Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

by

Harriet Jacobs

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Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: Chapter 34 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
After some time, Linda receives a letter supposedly written by one of the young Flint sons. He encourages her to come home, where will be “reinstated in our affections” and greeted with “tears of joy.” Moreover, he apprises her of Aunt Nancy’s death (not realizing that Linda was there when it happened), saying that she showed the family how to live a faithful and “Christian life” and how to die tranquilly. The letter concludes by saying that Dr. Flint will agree to sell Linda if she returns. Linda suspects the letter is actually written by Dr. Flint, with whose handwriting she is familiar.
Linda’s portrayal of Aunt Nancy’s death is diametrically opposed to the narrative put forth in this letter – it affirms her desire to escape and her outrage at the injustice of life under slavery. To her, Nancy exemplified Christian values through her selflessness and bravery in helping her fugitive niece. Contrasts like this show the enormous discrepancies between narratives of slaveholders and slaves – making clear the necessity of first-hand accounts like this one.
Themes
The Dehumanizing Effects of Slavery Theme Icon
Christianity Theme Icon
Soon afterwards, she receives another letter from a family friend, warning her that Dr. Flint is again coming north. Without telling Mrs. Bruce why, Linda goes to Boston for two weeks, writing to Grandmother that if she sends Benny north, he should go to Boston. One morning she wakes up to a knock on the door and finds her son, just arrived. Linda says that no one except another slave mother could imagine the joy she feels.
On this occasion, Linda highlights the universality of maternal love and the uniqueness of her own feelings, given the huge obstacles she’s faced in arriving at this reunion. She thus creates a link with her reader while compelling them to truly appreciate her story.
Themes
Motherhood and Family Theme Icon
Chattering away, Benny asks when Ellen is going to come live with them. He’s been to see her in Brooklyn on the way north, and she looked sad. Linda spends the day buying her son clothes and hearing about the journey.
Benny’s innocent questions remind Linda and the reader of the many obstacles remaining before she and her children can live together peacefully.
Themes
Motherhood and Family Theme Icon
Meanwhile, Dr. Flint visits New York and tries to learn where Linda is, but is unsuccessful. As soon as she knows he’s left, she returns to her job, leaving Benny with William in Boston. She enjoys her work and feels very secure in the Bruce household; but as summer approaches and she has to take Mary for daily walks, she becomes afraid that one of the many Southerners living in the city will recognize her. She says that both “snakes and slaveholders” are more troublesome in hot weather.
Linda’s reference to snakes recalls her disastrous episode in the swamp, just after she ran away. This connection makes clear that, because the North doesn’t adequately protect fugitive slaves, she’s still in the midst of the escape she began so many years ago – she hasn’t, as she assumed when she reached Philadelphia, arrived at definitive freedom.
Themes
The Dehumanizing Effects of Slavery Theme Icon
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