illustrated portrait of main character Linda Brent

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

by Harriet Jacobs
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How are other women presented in comparison to Mrs. Flint in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl?

Harriet Jacobs presents other women as being much kinder than Mrs. Flint in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Mrs. Flint is bitter and hateful, whereas Mrs. Durham and both of Mr. Bruce's wives are benevolent and protective.

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In Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Mrs. Flint is portrayed as an exceptionally cruel and spiteful woman, a jealous wife who blames her husband's victims for his predatory behavior. She even assists Dr. Flint in his pursuit of Harriet Jacobs after she escapes.

Jacobs describes the...

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In Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Mrs. Flint is portrayed as an exceptionally cruel and spiteful woman, a jealous wife who blames her husband's victims for his predatory behavior. She even assists Dr. Flint in his pursuit of Harriet Jacobs after she escapes.

Jacobs describes the other women she encounters in a much more sympathetic light than Mrs. Flint. Mrs. Durham in Philadelphia, for instance, meets Jacobs "with a kindly welcome, without asking any questions." The author goes on to describe Mrs. Durham's character as the complete opposite of Mrs. Flint's:

I was tired, and her friendly manner was a sweet refreshment. God bless her! I was sure that she had comforted other weary hearts before I received her sympathy.

Mrs. Bruce is accorded even higher praise. Jacobs thanks God for sending her to the Bruces, describing Mrs. Bruce as "a kind and gentle lady" who quickly befriended her. After her appalling experiences with the Flints, Jacobs finds it difficult to trust anyone, and she initially hides her fugitive status from Mrs. Bruce. Eventually, however, she decides to tell her. Mrs. Bruce's reaction is exactly that of the true friend Jacobs has believed her to be:

I poured out my full heart to her, before bed time. She listened with true womanly sympathy, and told me she would do all she could to protect me. How my heart blessed her!

After the death of Mrs. Bruce, Mr. Bruce marries again, and his second wife is every bit as kind, generous, and trustworthy as the first, helping Harriet to escape the Flints and eventually securing her freedom for her. The presence of such noble, kind-hearted women throughout the text throws Mrs. Flint's hateful character into sharp relief.

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