Incidents In The Life Of Slave Girls 2.0: Rememory And Patriarchal Bargaining In Toni Morrison's A Mercy And Dolen Perkins-Valdez's Wench

Melody Y. Andrews, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University


Through examining traditional slave narratives, such as Harriet Jacob's Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, as well as neo-slave narratives with female protagonists, such as Wench and A Mercy, it becomes evident that participating in patriarchal bargaining in the antebellum South existed as a form of resistance and leverage not in a feminist sense, but one that is inherently womanist. Nearly twenty-five years ago, feminist Deniz Kandiyoti coined the term "patriarchal bargain" to describe the way in which women navigate within patriarchal societies: "Women strategize within a set of concrete constraints, which I identify as patriarchal bargains. Different forms of patriarchy present women with distinct 'rules of the game' and call for different strategies to maximize security and optimize life options with varying potential for active or passive resistance in the face of oppression" (Kandiyoti 274). Since its inception, research efforts on patriarchal bargaining have centered on women in patriarchal societies outside of the Western world. However, at its very core patriarchal bargaining can be seen throughout most of American history, especially the antebellum period.