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Within the framework of the current paper, several concepts that can be met in Harriet Jacobs’ The Incidents of a Slave Girl will be addressed. The author of this entry will evaluate the contribution of certain stylistic devices to the narration. It is hypothesized that there are several symbols such as the attic, the topic of slavery, and the theme of womanhood that may define this book as one of the best representations of slavery and its effect on humans.
Symbolic Nature of the Attic
First of all, it is critical to pay attention to Linda’s hideout that is also referred to as the loophole of retreat. This place is symbolic because she cannot either stand or sit there and that hints at the fact that numerous forces do not allow her to be free. On the other hand, it can be seen as a small area of freedom that Linda creates for herself in her mind (Green-Barteet 56). Linda’s body is restricted by the attic, and that represents the terrifying impact of slavery. These limitations cause the development of depression and despair because Linda grieves both psychologically and physically (Randle 48). In this case, the reader may also remember how Dr. Flint acquired the right to kill Linda (according to the laws of slavery) but the time spent in the attic had more chances to kill her (Green-Barteet 67).
Another symbolic idea connected to the attic is its distance from the imposed limitations of slavery supported by the fact that it was Linda who chose this “prison.” Going to the hideout, Linda rejects giving her soul and body to Dr. Flint. Instead of being involved in a forced sexual relationship with Dr. Flint, Linda chooses to have sex with Mr. Sands, and this is perfectly in line with her decision to give up on a luxurious cottage owned by Flint and continue being tortured by the attic (Green-Barteet 61). Even though she still suffered both emotionally and physically, she claimed her soul and mind as her own and did not give in to the negative side of her thoughts. To conclude, the loophole is a way for Linda to showcase her spiritual freedom regardless of the restrictions of her life.
There are two more symbolic figures in The Incidents of a Slave Girl that can be addressed within the framework of this analysis. First of all, there is Dr. Flint. Jacobs based this character on her actual master, so there is no point in thinking that she exaggerates his nature in any way (Jacobs 101). On a bigger scale, Dr. Flint is not a mere master but a core representation of the slave system. His hypocrisy and cruelty majorly contribute to the reader’s outlook on slavery and provide them with an ability to look at the events from a slave’s point of view. Dr. Flint never feels doubtful or sympathetic toward his slave. This kind of absolute power defines the slave system. Dr. Flint is only pleased when his slaves are submissive, and that may lead the reader to realize that he may also symbolize the underlying qualities of oppression such as moral exploitation, viciousness, and longing for power (Jacobs 156).
Jacobs perfectly described the process of defying the legitimacy of slavery. At the same time, there is Aunt Martha that serves as a symbol of femininity and womanhood. Her humble nature and the willingness to provide for her family can be seen even through the prism of her being a slave. Jacobs depicts Aunt Martha as a virtuous character that represents feminine values and their reflection in black women. Regardless, she witnesses that her devotion and patience are not rewarded in any way because her children are either being sold or killed by slavery (Jacobs 213). The story of this character hints at the fact that the willingness to adhere to a certain behavioral model that is not typical of the person’s origin will only lead to more suffering.
Green-Barteet, Miranda A. “”The Loophole of Retreat”: Interstitial Spaces in Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.” South Central Review, vol. 30, no. 2, 2013, pp. 53-72.
Jacobs, Harriet Ann. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: Written by Herself. Harvard University Press, 2009.
Randle, Gloria T. “Between the Rock and the Hard Place: Mediating Spaces in Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.” African American Review, vol. 33, no. 1, 1999, pp. 43-56.