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Cultural Resources

So far, I’ve been really fascinated by Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Our discussion today in class touched on a lot of the things that I was thinking about as I read through the book, but I do want to touch on some things that I didn’t hear as well explored in our discussion. (I’m going to refer to the narrator as Jacobs, and the in-narrative portrayal of herself as Linda.)

My main interest was how Jacobs portrays that African American community as so closely knit, in comparison to the white community in her narrative. This came to the forefront of mind as I read one particular transition, in Chapter 20, when Betty sees Linda off, and says, “‘I don’t want no tanks, honey. I’se glad I could help you, and I hope de good Lord vill open de path for you.'” (page 90 in the Norton copy)

Immediately, Linda is transferred to Peter, about whom Jacobs says, “I had known him for years. He had been an apprentice to my father, and had always borne a good character. I was not afraid to trust him.”

The greatest resource Linda has is the community of people that love her and would almost, if not actually, die for her. Some might call it a “network,” but that invokes a much more business-like relationship which does not account for the powerful force of love. Contrast this with the white people in the book, who either do not know each other or are opposing each other constantly and bitterly. Jacobs clearly portrays the fragmentation of whites in this town in stark contrast with the connectedness of her black community.

Another thing that I’m curious about, but don’t really have any answers to, is how Jacobs portrays different black characters with various dialectical traits, while some she portrays as having relatively standard English pronunciation, and even word usage that one would not expect from uneducated, enslaved people. Perhaps this is to highlight the variety of modes of speech within the black community itself.

Finally, in class today, we began to talk about rape, and what it did psychologically to both enslaved women and enslaved men who could do nothing to stop it. This reminded me of an article I read last night about the current situation in the Congo, and how rape is so frequent that it has almost become an accepted fact of life. It has had psychological effects on women who are victims of rape, husbands of those women, and the perpetrators of rape themselves. I think it can bring an insightful, if disturbing, perspective on the dynamics of rape: Here’s the link: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8677637.stm

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