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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 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 women are extra-specially degraded under slavery. Yet Jacobs also shows how strong bonds between women—like those between Linda and Aunt Martha, or Linda and Mrs. Bruce—could be educational, loving, and transformative. Friendships between women cut across class and race lines.

Questions About Women and Femininity

  1. What makes being a slave girl particularly difficult?
  2. What is the role of female friendship in the novel? How are Linda's male friends and helpers different from the women who help her?
  3. Which women in the novel seem to adhere to the "cult of true womanhood"? Which do not? What, according to Incidents, is the role of women in nineteenth-century America? Is it different in the North and South?

Chew on This

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

Jacobs suggests that hiding in the crawlspace gives Linda a kind of male power, because it allows her to look at people without being seen.

Incidents's direct appeal to white readers is one way that Jacobs attempts to convince readers that black and white women are fundamentally the same.

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