Month: February 2015

Ethical Analysis: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Is slavery utilitarian? James Rachels described Utilitarianism as the action that produces the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people (7). “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl” by Harriet Jacobs paints her master Dr. Flint as a brutal an corrupt way. He is willing to use his slaves in any manner which he sees fit; he treats them as machinery.

In treating his slaves how he sees fit, he decides to use the character Linda Brent as his concubine, fueling her desire to rebel against the slave system. Brent’s independent and rebellions nature eventually lead her to sleep with Mr. Sands. She doesn’t sleep with him because she loves him, but because she wants to show that Flint does not have control over her.

So far, Dr. Flint forcing Linda to sleep with him has created no greater good. Not only has is caused an internal struggle in Linda, but now Mr. Sands has been brought into the situation, with no good coming from Linda sleeping with him.

One could argue that slavery did created a greater good because it boosted the economy and production of the South, but is economic prospering truly a greater good when thousands suffer?

Ultimately, Linda abandons her independent nature for the sake of her children. She knows that if she continues following her rebellious path, her children will suffer because of her actions. Inherently, this action seems utilitarian because it brings about more happiness for her children, but in my opinion, a true utilitarian would have kept fighting for a change that would have benefited a larger group of people. Had Linda kept fighting the illegitimacy of the slave system, her rebellion may have been able to make a difference, and would have been a truly Utilitarian action.


Until next time!


Reflection on the Narrative of Frederick Douglass

My analysis of the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass ha been heavily focused on seeing how his struggles can be applied to the development of the Civil Rights Movement, and of the rights of African Americans today.

One specific portion of Douglass’ narrative has followed me: “I speak advisedly when I say this, — that killing a slave, or any colored person, in Talbot county, Maryland, is not treated as a crime, either by the courts or the community” (331). In the narrative, it is easy to see that this holds true when Douglass is speaking of the slave masters, it is easy to see that there is little compassion towards the lives of any colored person. Mr. Severe was described as, “taking pleasure,” in whipping the slaves for little to no reason (322). These slaves had no rights nor liberty. They were merely replaceable machines with no value to the courts.

Although African Americans have come a long way in the battle for civil rights, there is still a noticeable lack of recognition of their life’s worth by the courts, and by many Americans. From Trayvon Martin to Michael Brown, African Americans are still battling to not be racially profiled and targeted by people of other racial makeup.

Douglass’ narrative opens up a large amount of issues that were present in the pre-Civil War area, and sadly, some of the struggles African American’s faced now are still present today. As in one of our discussion prompt quotes, “give me liberty, or give me death,” African American slaves died fighting for their rights, and today we still see people fighting to the death for their liberty.