America is a rather young country and it is known as the country of great opportunities and high level of development among the other countries in the world, as it takes the first place in different world rates. The originality of this nation lies also in the fact, that it turned out to be the only country in the history that could make a great step from slavery to democratic society.
Slavery was an accepted phenomenon for the American society till the moment, when the Civil War broke out. Northern abolitionists strongly attacked the facts of slaves’ ownership, so widely practiced by the people from the South.
Southerners used their own arguments, to stand for their position.Ā “Southern politicians and property owners interpreted these laws as interference from the federal government, jeopardizing the sovereignty of the states and the integrity of the Constitution. In the South, slaves were considered “chattel,”¯ or property, and they were bought and sold like livestock”¯ (Vermillion, 2004). Slaves were suffering from hard physical work and violent attitude from the side of their owners, the plantations, where they had to work in Sound were huge and the practice of slavery holding was so popular, that it seemed next to impossible to extirpate it. The ways, the slaves were treated by their white masters, were all legal and documented in certain regulations, existing during those times in South parts of the country, for example: “the slave, being personal chattel, is at all times liable to be sold absolutely, or mortgaged or leased, at the will of his master”¯ or Prop. XI “Slaves cannot redeem themselves, nor obtain a change of masters, though cruel treatment may have rendered such change necessary for their personal safety”¯ (Vermillion,Ā 2004).
The theme of slavery was rather popular in the literature and there were a lot of authors, who wrote about all the tortures of the slaves and about their hard life in the South. This is evident, that only those authors, who had to go through all the hardships of slavery themselves could present the most touching and vivid narrations about their lives. In this paper we are going to stop at one of such narrations – the most well known biographical narration – Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs. This is a story about a slave woman, who found the moral and physical strength to break through brutal and dehumanizing institution of slavery and find her way to emancipation. Jacobs is writing about her own experience, but the readers realize, that millions of other African American people had to endure the same sufferings and miseries. The title of the narration is deeply ironical, because the author calls the terrible events of her life – “adventures”¯. The author decided to change her name in the book and to take the fictional one – the name of the main heroin is Linda. The whole narration starts from Ā for Linda from realization of her state as a slave ”“ “I was born a slave; but I never knew it till six years of happy childhood had passed away”¯ – her teen years, birth of children and her constant desire to escape (Jacobs, 2001).
When creating this narration, the author aimed first of all at demonstrating the facts, related to depravity of slaves and inhuman attitude to them; Jacobs was not looking for sympathy, she rather concentrated upon the emotionless facts, and left the space for readers’ judgments and perception. Many times, the author underlined, that the slavery was associated not only with constant bondage, but absolute humiliation of black people, which made them completely inferior. Due to such treatment of the slave owners, the intellectual development of slaves was certainly limited, which was absolutely convenient for their masters. Readers notice from the very beginning, that there are no accusations of the white nation from the side of the author. What she is struggling against, is the general notion of slavery, the institution of slavery and acceptance of it in any society. The author presents the proves, Ā that slavery had negative impact upon white people and their families as well. When Jacobs narrates about her personal sufferings, she mentions several owners, but, especially Dr. Flint, to whom she was sent at the age of eleven. The author presents the descriptions of beatings, burnings, overwork, starvation as well as sexual indignities the slave women had to go through (Vermillion, 2004). This writing is unique also due to the fact, that usually such narrations were written by male slaves. Jacobs had the moral strength to openly describe the situation she found herself in, when she reached the age of sixteen and Dr. Flint tried to subject her to sexual advances. Facing such persistence from the side of her owner, Jacobs became even more convinced, that she should gain freedom and independence.
The author also pays attention to the attitude of Mrs. Flint towards slaves, which was not much better than that of her husband. “Mrs. Flint, like many southern women, was totally deficient in energy. She had not strength to superintend her household affairs; but her nerves were so strong, that she could sit in her easy chair and see a woman whipped, till the blood trickled from every stroke of the lash. She was a member of the church; but partaking of the Lord’s supper did not seem to put her in a Christian frame of mind”¯ (Jacobs, 2001). She seized severe control over the kitchen and food in order no to let cook and her family to eat even the rests of the food. She was also rather harsh towards Linda, because of her jealousy feelings(Vermillion, 2004).
Overall, in this paper we discussed one of the most famous narrations of the former slaves about their life conditions, about humiliation and miseries the slaves had to go through, as long as they were treated as property by their masters and had no rights. The narration, we have discussed – Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs ”“ reveals a lot of intimate and awful facts about the way, the slaves, especially women were treated.