The Tragic Loss of Innocence

Both Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs and the song “Innocence” by Avril Lavigne represent the keyword “Innocence” by Marah Gubar by showing the hardships of a girl losing her innocence. In her essay from Keywords for Children’s Literature, Gubar describes innocence as “what you lack […knowledge, experience] or what you cannot do” (121). Instead of lacking knowledge and experience, both main characters in Jacobs’ novel and Lavigne’s song gain experience and knowledge. Therefore, according to Gubar’s definition of innocence, neither character is innocent anymore. This is apparent in Jacobs’ novel when Linda says that Dr. Flint “peopled [her] mind with unclean images” (26) and how she realized she was “no longer a child” (27). She had gained knowledge that she otherwise should not have known, therefore eliminating her innocence as she gained unwanted knowledge. Linda’s experience with sexual abuse took away her innocence while she was still in girlhood. Although Lavigne’s song depicts an older girl losing her innocence, it still has parallels to Jacobs’ representation of innocence being lost. In Lavigne’s song, the lyrics read “this innocence is brilliant, I hope that it will stay” and “I’ll hold on to it” (it meaning her innocence). Her hardships of losing her innocence come from being cheated on by her boyfriend and being “checked-out” by an older man, as depicted in the music video. Through experience, she has lost her innocence, therefore losing her girlhood along the way. Both Jacobs’ novel and Lavigne’s song represent the keyword “Innocence” by proving that innocence can be taken away by the means of adding new experiences and knowledge into a girl’s life.

1 thought on “The Tragic Loss of Innocence”

  1. I really like how you connected these Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl to this contemporary song. Your analysis truly shows how innocence can appear in many different forms and is a theme that continues on in American culture throughout history. I really agree with your point about how the loss of a girl’s innocence can be caused by new experiences and can often be unavoidable.

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