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Compare and contrast the narratives by Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs.

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aaldige | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 2, 2012 at 11:11 PM via web

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Compare and contrast the narratives by Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs.

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 2, 2012 at 11:38 PM (Answer #1)

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In many ways, these two texts are very similar, and indeed are often used as complementary readings in courses on slavery. Both Douglass and Jacobs tell of the depravity of slavery, the way that the power it vests in whites is inherently corrupting. Douglass is brutally beaten and Jacobs is constantly pursued by a lecherous white master, whose wife holds her responsible for her master's lust. Like Douglass, Jacobs is offering her narrative as testimony to the horrors of slavery, and she, like Douglass, had her credibility questioned by many Americans. It is without doubt a highly politicized narrative, as is the narrative Douglass, who sought to use his story to drum up support for the cause of abolitionism. One significant difference has to do with the way in which Jacobs and Douglass assert their humanity in the face of slavery. Where Douglass attacks and physically injures Covey, an incident portrayed as a triumph and the moment when he became a man, Jacobs ("Linda") is forced to sleep with another man, and to even have children by him to avoid her master, Dr. Flint. She experiences extreme angst over this decision, and is made to feel guilty by her grandmother. Because of her gender, she dealt with an entirely different set of challenges, including being forced to hide in a tiny room in a neighbor's house to escape Flint, than did Douglass.


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