Literary Analysis: Slave Narratives Essay

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Prior to the publication of any slave narrative, African Americans had been represented by early historians’ interpretations of their race, culture, and situation along with contemporary authors’ fictionalized depictions. Their persona was often “characterized as infantile, incompetent, and...incapable of achievement” (Hunter-Willis 11) while the actions of slaveholders were justified with the arguments that slavery would maintain a cheap labor force and a guarantee that their suffering did not differ to the toils of the rest of the “struggling world” (Hunter-Willis 12). The emergence of the slave narratives created a new voice that discredited all former allegations of inferiority and produced a new perception of resilience and ingenuity. …show more content…
Like Douglass, Jacobs also exposed the harsh treatment towards slaves while proving that American “blacks could succeed at the same activities as whites” (Hunter-Willis 26) through her own narrated experiences. Her resolve to write demonstrated a “resistance to the patriarchal system of slavery” (Peterson 158) by sharing the exploits of slavery through her own point of view.
Shielded from the atrocities of slavery during her childhood, Jacobs depicts family life among slaves as one that remains intact in a “comfortable home” (29) through the example of her own family. Each member held limited rights along with the ability to work and the privilege to use their earnings as they pleased. It is not until the death of her mistress where she finally begins to feel the effects of slavery in the sudden separation of her family who are “all distributed among her [mistress’s] relatives” (Jacobs 33). The separation of family is one of the most integral subjects of her narrative since “motherhood [plays a great role] in her life” (Wolfe 518). Jacobs appeals to the emotions of her female audiences by contrasting a slave mother’s agonies in her separation from her children with the “happy free women” (40) whose children remain with her since “no hand” (40) has the right to take them away. The separation of families in Douglass’s narrative does call for some pity but the event is not as tragic in comparison to
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