Which parts of Jacobs's narrative would most convince readers of the evils of slavery?

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The entirety of Harriet Jacobs's recounting of her experiences as an enslaved woman should convince readers of the evils of slavery. The very reality of her enslavement, of her loss of autonomy over her own life and status as '"owned," should convince readers of the absolute inherent evils of slavery. There are many specific incidents throughout the narrative that especially emphasize the horrors of slavery. Harriet, at the young age of six years old, experiences the death of her mother. At this time, she is stolen away from the rest of her family and sold to a white woman. While this period of time is often framed as a benevolent period of her enslavement, this framing completely dismisses the tragedy of Harriet being taken away from her family and forced to serve another person without pay.

When Harriet is twelve, she experiences even harsher realities of enslavement when she becomes the property of an incredibly cruel and predatory white man, Dr. Flint. Harriet endures the torture of confinement when she hides in an attic crawlspace for seven years, hoping to evade her master and his predatory sexual advances and to help secure the freedom of her children. At every step of her enslaved life, Harriet is forced to strategize for her survival and any shred of dignity and autonomy that she can obtain until she finally escapes.

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Harriet Jacobs is very clear that the aim of her entire memoir is to convince readers of the evils of slavery. In the epigraph, she quotes a North Carolina woman, who says,

Northerners know nothing at all about Slavery. They think it is perpetual bondage only. They have no conception of the depth of degradation involved in that word, SLAVERY; if they had, they would never cease their efforts until so horrible a system was overthrown.

One might, therefore, select almost any incident from the book at random to illustrate the evils of slavery. Certain points, however, are made over and over again. One is that the slaves are not regarded or treated as human beings. When the author’s father dies, she is not allowed to go to his house; she is forced to make decorations for a party her mistress is giving, since, as far as her mistress is concerned, her father “was merely a piece of property.” Another frequent point is that the masters seem to enjoy whipping and humiliating their slaves, even finding new ways to torment them, as when Dr. Flint forces his cook to eat dog food. In the same chapter, the author recounts,

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."

Presumably the mistress realized that the girl had been raped by her (the mistress's) husband, yet she still blamed the girl, jeering at her as she died. Such instances of abuse abound throughout the narrative, accompanied by the point that justice and protection, which the law provides to free people, are always inaccessible to the slave. When the author’s master begins to sexually assault her and she attempts to resist, she is completely helpless:

He told me I was his property; that I must be subject to his will in all things. My soul revolted against the mean tyranny. But where could I turn for protection? No matter whether the slave girl be as black as ebony or as fair as her mistress. In either case, there is no shadow of law to protect her from insult, from violence, or even from death...

Many of the evils of slavery are clear at first sight in any case, but it would be difficult for any reader to remain unconvinced of its appalling effects on all parties after reading page after page in which such events are commonplace.

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Many incidents in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl show the evils of slavery. One example is seen soon after Harriet Jacobs turns 15 years old:

But I now entered on my fifteenth year—a sad epoch in the life of a slave girl. My master began to whisper foul words in my ear. Young as I was, I could not remain ignorant of their import. . . . He peopled my young mind with unclean images, such as only a vile monster could think of.

Already, at the age of 15, her master begins to speak to her of sexual topics and to demand that she submit to his wishes: "He told me I was his property; that I must be subject to his will in all things."

Jacobs is soon exhausted by her master's mistreatment and his wife's jealousy and meanness towards her. She tells her master that she wishes to go to her grandmother for protection. After this, she writes, "He threatened me with death, and worse than death, if I made any complaint to her."

Harriet Jacobs was abused emotionally, sexually, and physically by many individuals (especially her masters) throughout her story. She could not keep everyone happy, so she was constantly being punished; for example, if she submitted to her master's demands, his wife grew angry and jealous. Additionally, Jacobs had to go against her moral teachings to submit to her master's wishes. She could not make decisions for herself; instead, she had to obey the demands of everyone around her.

In chapter 6, Jacobs demonstrates how evil she believes slavery to be:

I would ten thousand times rather that my children should be the half-starved paupers of Ireland than to be the most pampered among the slaves of America.

She believes that it would be better to have her children starve than to allow them to be raised as slaves with no ability to make their own decisions.

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