Home > Uncategorized > Jacobs and 19th Century Feminism

Jacobs and 19th Century Feminism

As I mentioned in class, I found myself greatly intrigued by Jacobs’ use of feminist rhetorics. In a situation rife with female sexual oppression, Jacobs exerts what little agency she has by choosing her own sexual partner. Her discussion of this on pg 14 of the Norton edition mixes the feminist language of sexual choice with the apologetic morals that had to accompany those choices during the 19th century. Within 19th century fiction, women who made such choices out of wedlock typically met with an unfortunately tragic ending (Nancy from Oliver Twist, Tess of Tess d’Urbervilles). While Jacobs obviously didn’t meet the untimely end that was required of her fictional counterparts, she did suffer, but still feels the need to apologize for her actions. I found this stylistic choice interesting, but understandable. I also wonder if she would have made the same apologies if her lover had been black or if she had been married at the time of her writing.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. meganvestal
    February 22, 2011 at 11:40 pm

    I found your comments in class to be incredibly engaging. As a reader I felt like I was really missing something when Jacobs began to plea her case (because I didn’t feel like it needed to be justified), and even after class I still struggled with my understanding.However, when you brought up the women in these other novels it really made me understand the position she might have been in. I feel like by apologizing for her actions, and by owning them, she is empowered in a such a way that many women in that day in age were not. I feel like this is what makes her novel more powerful today.

  2. February 24, 2011 at 7:11 am

    You’re amazingly astute, Lovely Taylor! I have to say I find it interesting how you focused on feminism and I focused on the issues of masculinity inside the book — but I think you’re right, this was a woman’s perspective through-n-through and,as such, offers us some unique insights into the home life of both enslaved peoples and those doing the enslaving

    The woman who best kept my attention throughout was Linda’s Grandmother; she, like many women in our American culture, played a peculiar role of sort-of-power that I am very intrigued to learn more about

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