Harriet Jacob's Incidents In The Life Of A Slave Girl

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The reader’s first introduction to Aunt Marthy in Harriet Jacob’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl occurs at the very beginning of the narrative when Linda is sharing her family history. Not only does Linda describe her grandmother before her mother, but she reveals more particulars about her grandmother than she shares about her father or other family members. From the beginning, Jacobs centers Aunt Marthy as a vital character who influences Linda; however there is not a lot of literary criticism specifically on Aunt Marthy. Aunt Marthy is truly the matriarch of the family. As the story unfolds, Aunt Marthy emerges as a mother figure, supporter, and source of moral and religious inspiration. On first viewing Aunt Marthy, many readers…show more content…
The “cult of true womanhood” emphasized purity and submissiveness. The female roles under the institution of slavery forced submissiveness under the patriarchy. However, Jennifer Larson, a lecturer at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill argues that Jacobs subverts the “cult of true womanhood” through characters like Linda Brent. Instead of focusing on purity and submissiveness, “intelligence, wit, and self [is placed] over submissiveness…sexual autonomy and dignity over purity” (“Converting Passive Womanhood” 755). I extend this same idea to Aunt Marthy. Aunt Marthy may be pious; however, Aunt Marthy is not submissive to the outcomes of her life. She becomes an agent in order to create the changes she wants to see for her family. She completes her actions for social justice often secretly; however, she is not submissive to the institution of slavery. Even though Aunt Marthy stands for sexual and moral purity, she understands the complications of slavery which can be seen to Aunt Marthy’s response to Linda’s children and how she uses her intelligence and wit to protect her family. Since the “cult of true womanhood” stood as the guidelines of the women’s role in the domestic of the 1800s, Aunt Marthy’s rejection of the “cult of true womanhood” exemplifies her remaking of the domestic space of her time or what Larson calls “renovated

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