Book Review: Incidents in the Life of a Salve Girl
The ‘incidents in the life of a slave girl’ is a book written by Harriet Jacobs, who spent most of her young life as a slave in the United States. The book narrates the story of the little girl who grew up like any other child until the age of six years when she learned that she was a slave. The piece of literature is interesting because it is among the slavery stories narrated by women. Most of the people who write their slavery story are heroic men who describe how they planned their escape by the use of brutal force. However, the incidents of a slave girl narrate a very different story of slavery, mostly the impacts of slavery on slave women and the girl child. Jacobs narrates how she began serving an ideal mistress at the age of six. Her relationship with her mistress was good because she was like a maternal aunt to her. Jacobs’ mistress had grown under the care of Jacobs’ grandmother, thus making her family. Therefore, the mistress showed kindness to Jacobs but her fate changed when the mistress passed on without letting her free.
Jacobs served a different master who was cruel and did not have any ties with her family. Most of incidences that the book narrates occurred during this period until the escape of Jacobs and her acquisition of freedom. The incidences depict cases of sexual abuse and mental harassment among slave women. The master took advantage of Jacobs, and although she always managed to outwit him, he enjoyed torturing her mentally for refusing to agree to his sexual advances. The incidence helps the reader to understand the harsh conditions that the slaves have to endure at the hands of their masters. The major thing about slavery in the past and the current world is the lack of human rights among the servants. Slavery deprives one of their human rights thus giving the master control of the actions of the slave. However, people are becoming more knowledgeable in the current world, and cases of sexual abuse of female slaves are reducing.
Regardless of the situations surrounding slavery, the family was and is still vital to the survival of its members. Jacobs’ grandmother played an important role in taking care of her family and ensuring that they carried out their roles with dignity. Her hard work earned her family some respect among the masters. Consequently, she was a strong pillar that Jacobs leaned on during her hard times. In fact, she tried to negotiate her freedom, but to no avail. Both the slaves and the masters used sexuality as a weapon. The masters would have children with slaves as a way of making sure that they hold on them forever. Consequently, the children born of the slaves were used as the bargaining chip to retain their parents to their masters. On the other hand, the slaves had children born of the white masters to prevent sexual abuses. For instance, Jacobs had children with a different white master to prevent her master from harassing her sexually. Additionally, the pregnancy allowed her to stay away from her masters and enabled her to become close to her family.
The story indicates the strained relationship between the whites and the blacks in America. The discrimination based on the color of a person’s skin continues to exist up to date only with less severity. Regardless of the high levels of literacy among the blacks and the increased number of activists, the black people still come second to the whites. The African Americans still face the same predicament as their slave counterparts in the eighteenth century. The problem of skin color based discrimination is a problem propagated by both the blacks and the whites. For instance, the black people still feel inferior to their white counterparts, and that limits their inputs to the society. Additionally, the blacks are associated with many heinous crimes, which continue to widen the gap between the two races. On the other hand, the whites have better opportunities, academic, employments, and social positions, thus making them superior to their counterparts. The bridge between the two races is becoming smaller in the current world, but it will take more strategic moves to eradicate racial discrimination.
Religion plays an ideal role in the lives of people. Jacobs narrates how the masters used religion to preach peace and guide the slaves in their services. Similarly, the current world religions help to build unity and coexistence between people of different races. However, religion can be twisted to oppress the weak, as it was the case in the Jacobs’ story. The religion was used to brainwash people, mostly slaves to believing that it was a God-given duty to serve their masters and mistresses.
Gender was also an important aspect of determining a person’s freedom to the slaves. Jacobs’ grandmother was able to buy her son’s freedom, but could not buy her daughters. The incidence is an indication that female slaves have an added advantage of bearing children who would continue the service to their masters after their parents are gone. It is a very devastating situation because the fate of the children is decided by the fact that they are born of the certain parent. Slavery ruins families on both sides. The slaves lack enough time to spend with their families and the masters ruin their family relationships by engaging in marital infidelity with the slaves. Most of the masters held double standard lives just as it is in the current world. The same people that preach peace between and among the races are the same people who show discrimination to people of different races in their private lives. The lack of transparency in this sense has reduced the chances of successful coexistence between the blacks and the whites today.
Both the whites and the blacks have their own perceptions about each other, which hinder peaceful coexistence. As such, people should be advised that the use of brutal force to earn freedom or to achieve equity in the society does not work. People should come up with reasonable and peaceful ways to argue their cases and achieve the intended results within the society. Additionally, not all whites are bad people and not all Negros are good. Jacobs’ grandmother earned her freedom for showing kindness to her master, an indication that brutality is not the only solutions to racial discrimination. Being kind to the few cruel people in the world who think slavery is a fun activity can awaken their souls and bread some humanity in their lives. In conclusion, slavery is dehumanizing; therefore, it should be stopped in a way that does not harm the humanity.