To my older cousin.
You have been helping abused women for many years now, devoting much of your free time to your charity organization. In class, we were reading Harriet Jacobs’ Incident in the Life of a Slave Girl, a text I thought you would very much like. Throughout the story appear many themes and sections which I believe you can either relate to or understand.
First, the story focuses heavily on the idea of forced relationships and sexual abuse. In your line of work you have encountered many victims that have dealt with similar problems. Towards the beginning of the story, Linda, the main character, conveys to the reader that her new master, Dr. Flint, is forcing her into a sexual relationship. In an attempt to avoid this, Linda forcibly enters another relationship. Throughout this story, Linda faces not only verbal abuse from Dr. Flint, but physical abuse as well. It is a terrible situation, as Linda cannot seem to win no matter what she tries. I know you have discussed the women you deal with, and they seem to echo Linda’s problems. While Linda is a sympathetic character by any reader’s standard, I believe that due to your line of work, you particularly can understand her situation.
The next theme which I found relevant to you was that of family strength. As you know so well, we come from a large family, and strong family values were always important. In this story, family is seen in two very different forms. Dr. Flint treats his illegitimate children horribly, refusing to free them. Linda, however, does everything in her power to protect her children. Towards the middle of the story, Linda fakes an escape and hides in a small closet. She does this so Dr. Flint will send her children to a more merciful master. Linda stays hidden in this small space, only catching glimpses of her children and becoming rather malnourished. I felt that this maternal love and protection for their children is something both you and I can relate to, as our mothers have sacrificed much for us.
The final idea I’d like to touch on is that of persistence. Though Linda faces constant struggles throughout the story, she never gives up. Challenges are the norm in her life, but she continues to face them in an attempt to achieve a good life for herself and her children. By the end of the story, you may be left a bit frustrated. While Linda’s new master is certainly better than Dr. Flint, she is still a slave, and has not achieved her goal. It is important to note, however, that Linda still remains optimistic at the end, strengthening the idea of persistence. I thought that you could particularly relate to this, as for much of your life you too have climbed an uphill battle. Like Linda, you were persistent, and did whatever it took to achieve what you wanted.
It seems that I have spoiled to much of the story, but I do hope you will read it one day. It is an important piece of literature!