“Incidents of a Slave Girl” by Harriet Jacobs

For Incidents of a Slave Girl, I chose the song Be My Escape by Relient k because it is all about how the singer feels trapped by someone else, and I related it to a slave’s entrapment. I thought it particularly related to one of the quotes I want to talk about as well.

In the quote, Jacobs states,

“The felon’s home in a penitentiary is preferable. He may repent, and turn from the error of his ways, and so find peace; but it is not so with a favorite slave. She is not allowed to have any pride of character. It is deemed a crime in her to wish to be virtuous,” (2343).

This line stood out to me because it’s such an interesting comparison that Jacobs make. It’s one that, unless you are a slave, you probably wouldn’t think of or consider. It also shows a side of slavery that we don’t hear about quite as often; the moral side. This shows just how insignificant the slaves are beyond what they’re in the home to do. The fact that the narrator envies a felon in prison says a lot about how the household was run. She wasn’t able to show character of be virtuous because then she might come off as trying to be something more or someone intelligent and human. As the story goes on, we see that Mrs. Flint’s husband uses the narrator’s skill of writing for his own gain. These themes have been present in past readings, and I’m sure that it will come up again in future slave narratives.

A couple pages later, there is another passage that resonated with me for similar reasons. It says,

“The tears came to my eyes; but I was soon convinced that her emotions arose from anger and wounded pride. She felt that her marriage vows were desecrated, her dignity insulted; but she had no compassion for the poor victim of her husband’s perfidy. She pitied herself a martyr; but she was incapable of feeling for the condition of shame and misery in which her unfortunate, helpless slave was placed,” (2345).

I recall being relieved that Mrs. Flint was taking the narrator’s side when she first began to cry until I realized that it was for her own sake. Then I was irritated, yet not entirely surprised. This shows more about the household that the slave is living in. Even when she goes through something traumatic and emotional, her masters are only thinking about themselves. Their reputation is more important than a slave, and even when the narrator says that perhaps the woman had some feelings for her, I didn’t believe they could be genuine because of her initial reaction.

It appears that the narrator shared the same feelings as I did because she thinks, “but my experience with slavery had filled me with distrust,” (2345). It is sad that she cannot trust anybody simply because of her oppression as a slave. The slave even says that she doesn’t blame her mistress which only reinforces the idea that the slaves were beginning to believe some of the negative views that had been thrust upon them. This would also be a contributing factor as to why slaves are discouraged form having character or a voice. If they started to act out against these views, they would not be treated fairly at all.

These were two moments that really stuck with me in the text because of the emotions they evoked in not only me but the narrator.

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