Home > Uncategorized > Attack of Southern Christians

Attack of Southern Christians

I remember reading this book before, but I’m not sure why I read it. I think this is a really interesting text and I love being able to compare it to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which I just read last semester for capstone. I’m baffled by the idea that a white abolitionist text is considered a Great American Novel, but slave narratives don’t really get the same recognition, even though they are telling a story that they witnessed first-hand. So far, my favorite part of this novel is Jacobs’ attack of Southern Christianity. I think it was very bold of her to point out the flaws of something that so many Americans held dear during this time period. I can imagine that the South was portrayed as a very Christian society with their manners and hospitality, much like it is today. So for her  to point out the stark contrast between what they preached, and what they practiced was probably very surprising to her readers. Jacobs states, “She was a member of the church; but partaking of the Lord’s supper did not seem to put her in a Christian state of mind” (14). This blunt reference to Mrs. Flint’s lack of Christianity is meant to startle and appall her readers, and I think that during the time period it probably did just that. Since this narrative was directed toward Northern Christian women, this was a very smart and tactical way to relate to them and bring their faith into the equation. When we looked at the list of slave narrative traits, two of them stuck out to me: assumed religious audience, and emphasis on religious awakening. Jacobs does both of these in her text, as she assumes that her audience is Christian, so she plays on the importance of being ethical and how the South has no morals or ethics. For the religious awakening, I’m not sure if this means that Jacobs was supposed to have a spiritual awakening, or that her story was supposed to evoke a spiritual awakening in her audience. I see both happening actually. She herself talks about how difficult it is to follow morals or to believe in God when she is being faced with such anguish in her life. I think this will lead to a personal spiritual awakening at the end of the book, but we’ll see. I also think that it causes the audience to have a spiritual awakening as they read the text because she is asking them to reflect on their own morals and compare them to that of the South. In doing so, I think she expects the audience to realize how terrible slavery is and how the South is negatively representing Christian values, while appreciating their own morals and holding themselves to a higher standard.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. jvittorio
    February 22, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    I definitely see your point, and I agree with the idea that there was a blatant contradiction between the practice of slavery and christian values, but at the same time I think it’s very hard to make a political argument based on religious beliefs. I just think that mixing political issues and religious issues can become sticky, and it’s just combining too many vague topics together, and leaves too much room for individual interpretation.

  2. February 22, 2011 at 11:00 pm

    I agree, I love how she attacks southern white Christian beliefs. I also really liked how the text portrayed her constant struggle in being a Christian women, while also being a slave. Then the reader is able to view her transformation from a pure/young girl to a cunning/desperate mother. Fascinating.

  3. krcoleman
    February 24, 2011 at 10:29 am

    I think you’re raising a really interesting question about what qualifies something as a “Great American Novel.” Most people have either read Uncle Tom’s Cabin or at least know that it’s considered a staple of American literature, but having read both I would argue that Incidents is an equally powerful book. I think it says a lot about our cultural preferences and the types of ideas and standpoints that we value that Uncle Tom’s Cabin is so much more widely read.

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