Spheres of Identity: An Analysis of the Figure of the Kind Mistress in Female Captivity Narratives
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis paper discusses the recurring figure of the kind mistress in female captivity narratives, particularly in Mary Rowlandson's The Sovereignty and Goodness of God and Harriet Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. The figure of the kind mistress emphasizes two spheres of influence as they operate in the text: one sphere dominated by men and the other by women. The male sphere is characterized by economic exchanges, legalities, and dehumanization of the captive, whereas the female sphere is characterized by compassion, survival, and secrecy. This figure presents the reader with a space, physical or imaginary, where the influence of the captors is greatly reduced if not non-existent, and suggests a united female identity based on common subjugation and male oppression. The figure of the kind mistress offers a powerful insight into the nature of male/female relations within the context of captivity.
Degree ProgramHonors College