What argument (implied and explicit) does Jacobs make against slavery? Refer to passages.

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rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jacobs writes as early as the Preface that she "has not exaggerated the wrongs inflicted by Slavery." Like every narrative written by enslaved people during the antebellum period, the entire Narrative is an indictment of slavery. As Jacobs writes, it is an effort to "arouse the women of the North to a realizing sense of the condition of two millions of women at the South, still in bondage, suffering what I suffered, and most of them far worse." Throughout the book, she addresses herself directly to the reader, asking them, in chapter 3, for example, to try to empathize with enslaved people:

O, you happy free women, contrast your New Year's day with that of the poor bond-woman! With you it is a pleasant season, and the light of the day is blessed. Friendly wishes meet you every where, and gifts are showered upon you . . . But to the slave mother New Year's day comes laden with peculiar sorrows. She sits on her cold cabin floor, watching the children who may all be torn from her the next morning; and often does she wish that she and they might die before the day dawns . . .

She goes on to describe enslaved mothers praying for death rather than separation from the children, dreadful whippings suffered by many slaves, and the other evils of the institution. But she is especially detailed in her description of Dr. Flint's relentless sexual pursuit of her. She uses this to demonstrate how slavery is a fundamentally corrupt institution, one that even drives her to an affair with a white man that would have been shocking to her readers. Forced by the fact that, as Flint puts it, she is "subject to his will in all things," Jacobs violates her own moral code to protect herself. In short, everything about her experience as a North Carolina slave is held up as an example of the basic, fundamental, and pervasive evil of the institution.

karaejacobi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The main idea that distinguishes Harriet Jacobs's Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl from other slave narratives of the 1800s is her focus on the specific abuses committed against women in slavery.

The brutal treatment of slave masters is well documented in many slave narratives of the period, but as a woman, Jacobs wanted to highlight the sexual abuse and hardships specific to women and their relationships with their children. Jacobs was sexually abused, as were other women on the plantation. She has to be careful to illustrate these incidents to her readers in a way that will allow them to sympathize rather than blame or dismiss her as a temptress. She does so by emphasizing her Christianity and how offended she is to have been used in such a way.

Jacobs also highlights her love for her children and the pain she feels at being separated from them at times. It was common for families to be split up, members of families to be sold to other plantations,  or children to be taken from their mothers. Jacobs discusses her relationship with her children to connect with the readers, middle- to upper-class white women, who were generally mothers and Christians.

Jacobs's implied argument is that slavery is a horrible, brutal institution and that women suffer additional pain and danger because of their gender.

teachertaylor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the third chapter of Jacobs’s narrative “The Slaves’ New Year’s Day,” Jacobs implicitly and explicitly states her views against slavery.  At the beginning of the chapter, Jacobs uses a more objective tone when describing the normal events that occur on the slaves’ typical New Year’s day which is hiring day in the South:  the slaves are taken to the trading grounds and are expected to go with their new masters.  Jacobs details the beatings that ensue if a slave is unwilling to go with his master.  These details imply that Jacobs has negative feelings towards slavery.  Towards the end of the chapter, Jacobs abandons her objective tone and makes a plea to the audience:  “O, you happy free women, contrast your New Year’s day with that of the poor bond-woman!”  In this plea, Jacobs makes it clear that she feels the difference between the lives of slaves and free persons is unjust.  Throughout the narrative, Jacobs weaves in and out of implicit and explicit disagreement with slavery.

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