illustrated portrait of main character Linda Brent

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

by Harriet Jacobs
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How was communication, such as letter writing, word of mouth, and so on used in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs? How is communication similar or different today?   

Communication plays a pivotal role in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs, and it is quite different in many instances to the type of communication that would have been used today. Verbal communication is the norm between slaves and their masters, but Linda's best-kept secret is that she knows how to read.

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Linda learns to read early on while living with her first mistress when Linda is between the ages of six and twelve. Later, she is forced to move in with Dr. Flint and his wife. The doctor sexually harasses her, and his wife is notoriously cruel. Letter writing is used...

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Linda learns to read early on while living with her first mistress when Linda is between the ages of six and twelve. Later, she is forced to move in with Dr. Flint and his wife. The doctor sexually harasses her, and his wife is notoriously cruel. Letter writing is used in this portion of the narrative when Dr. Flint starts giving Linda harassing notes and wants her to be his sex slave. Playing dumb, Linda pretends she cannot read. This communication would have been different today because it all would have happened via text messaging or email.

Word of mouth comes into play in that as a slave, Linda would have received instruction from her master and his cruel wife this way. In addition, Linda finds the courage to stand up for herself verbally when Dr. Flint is making advances on her and threatening to sexually attack her. This does not end even when Linda gets into a relationship with Mr. Sands and becomes a mother.

After Linda's freedom is finally bought by the second Mrs. Bruce in 1852, Linda uses her writing skills to tell the story of her years of enslavement and eventual journey to freedom. These days, these writings would likely have would up on the pages of a best-selling memoir.

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