Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

by

Harriet Jacobs

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Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
That night, knowing she must escape, Linda finishes her chores so distractedly that Nicholas scolds her. She waits for the family to go to sleep and sneaks out a window, rushing towards Grandmother’s house. When she gets there, she finds a family friend and explains the situation; the friend predicts that once she’s run away, the Flints will want to get rid of her children and be willing to sell them.
Grandmother’s house has always been a place of security for Linda. However, as an escaped slave, no house can provide her with true security or keep her safe from the sweeping legal authority of slaveholders searching for runaways.
Themes
The Dehumanizing Effects of Slavery Theme Icon
Motherhood and Family Theme Icon
Before leaving the house to hide with a friend, she looks over Benny and Ellen, who are sleeping. They are truly defenseless, with a mother who can’t protect them and a father who is “kind” but not devoted to them as she is. Bidding farewell, she runs into the night until she reaches the house of a friend where she will hide.
Here Linda points out Mr. Sands’s apathy about his children’s well-being. This both criticizes slaveholders who don’t care about their illegitimate children and elevates her own role as a mother – she’s not just a nurturer but the children’s only protector.
Themes
The Dehumanizing Effects of Slavery Theme Icon
Motherhood and Family Theme Icon
In the morning, Nicholas Flint interrogates Grandmother about Linda’s whereabouts; Dr. Flint is enraged to hear about her escape and searches Grandmother’s entire house, as well as every ship heading north. Linda wants to send Grandmother a message, but the town is so closely watched that she can’t. Dr. Flint posts advertisements everywhere containing a physical description of Linda and promising a reward to anyone who captures her.
Linda’s precarious situation at this moment emphasizes the extent to which her entire society is mobilized to prevent a slave’s escape – thus suggesting that slavery can’t be resolved by individual efforts but only the mobilization of another society (the Northern states) to abolish it.
Themes
The Dehumanizing Effects of Slavery Theme Icon