Do nothing without intention.

As we were examining the line “I knew what I did, and I did it with the deliberate calculation,” (47) from chapter ten in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, I thought about Solange’s music video for “Almeda.” I was hooked onto the line “Nothing without intention. Do nothing without intention,” said by the woman that appears in the beginning of the music video. I’m interested in this line and its connection to Jacobs’s narrative because there is a strict attention to detail in Linda’s performance in chapter thirteen.  

Linda’s action was “deliberate” giving her the sense that she had control in the action of having her love affair with Mr. Sands. Linda feels satisfaction and triumphs over Dr. Flint when she tells him that she cannot live in the cottage (49). It is a moment where she is able to act using her agency by not only having the ability to give consent in a sexual relationship but also rejecting Dr. Flint’s orders to live in the cottage he had built. Furthermore, she says “it seems less degrading to give one’s self, than to submit to compulsion. There is something akin to freedom in having a lover who has no control over you, except that which he gains by kindness and attachment,” (48). Linda is expressing that the power of consent has given her a sense of freedom, for she was given the choice rather than was forced to be with Mr. Sands.  

However, yes, Linda has achieved a form of triumph in admitting that she has had a love affair with a white man, but with that confession comes the consequence of breaking her identity as a woman who is pure and faithful to God. Although Linda calculated this action, she then suffers the shame of her grandmother.

Although it is disgraceful to have had sex at the time of its publishing, the way in which Linda explains this account in her narrative is intended for the audience to understand why she went to the lengths to do such an act. It is evident that Jacobs calculated the performance of Linda’s confession. Linda expresses her regret and guilt for her actions by prefacing her confession and saying, “The remembrance fills me with sorrow and shame. It pains me to tell you of it; but I have promised to tell you the truth and I will do it honestly, let it cost me what it may,” (47). It is Jacobs’s intention that the audience knows that Linda is loyal to her religion and to her self-respect; however, the juxtaposition of this demonstrates that the cruel circumstances of slavery have driven her to ends that force her to violate her faith and virtue. Thus, it is her intention that the audience views slavery as corrupt and sinful.

Furthermore, this is evident in the subsequent passage after her confession where Linda says “O virtuous reader! You never knew what it is to be a slave,” (49). Linda addresses and identifies the reader as “virtuous,” expressing admiration for them. Additionally, throughout her narrative, Linda distinguishes herself as being a pure, virtuous woman. Thus, equating herself to the reader by calling them virtuous may compel them to empathize with her. Furthermore, In this address, she is taking the opportunity to pause her narrative and to speak to the reader directly. Through this action, she is calling attention to the reader to consider being her position, indicated by her highlighting the fact that she knows her reader is a white individual who has not been enslaved. It is a conscious confession in order for the reader to consider slavery’s unrighteousness.

Linda’s action in consenting to a love affair with Mr. Sands that is not the only deliberate action within this chapter. Rather, Jacobs’s narration of this love affair is calculated so that the juxtaposition of Linda’s remorseful confession compels her readers to understand the wickedness of slavery.

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