Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Essay

1624 Words Jul 16th, 2008 7 Pages
In "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl", Harriet Jacobs writes, "Slavery is terrible for men; but it is far more terrible for women" (64). Jacobs' work shows the evils of slavery as being worse in a woman's case by the gender. Jacobs elucidates the disparity between societal dictates of what the proper roles were for Nineteenth century women and the manner that slavery prevented a woman from fulfilling these roles. The book illustrates the double standard of for white women versus black women. Harriet Jacobs serves as an example of the female slave's desire to maintain the prescribed virtues but how her circumstances often prevented her from practicing. Expectations of the women of the era resided in four arenas: …show more content…
A typical sermon would consist of "Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters..." (57), this type of sermon had less to do with a woman's piety than a slave's obedience. Nevertheless, Jacobs exhibits piety in many fashions, despite these disadvantages. When services begin in the home of a free colored man, Jacobs was invited to attend as she could read, regardless of the risk to herself "Sunday evening came and, trusting to the cover of night, I ventured out" (57). Jacobs practiced piety as the dictates of the period demanded at a great risk to her safety. She taught a man to read the bible and begs of missionaries to recognize the need to instruct slaves in biblical studies. (61). Jacobs did not only speak of piety, but through these examples, but put it into action and could fulfill this one aspect of the female gender identity. The practice of purity was the virtue most denied to a woman in slavery. Men of society constructed the conventions, established the importance of purity in women. Purity was praised and rewarded in free white women and stolen from black slave women. The system worked against protection of slave women from abuse by their masters.Sexual abuse of slave was not viewed as a criminal offense because she did not count as a woman.
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