How Gender Identity Shaped Author's Life in the Incidents in The Life of a Slave Girl

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Looking into the autobiography of Ms. Harriet Jacob we can see her life encounter some experiences throughout the autobiography. From to experiencing sexual abuse, to her motherhood age. As she aged, she also encounters sexual exploitation from harassment from her master Dr.Flint, leading to the threats Dr.Flint gave to her, then to seek a partner to avoid the horrid acts of her master. Due to seeking a partner lead her to experience motherhood, to having children, to become a runaway slave in protecting her children, then to endure pain and suffering for the safety of her children. One of the most important aspects of this autobiography is gender. Gender directly shapes Jacobs's experience both as a slave and as a mother.

Going through the autobiography, we begin to see the unavoidable experience of most slave women encountering, sexual harassment. When Harriet Jacobs turns 15 years of age she describes being constantly threatened by Dr.Flint, that would obsessively torment her by voicing his intentions to have unwanted sexual advances at her, “he tried his utmost to corrupt the pure principle of my grandmother had instilled. He peopled my young mind with unclean images, such as only a vile monster could think of”(30). Dr. Flint stalked her and constantly harassing her that she was property with which he could do as he pleased, 'My master met me at every turn, reminding me that I belonged to him, and swearing by heaven and earth that he would compel me to submit to him” (31). Such memories of Dr. Flint’s desire to make Jacobs his sex slave filled her with horror and fury. Harriet could have fought back and defended herself but unfortunately she knew that her situation was ultimately unsolvable and hopeless, for Harriet the slave girl lived in a state where 'there is no shadow of law to protect her from insult, from violence, or even from death; all these are inflicted by fiends who bear the shape of men” (30).

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Tormenting thoughts came to Harriet for choosing to have sexual confrontation with Mr. Sands in order for Harriet to avoid the lustful desires of Dr.Flintfor Harriet stated, “With all these thoughts revolving in my mind, and seeing no other way of escaping the doom I so much dreaded...You never knew what it is to be a slave...You never exhausted your ingenuity in avoiding the snares, and eluding the power of a hated tyrant”(62). Had she not done so, her cherished purity would have still been violated by Dr.Flints harassment. Her relationship with Mr. Sands was not motivated by love or sexual pleasure, but rather by for her to make a choice regarding who would father her children, Mr.Sands or the tyrant Dr. Flint.

After the incident with Mr. Sands, Harriet Jacobos experiences something most women encounter, Motherhood. not only divides the sexes but also serves as the condition present in the life of nearly every slave woman, clearly setting her experience apart from that of male slaves. When Jacobs after giving birth to her son and daughter, she had developed new primary concerns. She is now a mother first being concerned with the well being of her children is her top priority, and, lastly as a woman that desired freedom. Going near the end of Chapter 16 we see that Dr. Flint will bring Harriet’s children to the plantation to be “broke in” Harriet took action. By becoming a runaway slave in order for her children to be sold as explained during the interaction with Sally, “they will never sell them to anybody as long as they have me in their power” 107.,

She knew what would happen if she failed on her mission, but it was worth taking action than the alternative of seeing the suffering and the dehumanization of her children. Harriet was filled with determination to guarantee her children will avoid the inhumane conditions of what their family has gone through as being slaves. While the future of her children was being decided, Jacobs spent six years and eleven months crouched in a small crawl space under the roof of her grandmother's home. I was weary, and I slept such sleep as the wretched may, when a tempest has passed over them... I suffered for air even more than for light. But I was not comfortless. Jacobs suffered through extreme heat during the summer months and frightful cold throughout the winter. The only solace she experienced came from hearing her children frolic about the house “I heard the voices of my children...How I longed to speak to them”(127), Harriet would rather live under her current conditions than to be a slave again and risk her children's well being. They were finally purchased by Mr. Sands and permitted to live with their grandmother, but they were not granted their freedom.

One of the main characteristics of Harriet Jacobs that influenced her experience was her gender. Able to depict her emotional anguish. Her experiences showed the unique kind of abuses that female slaves had to endure. Female slaves suffer horrible mental tortures such as sexual harassment and the loss of their children, and in some cases physically suffer for the well being of their children. As she argued, “Slavery is terrible for men, but it is far more terrible for women”, the experiences she encountered were exclusive to women.

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