Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Summary

Harriet Jacobs


(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Linda Brent does not realize she is enslaved until she is six years old. With her maternal grandmother, Aunt Marthy, near them, Linda lives with her parents and her brother William until her mother dies. From ages six to twelve, she lives with her first mistress, who teaches her to read. Linda then is given as property to the niece of her former slavemistress and lives in the home of Dr. Flint, who harasses her sexually and verbally when she turns fifteen years old. The doctor’s wife, Mrs. Flint, is jealous and cruel. The Flints own a town residence, several farms, and fifty slaves.

Linda’s brother William says that he does not mind the physical experience of being whipped but hates the idea that he can be whipped by people who say they own him. Linda’s uncle Benjamin escapes for the North but is discovered on a ship and, despite further escape attempts, is returned to his owner and jailed. He escapes again and reaches New York. Aunt Marthy, who has gained her own freedom, buys freedom for her son Phillip, and they rejoice that Benjamin also has escaped slavery.

Enduring the harassment of Dr. Flint, Linda verbally stands up for herself on multiple occasions. She refuses to give in to his threats of sexual attack, although Mrs. Flint accuses her of doing so. Dr. Flint gives Linda harassing notes that she pretends she cannot read. Linda falls in love with a free African American man who wants to purchase her freedom so they can marry. Dr....

(The entire section is 559 words.)