Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Harriet Jacobs

The story of Harriet Jacobs describes her life as a slave girl. Although she is still very young, Jacobs is forced to see and do things that are frowned upon. She grew up with her grandmother but also has fond memories of her mother which had already passed. Her will is strong and Harriet longs to be free of this suppressing environment; furthermore, she learns to read and write to make her possibilities greater. Being a female, Jacobs was forced to have sex with her master at a very young age. She tries to buy her freedom but Dr. Flint does not allow it to happen for some odd reason. Jacobs finds love and tries to get married but once again her master tries to impede her from staying with anyone that is not him but Harriet still manages to have two babies by another man. In the end Harriet is on her way to freedom but the tone ends in a bittersweet way.
Reading this selection was really sad because I realized how little control these girls/women had over their own bodies, something that is taken for granted. In the beginning she writes about how "there is no shadow of the law to protect her" because she was just property according to how the law was written. And then the wives of these slave owners were jealous of the slave girls for something they did not even want to happen. It is unbelievable how the man just got away with doing things like that and the wife would take her anger out on the slave. It was hard for a slave to be happy within the confines of her circumstance. Harriet wrote that "the light heart which nature had given [her] became heavy with sad forebodings" meaning that her joy was going away inevitably.
It is interesting to see how even though Harriet was a slave girl and the men were going to rape her, she still cared about maintaining a good relationship with her grandmother and trying to be chaste. Today's society is more open to things with respect to sexual relations and many people do not seem to care about how they are seen. Our culture has become less modest in that respect. One thing that sparked my attention was that even though Harriet was in such a bad situation she still fell in love with someone. It was sad that she was not able to marry him but does show on her part a greater love for him because she knew that if she rebelled against her master, he would have killed them both. She displayed altruism with him and with the care of her children. No other story could have displayed the trials and sufferings of a slave girl better than coming straight from someone who lived it.

Why would a man rape a girl all the time?
Did marrying a freed black man not really count by law to have any sort of power?

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