Harriet Jacobs Persuasive Strategies

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Nhi Tran Professor Nicholas Cox History 1301 25 November 2014 Persuasive Strategies from Harriet Jacobs Anti-slavery or abolitionism is a movement to end slavery in the nineteenth century. Many abolitionists and writers such as William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, and Lydia Maria Child use literature to fight for slaves’ freedom and human equality. Another standout abolitionist is Harriet Jacobs, an African- American writer who escapes from slavery and becomes abolitionist speaker. She contributes to anti-slavery movement in American history with her Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, one of the first autobiographical slave narratives. Under the pseudonym Linda Brent, Jacobs uses her pen to describe her struggle for freedom,…show more content…
She has to make emotional pleas for abolition, but she also wants to make sharp, pointed critiques of whole institution of slavery- including Northern complicities. Jacobs often uses exclamations such as “O, reader,” when she is going after the emotional appeal: “O, what days and nights of fear and sorrow that man caused me! Reader […] I do it to kindle a flame of compassion in your hears for my sisters who are still in bondage, suffering as I once suffered” (29). But then she will sharpen that up with a catchy, biting aphorism, like “Cruelty is contagious in uncivilized communities” (45), or “hot weather brings out snakes and slaveholders” (159). She is also not afraid to lay on sarcasm, as when she writes, of the rare slaveholder who is good Christian, “Her religion was not a garb put on for Sunday, and laid aside till Sunday returned again” (48). Basically, this seems to be a narrator who cannot make up her mind whether she wants to lecture her readers or make them cry. It could be that this uneven tone helps explain why Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl was not immediately popular. Moreover, Jacobs’s simple language can make varied readers fully understand what is going on in her story. She is not big on metaphors or symbolism and gets her meaning across through anecdotes and dialogue. Plus, Jacobs seems to be talking to the reader because she…show more content…
Jacobs uses logos and pathos to appeal to the sentiment of her readers. Hence, her autobiographical narrative appeals to white audiences, especially potential abolitionists, who had the political authority to combat slavery. Indeed, Harriet Jacobs devotes her life to become an abolitionist speaker to fight for what she and other slaves around her deserve: physical and mental

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