hist07 - Allison Saulsbury HIST 1010 Kyle Bulthuis Paper...

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Allison Saulsbury HIST 1010- Kyle Bulthuis Paper Option #3 May 4, 2007 Lost and Found: The American Dream What does the American Dream mean to you? Throughout history countless works have focused on the pursuit of the American Dream. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin , written around 1771 and never completed, is a tale of self- determination and is seen as one of the most prominent works of Franklin’s time. The slave narrative of Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl , was written in the 1850’s. Jacobs recounts her life in slavery through “Linda”, with fervor, defiance, strength, rage, and devotion. Despite polar roles within eighteenth and nineteenth century society, Linda and Franklin had very similar personal qualities and attributes. The two characters lives exemplify how they were both at the forefront of their times. Linda was born (around 1816) into slavery to two high-ranking parents in their plantation system. Linda’s father was a carpenter and was, “ considered… intelligent and skilful in his trade” (Jacobs 1850, 1). Linda did not overlook her seemingly more comfortable life in slavery than many slaves in the eighteenth and nineteenth century had. Her mother passed away when she was six years old and at this point she realized that she was a slave. Linda was taught by her mistress to read and write, a very uncommon constituent in the life of a typical slave. Upon placement into a new home, Linda receives her first taste of tragedy and emotional discomfort. Linda states that, “When we entered our new home we encountered cold looks, cold words, and cold treatment… I felt so desolate and alone” (Jacobs 1850, 6). Linda was separated from her father but was still able to be with her brother and contact her grandmother, very uncommon for slaves. On the other hand, in her new home the father of her mistress, Doctor Flint, sexually
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harassed Linda. Linda was very resilient to such actions, which ultimately created great tension in the house. Linda looked to her grandmother for comfort and support. However, at no point does Linda ask for the sympathy of the reader. Instead, she states, “Reader, it is not to awaken sympathy for myself that I am telling you truthfully what I suffered in slavery, I do it to kindle a flame of compassion for your hearts in my sisters who are still in bondage, suffering as I once suffered” (Jacobs 1850, 29). Linda’s quote provokes feelings of strength and awareness of the struggles of her fellow people. Dr. Flint was enraged by the discovery of Linda’s relationship with a neighbor (a freedman) and Linda experienced the devastation of the inability to pursue this love.
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