Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl is one of the classic narratives of slave life written by former slaves. Harriet Jacobs, writing as Linda Brent, describes her twenty-seven years as a slave and her life as an escaped slave in the North. My purpose in assigning this book is to give you some sense of the life of a slave, the difficulties and problems encountered by slaves and how they responded to and dealt with them.As you read Incidents, keep in mind the following questions and topics and then write a paper that discusses each question/topic in some detail.
- Write a brief introduction in which you provide a brief overview of the book and what it is about. Save the details of the book for the topics that follow.
- Compared to most slaves, Jacobs experienced a somewhat better life during her early years. What circumstances explain why she was able live a different kind of life? Who were the most important members of her family? Explain the role that each played both in her early life and later.
- In general, how does Jacobs describe the life of slaves under the slave holders in her region? What kinds of treatment did most slaves experience at the hands of these owners?
- How does Jacobs describe her relations with Mr. and Ms Flint? How does Ms Flint treat her? What kinds of demands does Mr. Flint make of her? Why does she imply that slavery was harder for female slaves than for male slaves?
- Discuss the most important ways that Jacobs attempts to deal with Mr. Flint and his demands. What strategies did she use? What actions did she take?
- What role did Nat Turner’s rebellion and the Fugitive Slave Law play in Jacobs’ account of her life? How did she personally experience these events? Why was each event especially disturbing for her?
- What was the most important thing you learned about slavery that you did not know previously? What did you think of the book? Would you recommend it? Why?
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