In Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, what are Harriet’s feelings about her life before she was six years old and after?

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The answer to your question hinges on the point when Harriet Jacobs learns she is a slave. Before this time, Harriet's life is wonderful. After she turns six (and she learns the truth), Harriet's life gets worse and worse.

Harriet Jacobs (who is commonly known as the main character, Linda Brent) admits that she did not realize she was a slave until she was six years of age. We learn this in the very first line of the book from the chapter entitled "Childhood":

I was born a slave; but I never knew it till six years of happy childhood had passed away. ... When I was six years old, my mother died; and then, for the first time, I learned, by the talk around me, that I was a slave. 

Harriet Jacobs talks about their "comfortable home" at this time, how experienced and esteemed her father is as a carpenter, and how she enjoys living near her grandmother, "Aunt Marthy." It is at six years old that Harriet's mother dies. Harriet then finds herself in the home of her first mistress, who is a decent woman. Harriet sits by her mistress' side, sews for hours, and is even taught to read. It is only when this mistress dies that Harriet is given as property to Dr. Flint. At this point, Harriet admits that she becomes "chattel" because she is given, as property, to Dr. Flint, who continually harasses her both verbally and sexually.

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