Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl is a narrative with a great deal of symbolism. What role does Dr. Flint play?
As Linda's master, Dr. Flint represents the brutality of slavery. The gender difference between master and slave stresses Jacobs's point of the particular cruelty of the institution against slave women. "The slave girl," Jacobs argues, "is reared in an atmosphere of licentiousness and fear" (51). In addition to cope with the hardship of manual work, the slave girl also has to bear the sexual assaults of her owner, his sons and his overseers. In Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Flint's sexual threats against Linda structure her narrative as a site of resistance, which partly contradicts the narrator's explicit comment that, in the face of these repeated sexual assaults, all "resistance is hopeless" (51). Linda's decision to have two children with a white man, Mr. Sands, is dictated by her fear of being raped from Flint. Yet, in spite of this, Flint continues to claim his ownership over Linda, a claim that he continues to uphold once she emigrates North and that his heirs make theirs once he dies. The figure of Flint thus symbolizes the pervasiveness of slavery in shaping the lives of southern African American women in the Antebellum Era and their efforts to resist against the cruelty of the institution.