Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl - Literary Essay Example

Published: 2022-07-18
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl - Literary Essay Example
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Slavery American literature
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 992 words
9 min read

Incidents in the life of a slave girl by Harriet Jacobs, the intended audience

Linda Harriet, in her book incidents in the life of a slave girl, targets women of North Carolina. She requests for all the careless daughters to rise and hear her voice, and pay attention to her speech. She uses her true adventures in the narration of this book, by describing the wrongs that were afflicted by slavery. She mentions; she was brought up in bondage and was a slave for twenty-seven years. The North made it necessary for her to work hard for the support of her children and gave her limited time to pursue her dreams, due to this; she snatched any hours she got to write this book. She does not wish to get attention by describing her sufferings but hopes to arouse these women, still in bondage, who seem to go through the adversities that she went through and to convince the people of the Free States on what slavery is.

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How does Harriet Jacobs use her writing to connect to that audience?

It is a narrative that outlines the miseries and tribulations of a young girl who was a member of a slavery institution. The author states that; slavery comprises of destructive forces which tear anyone surrounded by it, both the whites and blacks. According to her, people who take part in the administration of slavery are evil and carry a strong will of hatred in them. She tries to build a smudge from those who have not encountered slavery by igniting flames of passion to the readers. This flame touches the spirit of all those that read the book (Jacobs, 2018). She knows how mothers feel towards her children and use this to describe instances when a child would be taken from their mother, tearing holes in their spirit. She mentions how other people were mistreated including how girls were exposed to inappropriate sexual advances at a tender age, and how old men would be thrown out of the picture due to their inability to serve, without considering their many years of loyalty.

The book outlines elaborate instances of the lives of slaves and aggravates feelings from the audience. She incorporates various tactics in her writing to get the attention and reach her audience. She uses the second persona in telling her stories, where she strives to draw sorrow from her readers and get pity. She uses the mother like character and content view of a fabricated slave girl to show the impacts of slavery on families, lives, and individuals (Heyne, 2004). By narrating her life encounters, she hopes to inform, engage and motivate others to work hard towards change. She chooses to write the story in fictional form so that she can reach the reader point-blank.

Harriet described herself as a daughter of a black mother and a white mother. She says she was born a slave and only noticed it when she was six years old. Her status as a daughter of a white father did not distinguish her from being classified as a black slave though. She had to endure mental and physical abuse instances from the person that owned her. After some time; she managed to run away and hide in the attic for a good number of years, after which she moved to the North with an aim to abolish slavery.

In writing her story, she shows less emotional connection may be because the events in her life hardened her during that time. Harriet inspires others by describing women in her life, given that at that time, they had fewer rights and fewer powers (Jacobs, 2009). Slave owners, ruined the lives of children and women like it was nothing to them. The women's liberationist movement was started to seek the rights of women. This narrative was a useful tool in strengthening feminism in the nineteenth century. The fiction depicts black women as uncontrollable, foreign and vicious, while the white ones are sainted, pure, and virtuous. She discloses the sexual persecution of black women into the political and public domain.

Alternative to submitting to what seems like a sexual assault by Flint; she comes up with a plan that enables her to keep her dignity, family wholeness, and self-hood. She had a relationship with Sawyer, the white man because she knew by this, and she would have a white child. She showed independence by doing this. She does this to survive, even though the traditional way of live discouraged breaking of virginity before a person was married (Schulze, 2009). She thought, came up with a plan and advised herself planning to keep her family safe and united. She does not stick to the standards that are hard to be applied in the context but comes up with her idea of morality.


In this narrative, Harriet states her intentions in writing this book to the specified audience. There are a clear motive and understanding as to why she chose to write and include all the details that she did. As much as she incorporated most of what she went through, she careful with the manner in which she addressed the issues. For instance, she ensured that her readers understood her actions as circumstantial based on the evils of slavery. She wanted to get the attention of the middle-class women in the North to advance their protests.


Heyne, K. (2004). Harriet Jacobs: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Retrieved from

Jacobs, H. A. (2009). Incidents in the life of a slave girl: Written by herself (Vol. 119). Harvard University Press. Retrieved from

Jacobs, H. A. (2018). Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. BoD-Books on Demand. Retrieved from

Schulze, D. (2009). Harriet Jacobs-Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Retrieved from

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