Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

by

Harriet Jacobs

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Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Themes

Themes and Colors
The Dehumanizing Effects of Slavery Theme Icon
Sexual Virtue and Sexual Abuse Theme Icon
Motherhood and Family Theme Icon
Christianity Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

The Dehumanizing Effects of Slavery

Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl tells the autobiographical story of one woman’s journey from slavery to freedom. Over the course of her memoir, in which she tells her story under the pseudonym Linda Brent, Jacobs broadly critiques slavery and its harmful effect on a society’s morals. While many of the slaves around Jacobs are good people of strong character, their owners and the legal system refuse to recognize these…

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Sexual Virtue and Sexual Abuse

In her narrative Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Harriet Jacobs uses the pseudonym Linda Brent to describe her own upbringing as a slave within a white household. In doing so, she focuses on the vulnerability and moral predicament of black women who are powerless against the sexual abuses of white men. Linda wants to fulfill contemporary norms of feminine chastity and respectability; moreover, she wants to present herself as a…

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Motherhood and Family

In Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Harriet Jacobs argues for abolition by detailing the impact of slavery on families in the Southern community where her alter-ego, Linda Brent, grows up. Slavery deprives black mothers of their legitimate rights over their children, who may be sold away or otherwise harmed at any moment; it also creates discord and moral decline among white families whose patriarchs are likely to father children by…

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Christianity

In her autobiography Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Harriet Jacobs describes the youth of her alter-ego, Linda Brent, as a slave in the American South. The narrative often meditates on the existence of slavery within a society that purports to fulfill Christian principles. Linda observes the hypocritical Christianity practiced by her owners and the white community, who use religion as a justification for slavery. At the same time, she describes…

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Women

In her narrative Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Harriet Jacobs chronicles her alter ego Linda Brent’s quest for freedom. In the process, she gives a deft analysis of the social dynamics of slave-owning households, especially the interactions between enslaved women and white women. In many instances, white “mistresses” behave with appalling cruelty towards female slaves, often out of jealousy or worry that the slaves are sexually attracted to their husbands…

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