Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Sufficient Food

Journal No. 10

English 48A
Dr. Scott Lankford
Author I chose: Harriet Jacobs

I. "My mother had been weaned at three months old, that the babe of the mistress might obtain sufficient food... When they became women, my mother was a most faithful servant to her whiter foster sister."
II. Jacobs recounts, painfully, how her mother's duties were determined even as a small child.

III. Just as Douglass reflects on the cruelties of slavery, so does Jacobs. Jacobs did not realize that she was a slave until she was around six years old. She had experienced the loss of her mother and was thrown into her world upon her death. Reflecting on the treatment that her mother had received while still alive, she is told by people around her that her mother had been "a slave merely in name" (1811). Contrary to what Jacobs is told, it seems to me that Jacobs' mother was treated with cruelty as a baby. The priorities of a slave-owner are so much different than what we might consider "normal" today. If a mother needs to nourish her child, we would consider it amazingly cruel to force the mother to stop feeding the child. However, as Jacobs describes, her own mother's life was considered much less important than that of her own future owner's life. Jacobs' grandmother fed both children at her own bosom and was asked to treat her flesh and blood as a second-rate being and hope that the baby would be able to find nourishment without milk. What a cruel society! On top of this most horrible behavior, Jacobs' mother grew up to be the slave of the very same child who received nourishment from Jacobs' grandmother. This defines the morality of the time, for me. This description of events really puts things into perspective. Yes, the beatings and raping of slaves is so incredibly cruel, but to me, it is just as cruel to put a child at risk of death in order to sustain the life of another child which you deem more worthy of living. Who are we to say that one child should suffer in order for another to thrive? Do we continue to choose one life over another in our "modern" society?


drscottie said...

20/20 I just want to say again that, in addition to being well-written, this is the most visually stunning student journal I've ever had the pleasure of reading :)