There are many comparisons between Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl and Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass . This is to be expected, as both were written to expose the horrors of slavery to a Northern readership. Both stress the brutality of slavery, describing in detail...
There are many comparisons between Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl and Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. This is to be expected, as both were written to expose the horrors of slavery to a Northern readership. Both stress the brutality of slavery, describing in detail the physical punishment and degradation that enslaved people received at the hands of white masters, overseers, and, in Jacobs's case, mistresses. Both Jacobs and Douglass learned to read at a relatively young age, a fact that set them apart from many other enslaved people. Both therefore emphasize the importance of education. Both point to the terrible effects that slavery has on enslaved families. In the end, both come from the same genre of literature—the slave narrative—that was intended to rally support for the abolitionist cause.
But the most significant difference in the two narratives is that Jacobs, as a woman, points to the indignities and horrors that enslaved women were forced to endure. Dr. Flint, her lascivious owner, is constantly attempting to sexually assault her. This, of course, is horrific, but the young girl is also forced to endure the sometimes violent scorn of Flint's jealous wife, who believes that the doctor has been successful in his attempts and holds Linda (Jacobs's name in the book) responsible despite, or perhaps because of, her helplessness. In this way, Jacobs not only relates her own experiences, but appeals to contemporary white middle-class notions of femininity. Her victimization was outrageous to both male and female readers, and she portrayed it as almost ubiquitous among slave societies. In one especially grim passage, she described a young enslaved girl, impregnated by her master, whose wife mocked her amid a fatal childbirth:
I once saw a young slave girl dying soon after the birth of a child nearly white. In her agony she cried out, "O Lord, come and take me!" Her mistress stood by, and mocked at her like an incarnate fiend. "You suffer, do you?" she exclaimed. "I am glad of it. You deserve it all, and more too."
In this way, Jacobs illustrates a layer of horror to slavery that Douglass alludes to but cannot know, as he is a man.