The Woes Of Women English Literature Essay

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Every person connected to slavery suffered from the institution in some way. Whether a person was black, white, man, or woman did not matter: everyone endured some hardship from slavery. However, it seemed that women had to bare far greater burdens because of the injustices of the system. According to Harriet Jacobs, "slavery is terrible for men; but it is far more terrible for women" (Incidents 294). Women, both blacks and whites, were casualties of the system of slavery.

Slave women had to endure not only physical abuse that all slaves go through, but also emotional and psychological abuse from both the master and his wife. The poor mulattos served as either sex slaves or as house servants, either way they had to endure hardships from the master, the wife, and the even the field slaves. One plight of slave girls was in the form of sexual harassment. Black women could not stop the shameless slave masters' actions of lust. Their humanity was degraded and undignified. The influences of slavery made young girls "prematurely knowing, concerning the evil ways of the world" (Incidents 289). The morally corrupt institution brought immorality to the black community. Situations like the Negro Balls warped girls minds and allowed them to lower their standards of purity. At home, the girls feared their master, and soon the girls "learned to tremble" when they hear their "master's footfall" (Incidents 228). In Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Linda suffered much torment from her master, and she stated that "the degradation, the wrongs, the vices, that grow out of slavery" (Incidents 288) are more than she can describe. Her master "peopled in [her] young mind with unclean images, such as only a vile monster could think of" (Incidents 297) Beauty was a curse for the girls because it caused the masters to be even more attracted to them. The tragic mulatto was said to be so beautiful that masters could not resist them. They were blamed for the master's actions and seen as seductresses. The poor girls even had to suffer ridicule from the field slaves because they were seen as privileged. Their cursed beauty, which attracted foul masters and ridicule from other slaves, brought about even more suffering because it also attracted envy from the wives. A slave girl had to endure the green-eyed wives' evil wrath. The mistress would take her vengeance out on the slave girl in "violent outbreaks of jealous passion," (Incidents 288) and the only aim was "to make her life as intolerable as possible" (Clotel 337). In Clotel, when Horatio Green's wife discovered of his slave wife, she made him sell Clotel immediately. The cruel, jealous wife did not think that selling her was enough to punish her husband, so in order to "make her husband drink of the cup of humiliation to its very dregs, Mrs. Green resolved to take his child under her own roof for a servant" (Clotel 336). The poor daughter was "put to the meanest work that could be found" (Clotel 336). Clotel then had to deal with a new mistress, who was just as bad as the old one, and she was "ordered to cut off her long hair" (Clotel 337) so that the husband would not find her as attractive. The poor helpless slave girl should be protected by the mistress, but unfortunately, the wife has "no other feelings towards her but jealousy and rage" (Incidents 288).

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White women were full of jealousy because they could not control or confront their husbands. They could do nothing stop their husbands from pursuing black women. This created resentment among white women, and therefore they used the little power they had on the slave girls. Their lives are emotionally and psychologically insecure. They had no identity except through their husbands, and they could not do anything to stop their husbands from fooling around with the slaves. Because of this insecurity, many of the master's wives were vindictive and passionate. In Clotel, Horatio's new wife actually sought to rid of the source of temptation and sold Clotel to Mr. French. When she arrived, Mr. French's wife is so suspicious of her husband's loyalty that she forces Clotel to cut her hair "as short as any of the full-blooded negroes in the dwelling" (Clotel 337). The wives would do anything to make the tormented slave girls' lives miserable because in reality, that was the only thing they had the power to do to overcome their husbands actions.

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Unfortunately for women, the emotional and psychological abuse on white wives and black slave girls was tremendous. The wicked masters and vengeful mistresses made life as a woman almost unbearable. However, hope for those women could be found beyond their worldly home and in the celestial boundaries of heaven.