illustrated portrait of main character Linda Brent

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

by Harriet Jacobs
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How well does the quote "a uterus is not a substitute for a conscience" apply to Jacob's portrayal of Mrs. Flint in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl? Include evidence from the book.

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Barbara Ehrenreich's remark that a uterus is no substitute for a conscience was made in an article about female soldiers charged with abusing inmates in Abu Ghraib prison. The implication is that women are supposed to be kinder than men, while the reference to a uterus suggests that this expectation...

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Barbara Ehrenreich's remark that a uterus is no substitute for a conscience was made in an article about female soldiers charged with abusing inmates in Abu Ghraib prison. The implication is that women are supposed to be kinder than men, while the reference to a uterus suggests that this expectation is related to women's role in bearing and raising children.

The comment is entirely apposite for Mrs. Flint, whose attitude to and treatment of the slaves is even more inhumane that her husband's. Dr. Flint is brutal and selfish, quite happy to administer a savage beating when a slave makes a mistake in preparing his dinner. Mrs. Flint, however, is positively fiendish in her cruelty. One need look no further for evidence of this than the second chapter of Harriet Jacobs's narrative, in which she is introduced. She mocks a young girl who is dying in childbirth and spitefully tells her mother that she will not be going to heaven, which "is no such place for the like of her and her bastard." She spits in the kettles and pans used for cooking so that the hungry slaves who work in the kitchen will not be able to augment their paltry rations by scraping out a little leftover sauce. Mrs. Flint is not merely unconscientious but deliberately cruel, every bit as bad as any male slave owner.

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