African Americans and Whites in Jacobs’s Narrative Made Moral Decisions According to Their Own Distinct Moral Codes

Subject: Philosophy
Type: Analytical Essay
Pages: 4
Word count: 1129
Topics: Freedom, Social Issues

African Americans and whites in Jacob’s narrative made what was considered moral decisions founded on their distinct moral codes at that particular time. The narrative setting was during the heights of slavery where masters and slaves had their very separate moral doctrines. Masters were defined by power, control, merit and excellence; on the contrary slave’s morals were defined by quest for justice, equality and fairness. However it would be fair to mention that perfection, just like in the current world, was unattainable. Individuals like Dr Flint went overboard as he let his sexual desires for Linda and jealousy of her secret lover to take control over him.

Linda who is an African American does not realize she is a slave until her mother dies when she is six year old. As she grows into a woman she refuses to recognize the legitimacy of slavery. When Dr Flint initiates his sexual advances towards Linda, she stands her ground and makes it very clear that he will not have his way; this is despite the fact that during this period as mistress to her master she was destine to receive a little favours and consideration. Dr Flint’s persistent harassments and Linda’s quest for equality eventually drives her into a relationship with Mr Sands with whom she bears two children. This is a decision she made to discourage Dr Flint whom she feared would eventually overpower her, and also to show her independence in making a choice with whom to get in a relationship with.

When Dr Flint discovers that Linda is involved in a sexual relationship with another person, he becomes overly jealous and pressurizes her to tell him who he is. She declines to disclose the identity of her secret lover for the fear of her children’s safety, and it is kind of a personal matter. With this she further shows her stand for independence and equality. Just like slaves were not allowed to inquire about masters dealings, it was Linda’s belief that she could not be forced to disclose every detail of her personal dealings to her masters especially when it did not concern them.

Linda’s two children are born into slavery and automatically become Dr Flint’s properties. Linda is torn between her independent nature and her motherly instincts. While she yawns for an independent life in the north like other male slave escapees, she cannot bear the pain of leaving her children at the mercies of her cruel master Dr Flint. When she overheard the evil plan her children were to be subjected to, her motherly instinct took over and she ran away to divert the Flint’s attention in her whereabouts.   With the help of a slave woman Betty and Peter she was able to hide from her hunters. Linda then hatches a plan for Mr Sands to buy her children from Mr Flint. Mr Sands succeeds in purchasing Linda’s children through his friend who is a slave trader. When Dr Flint realizes how he had been duped, he becomes very outrageous and intensified his hunt for Linda. This was a show of his obsession with Linda which brings more questions on his entire morality. 

Linda further stressed her resolve for independency by deciding to hide in an attic crawl space for seven years in her grandmother’s house where her children also lived without the children ever knowing. The place was so uncomfortable; she couldn’t stand up right, it was dark, dusty, had little air, and she could only get a glimpse of the outside through a peep hole. She decided to bear all these despite a promise of a more comfortable life she would have had as Dr Flint’s Concubine. Her desire to be a free woman with a free family and home eclipsed all other things and if she had to bear a temporary discomfort like this she was more than ready.

In attempt to win their freedom (which was equivalent to independence and equality) several African Americans in the narrative either escapes to the north or their freedom is bought. Linda’s uncle Benjamin for instance could not bear the cruelty of his masters and the idea of slavery itself, he escape to the north where he isn’t heard of afterwards. Aunt Marthy who is Linda’s grandmother is free woman; her freedom was bought by another elderly woman. She had experienced slavery first hand and did not envision it as a good life for anyone; this is evident in her assistance for other slaves in their fight to gain freedom. She secures her son Philip’s freedom and helps hide Linda as she was being hunted down by Dr Flint. Initially, she resisted Linda’ earlier plans of escape for fear of victimization and Linda’s escape plan ambiguity, she however comes at real time of need to help Linda’s evade the manhunt by Dr Flint. 

In the narrative the whites in the south tries desperately to discourage the slave on any prospect about the life in the north by telling lies about the north.  They even use scriptures from the bible to trap slaves into selfish loyalty gains. To most this may seem to be of a lesser moral; however, it should be noted that the whites who were majorly slave owners had invested heavily to secure these slaves and fairly would demand a return for their investment. Therefore as the slave got enlightened they would desperately dissuade them by any means even if it meant lying about things or sided scripture interpretation.  If slaves were all to get away most plantations would have gone barren, that is despite whites slave owners heavy initial investment in securing the slaves.

Though Linda trusted Mr Sands with her children she becomes concerned when Mr Sand’s sister suggests that her daughter should go and serve as a maid for another white master. This coupled with Mr Sand’s financial problems makes Linda worried about the possibility of her children being sold into slavery. It dawns on her that her children may never be free after all. She works tirelessly to secure their (Linda and her children) freedom. Mr Sands just like most whites was sometimes considerate, empathetic and understanding; however his white moral instincts would take over whenever a favourable opportunity presented itself. Slave children were all considered slaves by all means, and whenever appropriate they would be sold out by the master even if they were born out of a slave- master relationship. During this period this was considered normal by the white masters, the children they had with their concubines were rather considered properties. Mr Sands would therefore be forgiven if he were to think of selling his children to remain financially afloat.

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  1. Jacobs, Harriet. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Boston: Thayer & Eldridge, 1861.
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