illustrated portrait of main character Linda Brent

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

by Harriet Jacobs

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What role do friends and family play in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl?

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Friends and family constitute a vital support network for Linda. As an enslaved person, someone without any rights in this deeply prejudiced society, she has nowhere else to turn. Linda's friends and family provide her with a haven from the horrors of slavery, in both a literal and figurative sense. For example, her good friend Betty helps to hide Linda after she runs away from the cruel Dr. Flint, a sex predator. Linda's grandmother also comes through for her, allowing her to seek sanctuary in her attic crawlspace.

But at the same time, Linda knows that she must choose between freedom and family. That's what Uncle Benjamin did when he escaped. He inspires Linda with an unquenchable desire for freedom, yet she realizes, with a heavy heart, that abandoning her family is the price that must be paid for it. Aunt Martha is different. For her, keeping the family together is the most important thing of all, even if it means remaining trapped in perpetual slavery.

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