Compare and contrast Harriet Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl and Frederick Douglass' An American Slave.

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845) and Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861) both have elements of the conventional fugitive slave narrative. Both authors recount their horrific experiences as slaves and their escape northward. The authors also explain how they came to be literate in order to counter proslavery arguments that their narratives were not authentic. Finally, they prove themselves devout Christians who expose the hypocrisies of their supposedly religious southern slave masters.

However, their narratives differ both in style and substance. Douglass, a rousing orator, writes with rhetorical flourishes that he used on the lecture circuit, including repetition and allusions to Biblical stories. Jacobs, on the other hand, uses the style of the popular women's domestic novel to stress her commitment to family and home (this was also the style of the very popular Uncle Tom's Cabin). Douglass, a man, fights for his freedom and wins it, while Jacobs's story is more complicated. Having given birth to children with a white man of her choosing, she has to not only fight for her own freedom but also that of her children. Hence, her path to freedom is different and in some ways more complicated than that of Douglass.

teachertaylor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As noted in the above answer, both Jacobs and Douglass relay their stories as slaves in the American south.  As such, they are both similar in that they describe their relationships with the owners of the plantations on which they live, the way of life on the plantations, and the hardships that they struggled to endure.  However, Jacobs and Douglass employ quite different writing styles to tell their stories.  In Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Jacobs more often breaks from the standard tone and style of the slave narrative and uses emotional language to convey events.  For example, in the chapter about the slaves' New Year's Day, the narrator explains that slave families were often broken because they were taken to the auction block at the start of the year.  The narrator then uses exclamation points and interjections to express the anguish that slave mothers felt when they were separated from their children.  In contrast, Douglass does not use this type of language in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.  His tone and style are much more objective (the only exception is the apostrophe in the middle of the narrative that explores Douglass' watching the ships in the harbour).  This is a major difference between the two narratives.

kara123 | Student

Comparing is just the simple matter of they both are stories of two african american people struggling and they both found a way to try to help thier situations. Such as in Slave girl the Narration of "Linda" is how she ran off to protect her children, and as well did Frederick Douglass, but for his own rights. But at the end of the story in Slave girl she is still in hiding despite all of the threats, but Frederick Douglass came back to stand up to his owner for treating him so wrong. So they both stood up for themselves in different ways and as well tried to fight their situation. The only one that As far as I have read in these short stories is that Frederick Douglass is the only one who had gotten what he had wanted. Respect.

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