Steven's Reviews > Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs
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May 10, 12

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Read in May, 2012

The story of Linda Brent's trials and terrors in the South surpasses any other I've read, even Douglass' narratives. And to some degree, this may have to do with it being the story of woman's captivity. She may not have suffered the whip like Douglass, but as a woman on whom the family depended and as a mother on whom her children depended, Brent never suffered alone. Every thought and action she had and took affected others. The mental torment she endured was met in kind by the rapes she kept quiet and the physical beatings from Dr. Flint. Each episode of her tragedy is told in gut-wrenching detail, sparing no cruelty for the sake of a sensitive reader: the starvation of infants, the gnawing of loved ones to death by rats, the self-inflicted seven-year-exile from her own helpless children--the majority of that time spent in a hole in the ground roughly the size of a large bathtub--in order to keep them from the auction block. Brent is modest about her own physical torments: snake and rodent bites, confinement to spaces with no air circulation, disease, hunger, thirst, mosquitoes, etc. At no time does Brent give authority to what some scholars today have proposed: that the majority of slaves were somehow better off in terms of sustenance and welfare than those free, homeless, and without the means to live. On the contrary, Brent drives her message home time and time again: the poorest wretch on the streets of London lives the life of a king compared to the best-treated slave.
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