Freedom him, he told her that she was made

Freedom
was never guaranteed to slaves. In fact, in 1660, Laws defined slavery as a
long-life sentence inheritance based on skin color. The purpose of slavery was
intended to take away one’s personage in order to make one feel like a property,
taking advantage of and taking away the chance of being individuals.  In the “Incidents in the Life of a Slave
Girl, Jacobs portrays her own battle with slavery and her struggle for
self-identity and preservation.

 Jacobs uses an alias, Linda Brent, to share
her story. She was born
without freedom nor rights as she is black, subjected to being a property to
her master as a slave. Jacobs began her life as a slave at the age if six upon
her mother’s death. Her mother was a slave to a man name Dr. Flint and so
therefor she too became a slave of his property. Being someone’s property meant
no freedom or rights, for example, Dr. Flint, he begins pressuring Linda to have a sexual relationship with him, he told
her that she was made for his use and has to obey all of his commands, that she
is nothing but a slave and had no option or choice but to surrender to him. No one in today’s society can come close to
understanding what it was like, how much torment, anguish and misery people
suffered especially women. Linda becomes a mother throughout her experience and
that gave her an opportunity to fight for her freedom. Linda than
realizes that without individualism she will not be able to provide a better
future for her children, that slavery took away her ability to function as her
own person.

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Jacobs life in the Flint household was
where she experienced the cruel mistreatment of slavery. Once she became
physically grown, she attracted Dr. Flint, he pressured Linda into having a
sexual relationship, being that she was not her own person but instead “owned”
and was a “property” of the Flint family, she felt like she had no other
choice, however, that did not stop her from trying to prevent Dr. Flint getting
his way. Desperate to escape Dr. Flint, Linda consents to an affair with Mr.
Sands, a sympathetic neighbor she started a friendship with. She became pregnant
with her first child at fifteen, she believed that after this presumptuous affair
that she would be seen unwanted and damaged goods to Dr. Flint whom would no
longer wan her. Linda was hopeful that with being pregnant, Mr. Sands would
purchase her from Dr. Flint and grant her freedom, however, this attempt for
freedom failed and Dr. Flint vowed to never let her go, leaving her hopeless. Knowing
Dr. Flint will not release her under no circumstances, she planned to flee and
was successful. However, with her choice she suffered the consequences, she
loses her ability to speak and walk in a long period of time in a confined
space nearly killing herself for her children and for the idea of raising the
family she long dreamed of. It keeps her hopeful that she will one day have a
house that she can provide for her children but because slavery defines her it
takes away her chance at this dream becoming reality which helps her make this
decision, so that she can be a mother. By staying in the small and narrow attic
space for seven years, Jacobs displays her urge to be independent. She gives
herself that very little freedom but it was still freedom that she held onto.

Her
urge for freedom that made her want to escape her life as a slave for the Flint
household was seen after Linda had her second child. Dr. Flint reminded her
that because he owned her, he owned her children as well, that they would be a
great sum for him one day. She knew that the fate of her children was in the
hands of Dr. Flint and did not want to risk having them taken away from her and
be given the life that she was born into. For her, the freedom she aspired to
have was not in the sense of papers but in becoming her own being. Becoming her
own being meant having self-identity, which most slaveholders feared. Self-identity
gave slaves knowledge of power and worthiness, throughout the story Jacobs uses
her alias Linda in a way to understand herself better, to form a deeper
relationship with her inner self, to comprehend what needed to be done in order
to have a relationship with her children. Based on what Jacobs shares in her
story, she never fully got to experience a loving and functional family, she
doesn’t know what a family is or what it is like to raise children outside of
marriage. Mr. Sands doesn’t acknowledge their children as his own but more like
property, and this gives her the incentive to be both a mother and a father to
her children, however, without her freedom she cannot be parent because she’s
limited to provide and raise her children, Linda
argues that a powerless slave girl cannot be held to the same standards of
morality as a free woman. If Linda was a free woman, she wouldn’t have had gone
against her moral beliefs and had an affair with Mr. Sands, she wouldn’t have
felt helpless, she wouldn’t have had to escape and hide out. Freedom came at a
high price but even then, Dr. Flint would not sell Linda for any price, but her
children he would. Even Mr. Sands, promises to free her
children and may even intend to do so at first, however, under certain
circumstances if he were to encounter financial problems, he will likely be
tempted to sell his own children to get himself out of trouble. This is
the reason why she shared her story, why she fought for her freedom because she
didn’t have a choice, it wasn’t only her life at stake but her children’s as
well.

 

Harriet Jacobs, however, was not the only one to
share her personal experience as a slave during the years of 1800s. Fredrick Douglass
published “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass” sharing his personal
experience as a slave. Both of the narratives were talking about the life of
slaves and how they exposed their master and escaped to their freedom. The stories
differ due to gender, in the Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Harriet Jacobs writes, “Slavery is terrible for men; but
it is far more terrible for women” which presents the subject of rape and
the hardship of having mulatto children which men did not have to face. Also, all
slave narratives were written by men, being that she was a woman of color and
women did not have rights made it that much more significant. However, they
both shared a common experience, the abuse and mistreatment were common in both
genders. Douglass was more detailed when it came to exposing his masters unjust
actions. He provides the physical abuse, how he was whipped and beaten, and how
his master felt no remorse, the goal was to break him, not only physically but mentally
as well, where he no longer felt intact with himself. While Douglass is
focusing on telling the facts and the brutal truth he encountered, Jacobs
describes her emotions, her sense of self-discovery, that is where they differ.
Jacobs didn’t realize she was a slave until the age of six, Frederick Douglass,
however, he knew he was a slave from the day he was born. Different from Jacobs,
Douglass knew his mother but had never seen her directly, he didn’t know his
father, he assumed he was his mother’s master, but never knew for a fact. He
didn’t grow up around a family or anyone who guided him into the life of a
slave, he became independent in a way, he didn’t have children to protect or
worry about, he wasn’t targeted for sexual harassment, he had already created a
self-identity for himself, something Jacobs did not have until having her own
family.

 Frederick Douglass was determined to learn how to read. He saw education as a
sense of strength and individuality. He gave bread to local boys in exchange for
reading lesson. As he gained more knowledge, he developed a plan for escape,
which was discovered and was arrested for and held in a jail cell. Once he was
released back to his master, he was brutally beaten for the hope that he had
and attempted on pursuing. However, that did not stop him from wanting his
freedom, he fought for it and devised another plan for escape but this time he
knew exactly what he needed to do differently in making this attempt successful.
He wasn’t afraid, he was determined, he took that fear of disobeying his master
as a challenge that many slaves were afraid to even have thought about, Jacobs,
on the other hand, feared Dr. Flint, she spend seven years in hiding, her
escape plan was successful but it didn’t free her until later in life. Women
were more fragile and scared to take upon action because of where they stood in
the world, not only was being a woman hard, being a woman of color entitled you
to slavery. Their skin color made them exotic, thus, the reason why white male
southerners pursued them as sex fantasies. The thought of what Dr. Flint can
and would do, didn’t give her much of a choice because he wouldn’t stop looking
for her and so she lived in the fear of “what if” and “when” he would find her,
the consequences she would’ve faced. Unlike Harriet Jacobs ending, Frederick
Douglass’s ending was more then he could’ve imagined. Jacobs ending was with
her being free in the servitude of Mrs. Bruce, however, her dream of sitting
with her children in a home of her own, did not come true.

            Jacobs intended her
experience to be eye opening experience for her readers. She had hoped this
would appeal to northern white women and their humanity in hope they would want
to end slavery. She wanted to make her story a statement, that her experience,
is not alone only hers but many other women’s who are afraid to speak and share
their story. She spoke on behalf of all the women who were born into slavery,
were raped by their masters, had to raise their children outside of marriage
and yet hope and hold onto the little piece of humanity they have to find their
self-identity.

            In conclusion, the two
significant slave narratives of Harriet Jacobs and Frederick Douglass both
share their life experience on being slaves. Although, slavery didn’t differ in
terms of lifestyle or mistreatment of colored people, both stories give its
readers a visual insight on what the difference was between being an enslaved
woman versus an enslaved man. The hardships they faced, the journey they have
lived and survived and have told for the world to read, to come close to
understanding and feeling the difficulty of being a slave in the southern
society back then.