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Choose.

Despite escaping the hands of her owners, Jacobs does not immediately step into absolute freedom. The attic is far from the open streets of New York that she will walk later in her life. Yet, she still manages to find spiteful comfort in the sight of Dr. Flint walking to his office down the street. Her freedom begins by hiding right under the nose of her oppressor, by knowing the fury that she has aroused in the cruel doctor. She is trapped for the time being, unable to move beyond the confines of her temporary home, and essentially estranged from the outside world. But this is a misery that she has chosen, and a trouble she is willing to bear.

The latter half of Jacobs’ narrative consistently poses the reader with the idea of freedom, and what exactly it entails. She finds her own freedom, but must watch her children live in captivity. When her freedom is assured through a bill of sale, she finds herself still mentally burdened with the shackles of her former life – though her body is free, the slave underpinnings still inhabit her mind. Even as she concludes her story, we can still see the weight of her early life pulling heavily upon her words.

Freedom (or the beginning of it) appears to be a matter of choice for Jacobs. That is to say that Jacobs believes freedom begins with choice. While ceaselessly toiling for Dr. Flint, Harriet had no choice. Her first choice, and subsequent first step as a free woman began with her choice to escape. This obsession with choice pervades her ultimate message to the reader – that in order for slavery to an end, it was the nation at the time that had to make a choice to end it (though it would only come to pass through years of bloodletting).

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. katelongoria
    March 1, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    I really like your assertion that freedom starts with a choice. It reminded me of a passage in Incidents that I really liked, when Jacobs tells Luke’s story. He was mistreated horribly, but she meets him on the streets of New York as a free man because he took his opportunity when he saw it. He stole from his dead master, but he made the choice of freedom over slavery.

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