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Harriet Jacobs' "Incidents in the life a Slave Girl" is a heroic narrative about slavery particularly on women. She describes how a courageous enslaved woman fights for her freedom and personal independency. The whole book is all about how women slaves are mistreated by their holders especially sexually and how the later emerged women's rights fights against the issue. The writer who uses a fictitious name as Linda goes ahead and explains the horrors that the enslaved women are exclusively subjected to (Clinton, 250). Due to what she went through as a slave she appeals to the principles of the domestic philosophy and asks women of the North for sympathy for her and the other entire defenseless slave women in the South.
Clinton (251) asserts that Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass also talks about slavery. The writer narrates how the life as a slave is, how slaves work when they are interacting with their holders or masters. He also explains how brutal and cruel the slavery life is. He however tries to fight for his rights and escape in order to get freedom from his oppressors which he finally makes through.
The abolitionist movement speaks and defines social climate as described in both books in different ways. For instance, in the Incidents in Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs the social climate is defined as cruel especially for the slaves. The interaction between the slaves and their masters was unfriendly. The slave women were subjected to exploitation and treated like concubines to their masters and sexually harassed. For example in Linda's case, her mistress' father subjected her to years of sexual harassment. The slaves were the ones that were supposed to abide by their holder's wills however unfair they were. They used to be taken as sexual objects to their masters or owners. (Jacobs, 82)
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The social life of the slaves as defined by the abolitionists was surrounded with hatred and jealousy. This could obviously be justified by Dr. Flint's wife attitude towards Linda on discovering her husband's behavior. Despite the fact that her husband was the one who was wrong, she took his side and accused Linda of being the cause for her husband's lust. She developed hatred and jealousy towards Linda to an extent of trying to track her every move. The abolitionist movement was against this kind of environment and wanted it eliminated.
According to the abolitionist movement, the social environment or climate for urban slaves differed from the plantation slaves and they were women in most cases. Even though still oppressive and humiliating, the life in urban areas gave way to slaves to upgrade their lives. They were not under regular supervision by their masters or holders. They also had a lot of opportunities to influence and change their own lives through endeavoring into town, earning incomes, listening to the abolitionists' speech, chatting about current rumors and happening and much more (Clinton, 251). Unlike plantation slaves, they were also given more security, independence and authority which Linda obviously appreciated because it was the movement's wish and desire.
However, urban slaves had insecurity cases as there was auction block where slaves were sold during the New Year's Day. Brent describes an occasion of the distress of one enslaved mother that watched powerlessly as all of her seven kids were being checked and sold like animals. Linda also demonstrates some types of struggle particularly slaves begging the humane masters to buy them before the cruel ones did as they could distinguish them within forty miles. The abolitionist movement therefore tries to communicate that the slaves never had power over their own lives and they experienced a lot of insecurities as they could be taken away anytime unwillingly.
The women slaves' social climate was surrounded by deception. They were lied to by their masters and therefore they could not be able to fight for their rights and freedom as they believed them. The slaves were warned against running away to the North with allegations that they were not able to take care of themselves and could die of hunger and cold on streets. They were deceived and convinced by the fact that they were well fed, happier and better off under the humiliating husbandry of their holders. At the same time, the slaves were compared to livestock or animals (Clinton, 230). They were not taken and treated the same level as human beings. It was too bad for many slaves who preferred the protective slavery to harsh freedom. Linda, who supports the abolitionist movement , however wishes to go back to the slavery state and help all slaves as they need to know that freedom is far significant than life. After realizing this they will start to be aware of their own potentials and train themselves to become ladies and gentlemen.
The slave people's social life was also described by fear as they had no any legal protection. This is defined after Linda had kids with the white lawyer and sent to work in the field. She tried to secure her kids for fear that they will be sold into slavery. She went to an extent of hiding in her grandmother's tiny attic. As much as she stayed under fear, she tried possible ways to watch over kids by trying to outsmart her master. Through her smartness she finally managed to escape to the North where she was able to reunite with her daughter Linda. She was also able to be relived from persecution by the Bruce family (Meacham, 90). The abolitionist movement tries to urge the slaves that being cunning and creating great ideas to outwit their oppressors is the only way to overcome their mistreatments. The readers are also informed that slaves should not be blamed for their cunning characters as it is the only way for them to survive.
As far as the abolitionist movement is concerned, the social climate of women slaves is surrounded by violence, sexual harassment, assault, and even death and there is no shade of rules to protect them at all. (Clinton 210) asserts that he women slaves were being raped by their masters and they could not be guarded or protected instead the slavery institutions defended slaveholders from accusations of their sexual assaults and violence to slaves. They were taken as sexual objects for their masters and assaults from their holders were not treated as a big deal. Even if they could be raped it could not be considered as a crime to them but as trespass to their holders' properties. They were also considered to be most important and valuable servants as compared to men because they could care for their master's children, perform some work in the fields and increase the slave population which was more vital after the 1808 ban of importing slaves. A good example was when Benjamin, Linda's uncle could not be sold because he was not a woman. The abolitionist movement therefore demands sympathy for women because their slavery life is more terrible than to that of men and they are powerless with no one to protect them from the assaults, exploitation and violence from their holders.
The movement also puts across the point that in the days that marital beliefs ruled the environment, a woman's value was described by her purity or innocence and her unselfish mothering. There were also gaps in terms of race and class even though there are unquestionable similarities between the white women and slaves. Meacham (90) asserts that a woman's children could be taken away and she could continually be exploited sexually by her holder and she had no right to complain. The readers especially the white women from the North are urged to sympathize with the powerless slave women. Another point by the movement is that the existed gaps between the free and the slave, rich and the poor, the white the black the pure and the impure should be broken and all people be treated equally despite their categories.
The abolitionist movement also confirms that the women slavery was something that is continues and endless. The women were exploited from an early age throughout their entire life. Slavery destroyed and robbed them of their womanhood. This was demonstrated in Linda's story where her terrible life began as early as her sixth year and goes on throughout her life. She was exploited since her childhood and even after she tried to have children with Mr. Sands her master still claimed she was his property (Jacobs, 250). Even after her exploiter Dr. Flint had died it was not over yet for her because she was reclaimed back by his daughter Emily. She was later secured from re-enslavement by Mrs. Bruce who bought her but still she was not completely free because she felt her freedom had been bought.
The slaves were also believed not to have homes of their own because they used to stay at their holder's homes and the fact that they used to be considered as properties of their masters. Even though one could be free from slavery, she could not be content with the fact that she lacked a home she could call her own. In Linda's case, she was finally free with her children but her dream of her own home had not come true.
However, according to Meacham (83) the abolitionist brings awareness that as much as the slave women can be exploited, humiliated and underrated by their masters, they should still see the need to fight and struggle for their strength, determination and independence and freedom in order to improve their life. They should not just show that they are sad, inactive women with powerless confidence to manipulate their society. For instance, in the case of Linda, she went ahead to sleep with Mr. Sand in order to uphold her self esteem and dominion over her own body and conquer over her oppressor.
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On the other hand, in the book, "Narrative of life of the Fredrick" the abolitionist movement communicates that the social life and interaction between the slaves and their owners was extremely brutal. For example, Douglass encountered this when he observed his aunt Hester being beaten. It was something normal for the slaves to be whipped by their masters because they were not treated and taken as human being but as animals.
The abolitionist movement also lets the reader know that most slaves were taken away from their real parents at their early ages and therefore most of them did not know their real identities. For instance, in Douglass' case, he did know the date he was born because he was taken away from his mother when he was only seven years old. He was believed to be the son of the master that owned him (Jacobs, 200). The social climate especially for the slaves was filled with fear. Most slaves were afraid of their masters and it even fear that caused them to tell the truth because they could be penalized.
The movement informs the reader that in slavery days, the slaves had no right to learn how to read and write.This can be justified when Mrs. Auld, one of Frederick's mistress taught Douglass about the alphabets and how to spell small words but the husband was against it (Meacham, 80). Mr. Auld disapproved that slaves were not supposed to be taught how to read. It is also made clear by the Movement that the slaves were denied their religious rights or had no right know what the bible says for allegations that they would not fit to be slaves. The slaves were compared to livestock. They could even be lent to other holders just to be fed.
The slaves had hard time as they were being misused by their masters. They used to perform a lot of hard domestic and field work, harshly beaten and tortured to exhaustion by the slave holders. This is illustrated in Douglass' case. He used to work in the field with a lot of tasks required of him and was being whipped on every week to an extent of collapsing and beaten again due to collapsing. He was even almost tied up by his holder but saved himself by resisting and fighting back. The slaves could be put to jail whenever they tried to escape. (Jean 42)
The slaves never worked for money and in cases where they were paid they were forced to give the money to their heartless masters. For instance Douglass got employed but he was forced to give all the money to his former owner. Despite this, he tried and got a job. That is when he started to plan on how and when he could escape. Douglass (35) states that he finally managed to escape. He chose not to explain how he managed to do it not only to protect the people that helped him but also to create possibilities of his fellow slaves to escape in the same way he did. He later attended the antislavery conference and started to fight against slavery from the there and on.
The slaves wished to help each other to escape because they understood the situation. As an abolitionist, Douglass would urge readers especially the whites from the United States to have sympathy to slaves to save them from what they were going through just the same way he was helped by the people he did not want to mention (Jacobs, 200). In short the abolitionist movement informs us that through attending antislavery meetings, one could be helped a lot with tactics that could help him or her to know his positions and rights as a slave. The antislavery conventions therefore played a major role in helping and assisting the slaves. The two books have been of great significance in the history and future generations as they are of optimism and courage the middle during cruel oppression.