In their respective narratives, both Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs expose slavery as a brutal and degrading institution. Though the tone and approach they incorporate in their individual narratives differ, both seek to renounce the romanticized view of plantation culture and reveal the harsh actualities. Jacobs also seeks to debunk the stereotypical notion that house slaves lived a more privileged life than plantation slaves. Furthermore, Jacobs goes on to explain the role of the slave-mistress and how that complicates the life of a slave girl growing up in a house with a licentious master and his jealous wife. .
In comparing Douglass' and Jacobs' narratives in regards to their examination of plantation life, it becomes evident that both seek to enlighten Northerners on the true nature of slavery. Their narratives seek to discredit the myth of benign paternalism and show Northerners that the institution of slavery is detrimental to both slave and slavemaster. Douglass recalls how most of the slave children went about the plantation naked because the master did not provide them with adequate clothing (Douglass 346). Jacobs, in the chapter called "Sketches of Neighboring Slaveholders," renounces the myth of benign paternalism when she recalls how in the neighboring plantations, slaves often had to resort to stealing food in order to appease their hunger. Their depravation is apparent in that they took the risk of stealing from their masters, knowing that the consequence was often murder or death through starvation. .
Jacobs states that from her experience and observation as a slave, it became clear to her that slavery "is a curse to the whites as well as to the blacks. It makes the white fathers cruel and sensual.the wives wretched. And as for the colored races, it needs an abler pen than mine to describe the extremity of their sufferings, the depth of their degradation (pg 52).