Violence Against Femininity: An Analysis of Three Female Slave Narratives

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This thesis performs an analysis of the experience of female slaves on the basis of three female slave narratives; The History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave (1831) by Mary Prince, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861) by Harriet Jacobs, and Narrative of Sojourner Truth, a Northern Slave (1850) by Sojourner Truth. Because of the existence of a patriarchal society, females have nearly always been treated differently from males. This becomes strikingly clear in slave narratives. Both male and female slaves experienced oppression and many forms of violence. In many cases female slaves experienced sexual violence as well. Therefore, a central theme in this thesis will be the mistreating of female slaves through sexual violence, and the relationship of this violence to male dominance portrayed in the narratives. Moreover, the unequal power relationships between the female slaves and their owners will be examined and it will be shown that, even though white females experienced more liberty, their behavior was defined by the presence of male dominance. As such, female slaves were not solely abused by their male owners, but also by their female owners. The abusing of female slaves by female owners will be shown to be the result of the lack of power white females experienced towards their husbands, and the frustration, anger, and pain that results from this position. Even though the three authors of the narratives were eventually emancipated, female authorship was not assured, as the three protagonists were still controlled by patriarchal society and the then existing political climate in the process of documenting their narratives.
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