Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

by

Harriet Jacobs

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Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: Chapter 11 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Linda goes home with Grandmother, who talks to Mr. Sands and extracts his promise to care for their child. Dr. Flint comes to the house as well, castigating Linda for turning up her nose at him, accusing her of behaving like a “criminal,” and reminding her how badly he could punish her. However, Mrs. Flint has forbidden her from returning to the house, so she gets to stay with Grandmother.
Linda will spend the next several years living with Grandmother. The house will become a refuge for her, and it’s the place where she learns how to be a mother. At the same time, it’s completely vulnerable to incursions like Dr. Flint’s, which emphasizes the family’s lack of security and self-determination.
Themes
The Dehumanizing Effects of Slavery Theme Icon
Motherhood and Family Theme Icon
Although this is a welcome reprieve, Dr. Flint comes to the house often, demanding that Linda reveal the father of her child and forbidding her from having any further contact with him. When she says that she’s thankful to have a child with a man she doesn’t “despise,” he threatens to kill her for her “ingratitude” and says he will never sell her to anyone. This dashes Linda’s hopes that he will sell her to a slave trader, who would then sell her to Mr. Sands.
Although Linda has managed to get herself out of the Flint house, Dr. Flint continuously reminds her of his legal ability to control her. Eventually, Linda will conclude that Mr. Sands’s protection is not enough to liberate her from Dr. Flint, motivating her to escape.
Themes
The Dehumanizing Effects of Slavery Theme Icon
Uncle Phillip returns to the city from a business trip, but Linda is saddened and ashamed to see him. She feels that Grandmother was right when she said long ago that her parents have been spared the “evil” of the future. As her pregnancy progresses, she becomes sick and weak, and eventually delivers the baby prematurely, almost dying in the process. Linda has often wished to die, but now she knows she must stay alive for her son and prays to get better. Dr. Flint continues to visit, ostensibly treating Linda but really reminding her that her son belongs to him.
Due to enslavement and Dr. Flint’s constant persecutions, Linda has often felt that life isn’t worth living. Even though having a baby makes her more vulnerable – Dr. Flint can hurt her child as well – it’s also empowering in that it gives new purpose to her life. The necessity of protecting her children will help Linda make her most daring decisions and advocate for her rights.
Themes
Motherhood and Family Theme Icon
By this time, Dr. Flint employs William as a physician’s assistant. William is adept and competent in his tasks, and Linda is proud of him. Dr. Flint observes their close relationship and tries to taint it by forcing William to deliver his salacious letters to her, but Linda reassures her brother that she doesn’t blame him. When Dr. Flint summons Linda to the house and berates her, William has to stand by and watch, powerless to help his sister. Once, becoming annoyed with William, Dr. Flint sends him to the city jail and threatens to sell him. However, he finds it’s impossible to run his practice without him and soon brings him back.
As Linda had anticipated, Dr. Flint attempts to use her closeness with William against her, but he’s unable to disrupt their bond with embarrassments or threats. This testifies to the moral strength of Linda’s family attachments and forms a stark contrast with the dynamics within the Flint family, which are characterized primarily by discord and jealousy.
Themes
The Dehumanizing Effects of Slavery Theme Icon
Motherhood and Family Theme Icon
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Linda’s baby boy, Benny, grows older and stronger. Whenever she’s “most sorely oppressed” she takes comfort in watching him smile and sleep, but she “could never forget that he was a slave” and sometimes even wishes he will die and be spared a life of pain. Mr. Sands visits occasionally to see his son; he offers to give Benny his surname, but Linda knows such an action carries no legal weight and would simply enrage Dr. Flint further.
Linda’s feeling that her son may be better off dead – a drastic sentiment to hold as a mother – testifies to the utter bleakness of a life lived in slavery. At the same time as she has these fatalistic thoughts, caring for Benny gives Linda the strength to go on living her own life.
Themes
The Dehumanizing Effects of Slavery Theme Icon
Motherhood and Family Theme Icon