Harriet Jacob's slave narrative, events in the life of a slave girl, was promoted by leaders of the abortion movement. Jacob's story of her passage from slavery to freedom directly confronted the problem of sexual property in women. For Jacobs, freedom entailed self-ownership of an explicitly sexual character. As a slave, she chose to take a white lover rather than submitting to her master's claims. Idealizing the relations of voluntary exchange, insisting on bodily autonomy, she defended herself on the engaging in illicit sexual relationships as a matter of free convention. She wrote that it bothers less when we submit to ourselves that subject to compulsion. There is freedom in having a lover who does not control you, as the relationship is filled with kindness and affection. This paper discusses the marriage convention of this slave narrative.
Jacob refused to recognize herself as property, even to the extent of having her freedom bough against her will. For she explained that the more she became used to the values of free society, the more intolerable she found even the most benevolent owner, implying that genuine freedom meant owning herself. Jacobs claimed that the more her mind becomes open-minded, the more problematic it was for her to accept being someone's article of property, as being traded from one owner to another seems so much as oppression (Stanley, 32). Jacobs did not explicitly protest the proprietary character of marriage, yet she hardly assumed that the woman's sexual rights should rightfully pass to a husband. Nor did she see marriage and freedom as the same. Instead, she counterpoised them in a way suggesting their asymmetries, declaring at her narrative's close. Jacobs became a freedwoman, but not a wife.
The postmodern slave narrative's most fundamental reformation of the histography of slavery occurs in its representation of time. To emphasize the links between past and present, contemporary African American authors create chronicles that challenge concords of linearity and differences between the past and current. In aesthetic terms, the expansiveness of speculative fiction and its rejection of verisimilitude allow these writers to fashion a circular or fluid, conception of time in their texts. By creating characters who occupy a world that is both historical and contemporary, or that inexplicably travel through time and space, writers of postmodern slave narratives challenge our desire to conceal the action with deliberate illiteracy or notion. In expanding the slave narrative's critique of slavery to include an evaluation of its legacy in contemporary America, African American writers emphasize the historical foundations of our current cultural condition.
Jacob's slave narrative's convention is based on marriage. Similar to postmodern slave narratives, she describes traditional marriages and how marriage is perceived in the current world (Spaulding, 25). The author gives perspective on how American slaves and women in the past were denied access to the majority culture. Jacob's narrative showed how these values were just as crucial to slaves as they were to free members of society. In Jacob's influence, the detached lady of the slavery narrative actions to rescue herself; in her grasp, the slave story is transformed from the tale of a saint who without any help looks for opportunity and education to the story of a legend firmly bound to family and group who seeks flexibility and a home for her kids.
In approaching the elements of various genres into one more suitable for her intents, Harriet Jacobs was following a convention that African American writers had been using for at least a century before her, and it was this tradition of improvisation and invention that also provided her with the techniques that she could adapt to meet her particular circumstances. Some of these African American rhetorical devices have been described quite aptly by others as "sass" signifying or discourse of trust.
Marriage in the past was not easy. Slaves would depend on their masters to decide whether and to whom they could be married. Still, not only slaves would have difficulty complying with Paul's guidelines. Paul presents celibacy as the ideal recommending marriage only to those who cannot live up to it (Hodkinson, 142). Family pressures would have been difficult to resist; alliances were made through marriage and heirs were essential to carry on the family name. Practically everyone who is not the head of a household or in some way independent may have had problems with Paul's instructions.
Slavery is the reason why Jacob protests against marriage slavery, as women are not given the freedom to interact freely and choose the men they want and not be sold into unwanted marriages. Women need their freedom to explore the outside world, meet different people, and experience various activities without any restriction or obligation to a man. With the invention of technology, definitely, no women would want to be restricted by marriage obligations if they do not get their freedom. Having a married life and a family will be just a matter of self-choice and not forced. Jacob's narrative about marriage slavery not only empowers women but also offers insight of unions for those young women who are yet to be married in the future.
Hodkinson, Stephen. Slaves and Religions in Graeco-Roman Antiquity and Modern Brazil. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars, 2012. Print.
Spaulding, A T. Re-forming the Past: History, the Fantastic, and the Postmodern Slave Narrative. Columbus: Ohio State Univ. Press, 2005. Print.
Stanley, Amy D. From Bondage to Contract: Wage Labor, Marriage, and the Market in the Age of Slave Emancipation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998. Print.
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