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Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl


by Harriet Jacobs

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Theme of Contrasting Regions

How different are the North and the South, really? America may have been a world divided in the nineteenth century, but the division wasn't as absolute as you might think. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl doesn't hold back when criticizing Northern prejudice or complacency. Jacobs actually gets angry when she realizes that, even up North, there was a long way to go before blacks would be equal with whites. And then both the North and South are contrasted to England, the magical wonderland of racial harmony—which, frankly, seems a little too absolute to be true, especially considering that in the mid-nineteenth century Britain was gleefully oppressing people of other colors all over the world.

Questions About Contrasting Regions

  1. According to the novel, how are the northern and southern states different? How are they the same?
  2. What experiences shape Linda’s opinion of the Free States? Does her opinion change over the course of the text?
  3. What is Linda's experience of England? Does it seem true, or is she merely trying to make a point? Does it seem that Northerners or Southerners are more helpful to Linda? How much of a difference is there, really, between people living in the South and North?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Incidents suggests that, although slavery is illegal there, the North imitates the racial attitudes of the South.

Jacobs expands her critique to America more generally when she travels to England and sees the lack of race prejudice there.

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