Introduction ”“ the problem of slavery and its depiction in literature
Description of the book and brief plot summary
The childhood of the main character as the depiction of the typical life of slaves in South
The physical and moral sufferings of the main character and her inability to resist to her master’s power
The main character’s freedom as an exception from the traditional fate of a slave
Slavery is one of the most arguable parts of American history. On the one hand, slavery brought rapid economic development and used to be the economic basis of Southern states which actually made them rich and prosperous.
On the other hand, slavery was an extremely primitive system of economic relations and was out of date even in the 18th century when it was widely spread, especially in the Southern territories of theUS. What is more important, slavery was absolutely inhuman and undemocratic phenomenon since it violated basic human rights as masters treated their slaves practically as animals. The extent, to which slavery was inhuman, is possible to understand while analyzing autobiographical works of writers who witnessed or were directly involved in this process. Among these writers, it is possible to name Linda Brent who had an experience of being a slave and in her book “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl”¯ she perfectly depicted the position of slaves, especially female slaves in the South.
First of all, it should be said that the entire book represents the evolution of a girl, who was born as a slave. The author skillfully depicts in details the process of her maturing and transformation in a woman and later a mother, but, probably, the most important metamorphosis occurs when she becomes a really free woman in the North. It is worth noting that Linda Brent accompanies the story of her life with precise and detailed description of the life of slaves and the tyranny of their masters.
Being a little girl, she lost her mother who died and, thus, she had to learn all the lessons from the life with the assistance of strange people, instead of her parents. The author often depicts the scene of extreme violence and severe punishment of slaves for the slightest misbehavior, mistake, or simply because of the bad mood of a master.
Linda Brent creates a panorama of the life of slaves in the South and the tortures they had to come through. At the same time, she addresses to the problem, which basically remained unnoticed by other writers working on the problem of slavery and creating autobiographic works. This is the problem of the position of female slaves which, as the author repeatedly underlines, was considerably worse than the position of male slaves.
On recollecting her life as a slave, she depicts in details how severely she was traumatized by her master since her girlhood. She suffered a lot from sexual harassment and abuse. Being a young, innocent girl she had to become a subject which her master used to satisfy his sexual needs. What was probably the most dramatic in such a situation was her inability to change the situation somehow. In fact, she could not even escape as male slaves did and she could not refuse to her master because she had children she loved and, thus, she would not bear if she were separated from them. And her master amply used it to force her to obey him.
As a result, the narrator of the story had to suffer a lot in the course of her life since she was a slave and a toy in hands of her master. She finds some reconciliation only when she finally settles in the North where she could really feel that she was a free woman, a person that could according to her own will. However, such an end, which, though, can hardly be named a happy end, is rather an exceptional case than a norm since the story of the narrator depicts sufferings of many other female slaves who were not so lucky to find freedom. In such a way, Linda Brent’s autobiographical book has revealed probably the ugliest part of slavery ever depicted in literature.