Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
by Harriet Jacobs
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Women and Femininity Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Chapter.Paragraph
The young wife soon learns that the husband in whose hands she has placed her happiness pays no regard to his marriage vows. Children of every shade of complexion play with her own fair babies, and too well she knows that they are born unto him of his own household. Jealousy and hatred enter the flowery home, and it is ravaged of its loveliness. (6.13)
Not only does slavery expose young girls to rape, it puts adult women into sexual competition with them. Ew and ew.
No pen can give an adequate description of the all-pervading corruption produced by slavery. The slave girl is reared in an atmosphere of licentiousness and fear. The lash and the foul talk of her master and his sons are her teachers. When she is fourteen or fifteen, her owner, or his sons, or the overseer, or perhaps all of them, begin to bribe her with presents. If these fail to accomplish their purpose, she is whipped or starved into submission to their will. (9.17)
Although Jacobs never mentions force, this is nothing less than rape. These girls have no choice but to be corrupted—and the men aren't much better off.
For years, my master had done his utmost to pollute my mind with foul images, and to destroy the pure principles inculcated by my grandmother, and the good mistress of my childhood. The influences of slavery had had the same effect on me that they had on other young girls; they had made me prematurely knowing, concerning the evil ways of the world. I knew what I did, and I did it with deliberate calculation. (10.2)
Linda excuses her affair partly by insisting that she learned about sex and seduction from her master, a man forty years her senior. You know what? Shmoop totally forgives her.