Both the slave narratives are autobiographies. They give a detailed account of the authors’ journeys from enslavement to freedom.
The authors’ purpose was to highlight the suffering of the slaves and the cruel treatment of the slaveholders. While describing their hardships, they also mention the kind actions of whites who helped them achieve freedom.
The excerpt from My Bondage and My Freedom emphasizes the importance of education, how it was denied to the slaves, and what measures the protagonist had to take in order get education. On the other hand, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl revolves around the attempts of the protagonist to escape slavery and the lecherous advances of her inhumane master.
Both excerpts show that slaves did not resort to cunning and trickery because of a lack of morality and character, but as a necessity for survival and self-development.
Your answer should also include evidence from the two excerpts. Here are some examples:
The slaveholder’s attempts to forbid the protagonist of My Bondage and My Freedom from getting an education:
Nothing appeared to make my poor mistress—after her turning toward the downward path—more angry, than seeing me, seated in some nook or corner, quietly reading a book or a newspaper. I have had her rush at me, with the utmost fury, and snatch from my hand such newspaper or book, with something of the wrath and consternation which a traitor might be supposed to feel on being discovered in a plot by some dangerous spy.
The protagonist of My Bondage and My Freedom was filled with strong determination to get himself educated:
Seized with a determination to learn to read, at any cost, I hit upon many expedients to accomplish the desired end.
Some of the white boys taught the protagonist without taking money:
Not every one, however, demanded this consideration, for there were those who took pleasure in teaching me, whenever I had a chance to be taught by them. I am strongly tempted to give the names of two or three of those little boys, as a slight testimonial of the gratitude and affection I bear them . . .
The narratives point out some religious views to show slavery is wrong and mainly to depict the hypocrisy of the Southern slaveholders:
Something must be done, and that speedily; but where to return for help, they knew not. God in his mercy raised up ‘a friend in need.
(from Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl)
Her fervent piety and watchful uprightness made it impossible to see her without thinking and feeling—‘that woman is a christian.’ There was no sorrow nor suffering for which she had not a tear, and there was no innocent joy for which she had not a smile. She had bread for the hungry, clothes for the naked, and comfort for every mourner that came within her reach. Slavery soon proved its ability to divest her of these excellent qualities, and her home of its early happiness. Conscience cannot stand much violence. Once thoroughly broken down, who is he that can repair the damage? It may be broken toward the slave, on Sunday, and toward the master on Monday.
(from My Bondage and My Freedom)
The protagonist of Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl realized that to gain absolute power over her, her master would take her children as his slaves:
I was about to risk every thing on the throw of a die; and if I failed, O what would become of me and my poor children? They would be made to suffer for my fault.
. . . they are going to carry my children to the plantation tomorrow; and they will never sell them to any body so long as they have me in their power.
To escape her master, the protagonist of Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl took shelter in various friends’ homes, including that of a white slaveholder’s wife:
The mistress came to meet us, and led me up stairs to a small room over her own sleeping apartment. ‘You will be safe here, Linda,’ said she . . .
The protagonist of Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl was determined about her decision to not give up on her dream of freedom:
When I started upon this hazardous undertaking, I had resolved that, come what would, there should be no turning back. ‘Give me liberty, or give me death,’ was my motto.