is to be a slave; to be entirely unprotected by law or custom; to have the laws reduce you to the condition of a chattel, entirely subject to the will of another.

Harriet Jacobs is here arguing that slave women cannot be judged on the same standards of decency and moral conduct as white women, because they have never completely and utterly been in the power of a white man in the same way. This defence of her actions and the way that it challenges accepted thinking so profoundly can be viewed as being incredibly self-emancipatory, as Harriet Jacobs is striking a blow for freedom from the way in which the attitudes of others oppress and constrain black women.

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