” ‘Surely there must be some justice in man;’ then I remembered, with a sigh, how slavery perverted all the natural feelings of the human heart. It gave me a pang to look on my light-hearted boy. He believed himself free; and to have him brought under the yoke of slavery, would be more than I could bear. How I longed to have him safely out of the reach of its power!” (159)
“With all my detestation of Dr. Flint, I could hardly wish him a worse punishment, either in this world or that which is to come, than to suffer what I suffered in one single summer. Yet the laws allowed him to be out in the free air, while I, guiltless of crime, was pent up here, as the only means of avoiding the cruelties the laws allowed him to inflict upon me!” (135)
In Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Harriet Jacobs experienced far less physical discomfort than many other slaves that worked the plantations beside her master’s land. However, she too experienced psychological pain due to the fact that she was seen as nothing more than a piece of property to her masters Dr. Flint and Mrs. Flint. In these quotations, Jacobs talks about the internal anguish she feels towards Dr. Flint, particularly after she realizes that her children will soon feel the pain that she has felt for years. In scenes such as these, we see a strong connection between family and community.
- Jacobs often states that she does not want the same fate for her children. Do you think that Jacobs stayed in hiding for so long because she did not want to leave her children behind? Do her children act as a catalyst or an inhibitor for her desire to be free?
- There are not very many instances in the novel where we witness the physical abuse of Jacobs, but it is very evident that she is more so mentally enslaved to her master. Dr. Flint wants to give off the impression that he cares for Jacobs, and seems to treat her as a dog on a leash. Do you feel as if Jacobs, as a slave in a favorable position, possesses more free will than other slave that work in harsher conditions on plantations? If so, provide examples.
- What other characters in this narrative provide examples of the harsh psychological impact of slavery, rather than physical abuse and how does this mental abuse affect their lives?