How Fear Manifests Itself in Two Vastly Different Novels Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Life of a Slave Girl and the Devil in Silver. The paper will point to internal and external fears the protagonists experience in the two novels, and also will report how the protagonists are haunted and how they deal with it.

The Devil in Silver -- Quick Summary

The book by Victor LaValle blends social satire with horror fiction, and in the process he points (fictionally, with brilliant descriptive narratives) to the unfair and inhumane way in which people who are troubled mentally are treated in institutions. The protagonist is Pepper, a 6-3, 270 pound, who is placed in a mental institution even though he is not crazy. The devil in this story is a monster with the head of a bison that hides behind a silver door; he kills the patients with the good graces of the hospital staff. Pepper makes friends with several patients and they plan to attack the devil. It's a wildly entertaining / bizarre and surprising story.

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl -- Quick Summary

The book by Harriet Jacobs is radically different than LaValle's book. Jacobs' book follows the life of "Linda Brent" -- a slave and later in the book a fugitive slave -- from the time she was born into slavery to her eventual escape and to freedom in New York City. Things go fairly well for Linda because she has a mistress who is helpful and benevolent (and she has a loving maternal grandmother) but when that mistress dies Linda becomes the property of Dr. Flint, who makes unwelcome sexual advances. Linda joins a concubine and has two children; later she flees to New York and joins the cause of the abolitionists, but shudders in constant fear of being recaptured vis-a-vis the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.

Fears in the Slave Girl story

Of course Linda had good reason to fear her master, Dr. Flint, because he reminder her "at every turn…that I belonged to him, and swearing by heaven and earth that he would compel me to submit to him" (28). Every step she took was in fear of him, and at the age of 15 he began "to whisper foul words in my ear," which Linda knew perfectly well was evil, and her mind was "peopled" with "unclean images, such as only a vile monster could think of" (27). She learned to "tremble" when hearing her master approaching; and she feared for her own life so she did not tell her grandmother that Dr. Flint had taken carnal advantage of her because he feared the grandmother and moreover "…he did not wish his villainy made public" (29).

She was more than fearful when she was hiding from Dr. Flint in an obscure attic at Betty's house -- she was terrified. Hearing Dr. Flint's voice brought back a rush of fear and loathing, but she remained out of sight. The snake bite she was able to overcome because "…fear game me strength" (100).

How the Slave Girl overcomes her fears

On page 128 Linda, who has been hiding in what she calls "my dungeon" for years, overcomes some of the fears that she experienced by matching her "cunning against his cunning." She writes a letter to Dr. Flint and arranges for the letter to be sent from New York City so he will believe that is where she is hiding. So she is basically deflecting her fears by dreaming up a way to send her pursuer off on a wild goose chase. She used psychological warfare to throw him off track. Her cunning is strong, because she never forgets the misery he put her through, and she never stops thinking about her children and how she would love to have them enjoy freedom for their who lives, unlike what she was put through. She is fighting back against the imprisonment she faces while in hiding.

She overcomes fear in particular by knowing that her conspiratorial strategy of having a letter sent to Dr. Flint from New York or Boston. She tricked him, and her narrative shows that she gained some psychological strength from that ruse -- so she obviously knew that he had prepared a substitute letter to her grandmother. After he read her letter, he said to grandmother, "You see the foolish girl has…

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