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Themes

Little Words, Big Ideas

Slavery

Ready for the big reveal? Slavery is bad. No, seriously, it is. And Harriet Jacobs wrote Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl to prove it. But what Jacobs has that other slavery-is-awful narrative...

Race

The world was pretty simple in pre-Civil War America: whites were civilized, Christian, and innately moral; blacks were primitive, amoral, and savage. Not so fast, Incidents in the Life of a Slave...

Women and Femininity

Jealous mistresses, creepy old men, and constant bodily threats: just one more day in the life of a slave woman. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl doesn't pull its punches in describing how wom...

Family

Slavery is a family affair in almost every sense of the word. Even more than race, it seems that what family you're born into determines your status. Family is an emotional anchor, but in that way...

Rules and Order

Well, it's not like anyone stays in slavery by choice. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl takes a hard look at the three laws that keep the institution of slavery going: (1) Slave-children alway...

Friendship

For Linda, friends aren't just all you need—they're all she has. And that turns out to be enough. Her friendship with Peter, a fellow slave, gets her on the northbound boat to Philadelphia; her f...

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...

Religion

Rape is bad, but not being able to go to church? Now that's a sin. Under slavery, religion becomes an instrument of evil. She reminds us that slaveholders tried to use religion to keep their slaves...
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