Added: Laya Toller - Date: 05.08.2021 12:07 - Views: 13765 - Clicks: 6084
Incidents is, to my knowledge, the only slave narrative that takes as its subject the sexual exploitation of female slaves - thus centering on sexual oppression as well as on oppression of race and conditions; it is, to my knowledge, the only slave narrative that identifies its audience as female; it is, to my knowledge, the only slave narrative written in the style of sentimental fiction; and my work suggests that it may be the first full-length slave narrative by a woman to be published in this country Given its originality, and taking into the great influence of Incidents on future black women's writings, it is necessary to analyze the way in which Harriet Jacobs wrote this book.
I will analyze the literary genres by which the book could have been influenced, paying special attention to the sentimental novel, the picaresque novel and the trickster tale. However, the fact that it was a female and not a male slave who wrote this piece of writing is crucial since slave narratives written by women have different thematic and stylistic characteristics than slave narratives written by men.
The narrators of female slave narratives introduced thematic issues of what it meant to be a slave daughter, girl, woman, and mother, whereas male authors were more interested in the political side of the institution of slavery and its consequences for the slave population.
As far as style is concerned, female narrators are more concerned with the creation of a sensational and melodramatic ambience than male narrators, whose style is more sober. Another difference between male and female narrators of slave narratives is that male narrators represent slave women as victims especially victims of sexual abusewhereas female narrators, like Harriet Jacobs, present stronger slave women. She is a woman who refuses to become a sexual victim and struggles to win freedom for herself and her children. Like most male slave narratives, Jacobs's work is an autobiography, that is, a first-person narrative in which the protagonist, the author and the narrator are the same person.
However, Jacobs's autobiography is more than an autobiography in that it resembles confessional narratives. Before moving on to the main topic of this essay - the relationship of the sentimental novel, the picaresque and African folktales to Incidents - I would like to comment briefly on the features that relate Jacobs's work Women want real sex Harriet confessional narrative.
I want to do this because this genre also influenced the way Incidents was written - though Women want real sex Harriet as much as the above-mentioned genres - and because it has something in common with the other genres, as I will explain later. According to Yellin, Incidents ' "confessional aspects - the of sexual error, guilt, rejection and at least partial acceptance - are. They are unique because these elements do not appear in other slave narratives, mainly because most of them were written by men.
Jacobs's Incidents thus offers a new perspective in this type of narrative. For Braxton, the use of the confessional mode serves Jacobs as "a kind of expiation" of her sexual sin She argues that through her "confessional narrative, she begins to expiate her guilt and to find a physical and spiritual community where her humanity and sensitivity will be valued and where she can rise above her painful past" This process is a reminder of the stages of spiritual autobiography: sin, repentance, spiritual backsliding, and rebirth.
In this sense, Jacobs's Incidents resemble male slave narratives. Melvin Dixon explains the use of the spiritual autobiography as a model by slave authors:. When slaves came to write their formal autobiographies they emphasized a conversion-like model of personal experience and testimony to construct their own "witness" to the horrors of slavery and the regenerative joy of freedom. The conversion experience helped to organize the individual life and unite it with time and the eternal presence of God The process from sin to rebirth in spiritual autobiographies is paralleled by the process from slavery to freedom in slave narratives.
Slaves experience a change from chattel, enduring suffering, to man or woman living in the Promised Land, the North. Jacobs's Incidents is special in this sense. Jacobs's sin is not only to be a slave, as was the case with other - usually male - authors. Her sin is also to have had sexual intercourse and borne two children of a man to whom she was not lawfully married.
People at the time could easily accept that male slave owners had sex with or raped female slaves. White men could seemingly do whatever they wanted, unlike white women who had to be pure and chaste. Thus, it was surprising that female slaves chose who they had sexual intercourse with. Female slaves were, in this sense, considered women, not female slaves, and as such, they had to follow the moral code that was applied to white women, to remain pure and chaste and find a man to marry and have children.
As Jacobs has sex without being married and the man she has sex with is not her owner, she is a sinner. She must then undergo an expiation process through which she spends seven years in a hiding-place. Here, she has time to think about her sin and repent. Once she has done so and the circumstances are favorable, she manages to escape; her children eventually follow her.
She becomes free after a painful process. Freedom from earthly slavery is the culminating point of slave narratives as freedom from sin is the climax in spiritual autobiographies. At the end of her narrative, Jacobs obtains legal freedom when she is bought and emancipated by her new owner. This is both freedom from slavery and freedom from her sin, that is, her sexual error. The first element that Incidents and the sentimental novel have in common is the setting; both Incidents and the sentimental novel use a domestic setting.
Houston A. This domestic setting, however, is different from its symbolism in the sentimental novel. The domesticity of Incidents is not representative of an easy life, but full of instances of cruelty and abuse.
The action developed in the sentimental novel is slow and non-violent, and therefore unsuitable for a slave narrative like Incidents. Thus, even though in both types of narrative the domestic setting plays an important role, the way and tone in which the narratives develop from that starting point is different. On the other hand, Jacobs uses the techniques and conventions of the sentimental novel in several ways.
Valerie Smith argues that she uses the sentimental novel to express her sexual vulnerability because the slave narrative could not adequately represent this situation. In the sentimental novel, the heroine aspired to chastity and hoped for marriage and family, whereas Jacobs was in a situation in which neither chastity nor family or marriage could be achieved because she was a slave Smith,xxxi. Being a female slave meant being subject to sexual abuse. The abuses female slaves suffered were manifold and in these chapters Jacobs presents them in a powerful way.
She introduces herself as a victim so that her readers can identify her as such, and feel sympathy for her. She is the victim of Mr. Flint her master, who wants to abuse her sexuallyof Mr. Sands her lover, who promises her freedom but cannot Women want real sex Harriet his promiseWomen want real sex Harriet of slavery.
Jacobs is a black woman who writes a book addressed to white women in the North. As Smith observes:. Jacobs's class affiliation, and the fact that she was subjected to relatively minor forms of abuse as a slave, enable her to locate a point of identification both with her readers and with the protagonists of sentimental fiction. Like them, she aspires to chastity and piety as consummate feminine virtues, and hopes that marriage and family would be her earthly reward Jacobs's problem is that she is not the owner of her life and her choices are, therefore, limited.
She chooses to be a chaste and a respectful woman, but she is forced to take another course in her life.
Unlike the heroines of sentimental fiction, she is not free. Despite the limitations, Jacobs is able to adapt the plot of the sentimental novel in Incidents. Jacobs invokes a plot initiated by Richardson's Pamela and recapitulated in nineteenth-century American sentimental novels.
In this plot, a persistent male of elevated social rank seeks to seduce a woman of a lower class.
Through her resistance and piety, however, she educates her would-be seducer into an awareness of his own depravity and his capacity for true honorable love. In the manner of Pamela 's Mr. There are clear similarities between Richardson's plot and the plot of Incidentsbut also clear differences. First, in Incidents the "persistent male of elevated social rank" is Mr. Women want real sex Harriet, and the "woman of a lower class" he tries to seduce is Jacobs. The difference here is that not only is Jacobs of a lower class, but that she is also Mr. Flint's property. Secondly, she resists to being seduced like the heroines of sentimental novels but, unlike them, she does not manage to educate her seducer into being an honorable man.
Instead, she finds a means of rebellion: she takes a lover and bears him two children. Moreover, the villain does not become a reformed man, but persists in making Jacobs's life as hard as he can. The final, and probably the most important difference, is that the heroine - Jacobs - does not get married at the end of the book. The happy ending everyone would expect in sentimental novels is not present in Incidents.
As Carby explains, " Incidents does Women want real sex Harriet conform to the conventional happy ending to the sentimental novel" Jacobs realizes that this divergence from her generic model is important, and asserts: "Reader, my story ends with freedom; not in the usual way, with marriage" Thus, Jacobs proves to be conscious of the conventions of the sentimental novel and uses and manipulates them to narrate her experience as something unique.
The sentimental novel provided Jacobs not only with a setting, a plot, and a series of topics. It also provided her with a set of formal and rhetorical characteristics. Two of these characteristics are the florid asides and the melodrama that envelop the narration. Both features are frequent in Incidents. What does he know of the half-starved wretches toiling from dawn till dark on the plantations? However, no matter how melodramatic Jacobs's narration may be, the action and events recalled in it are real and true.
This separates Incidents from the sentimental novel, a genre of fictional events and fictional characters. This fact proves the inadequacy of the sentimental form for the writing of a slave narrative like Jacobs's: "[W]hen Jacobs asserts that her narrative is not fiction, that her adventures may seem incredible but they are nevertheless true, and that only experience can reveal the abomination of slavery, she underscores the inability of this form to adequately capture her experiences" Smith However, this is the form her audience is used to reading.
Thus, by making this audience aware that all the sensational aspects and episodes in Incidents are true, Jacobs could incite them to act in favor of the abolition of slavery, for slavery is at the root of Jacobs's problems. Apart from the fact that this is not a fictional work, there are other reasons why Jacobs's Incidents cannot be considered a real sentimental novel. The most important one is perhaps, that Jacobs narrates her loss of virginity, something that would have been unthinkable in sentimental novels.
Jacobs introduces her loss of virtue in the context of her struggle to escape from Mr. Flint's sexual harassment. According to Manuela Matas Llorente, she is an innocent woman since she did not want that relationship, and cannot therefore be accused of experiencing illicit desiresWomen want real sex Harriet
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