Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

by

Harriet Jacobs

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Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Characters

Harriet Jacobs / Linda Brent

Harriet Jacobs is the author of the narrative. As its protagonist, she takes on the name Linda Brent in order to avoid recognition after its publication. Born into slavery in North Carolina, Linda is forced… read analysis of Harriet Jacobs / Linda Brent

Grandmother

Linda’s grandmother and the matriarch of her family. An elderly but energetic and hardworking woman, Grandmother is so prominent in the community that she even has the respect of some white people. When Dr.read analysis of Grandmother

Dr. Flint

Linda’s owner and the narrative’s chief antagonist. A wealthy doctor, plantation owner, and respected figure in the community, Dr. Flint is also an unscrupulous sexual predator. As soon as Linda becomes a teenager, he… read analysis of Dr. Flint

Mother

Linda’s mother, a slave. Mother has a lot of trust in her mistress, whom she sees as comparatively benign, and whom she hopes will free her children. However, the mistress leaves Linda to… read analysis of Mother

Father

Linda’s father. Although he is a slave, he works independently as a carpenter on the condition of paying his mistress a certain amount of money each year. Because of this arrangement, Linda spends the… read analysis of Father
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First Mistress

The unnamed mistress of Mother and, during her early years, Linda. Mother and the mistress have an unusually close relationship, and at her deathbed the mistress promises to take care of her children. She… read analysis of First Mistress

Mrs. Flint

Dr. Flint’s wife and Linda’s mistress before her escape. Mrs. Flint is a harsh and pointlessly cruel mistress; she refuses to give even leftover food to her slaves, and she makes Linda go… read analysis of Mrs. Flint

Mr. Sands

A slave owner who expresses sexual interest in Linda and whom she eventually accepts as her lover, in order to distance herself from Dr. Flint. Linda’s relationship with Mr. Sands causes her deep shame… read analysis of Mr. Sands

William

Linda’s brother, two years younger than her. The siblings are very close; when he’s bullied by the Flints’ sons, around his age, he always comes to Linda for comfort and advice. Later, after Linda… read analysis of William

Benjamin

Grandmother’s youngest son. Although Benjamin is Linda’s uncle, he’s only a few years older than her, and grows up alongside her and William. He’s impetuous and independent-minded, and from his boyhood chafes… read analysis of Benjamin

Phillip

Grandmother’s son, and Linda’s uncle. Although most of Grandmother’s children are sold away from her, she manages to purchase Phillip’s freedom. As a free man, he becomes a respected figure in the black… read analysis of Phillip

Ellen

Linda’s daughter and second child with Mr. Sands. As a young girl, Ellen is sent to New York to live with Mr. Sands’s cousin, Mrs. Hobbs. Although she’s supposed to go to… read analysis of Ellen

Benny

Linda’s son and first child with Mr. Sands. Benny’s birth gives Linda, exhausted and overwhelmed by years of Dr. Flint’s harassment, a reason to live and a new sense of determination to… read analysis of Benny

The Boat Captain

The captain of the boat on which Linda and Fanny escape North Carolina. At first Linda mistrusts the captain, feeling that he might try to sell her to a slave trader for money or harass… read analysis of The Boat Captain

Peter

A slave and family friend of Linda’s, who finds a way for her to escape on a ship heading towards Philadelphia. Linda is grateful that Peter takes huge risks to secure her freedom, even… read analysis of Peter

Mrs. Hobbs

Mr. Sands’s cousin. He sends Ellen to her in order to get her out of the South. Although Mr. Sands assures Linda that he has legally freed Ellen, Mrs. Hobbs claims that he has… read analysis of Mrs. Hobbs

Mr. Thorne

Mrs. Hobbs’s brother, a native of the North Carolinian city in which Linda grows up. Mr. Thorne is a careless alcoholic who is constantly in debt, and while visiting the Hobbs family he sexually… read analysis of Mr. Thorne

Mrs. Bruce

Linda’s first employer when she begins working as a free woman in New York. Having spent years in the service of a cruel family, Linda is astounded by Mrs. Bruce’s kind and sympathetic attitude… read analysis of Mrs. Bruce

Young Mrs. Bruce

Mr. Bruce’s second wife, whom he marries after the death of the first Mrs. Bruce. Linda returns to nurse her young baby and finds that, like her predecessor, she is a kind and… read analysis of Young Mrs. Bruce

Emily Flint / Mrs. Dodge

Dr. Flint’s daughter. Emily is Linda’s legal owner, as her first mistress bequeaths her to the girl in her will. Although Linda cares for Emily diligently as a child, Emily is determined that… read analysis of Emily Flint / Mrs. Dodge

Nicholas Flint

Dr. Flint’s son, who operates and lives at the family’s plantation. Nicholas is much like his father, even making sexual advances on Linda; for this reason, Dr. Flint is jealous of him and… read analysis of Nicholas Flint

Aunt Nancy

Linda’s aunt and Grandmother’s daughter. Strong and perseverant like her sister, Aunt Nancy’s opinion is respected by the entire family. Yet, unlike her sister, she spends her entire life enslaved by the Flints… read analysis of Aunt Nancy

The Carpenter

A young free man with whom Linda falls in love as a teenager. The carpenter offers to buy Linda’s freedom, but Dr. Flint won’t allow her to be sold and threatens to kill him. Her… read analysis of The Carpenter
Minor Characters
Mrs. Sands
Mr. Sands’s wife. A minor character, she acknowledges her husband’s illegitimate children and offers to adopt Benny, but Linda refuses, worrying that she will treat him as a slave or sell him away when she gets bored of him.
Aggie
A slave in Linda’s North Carolina community and friend of Grandmother, whose several children are all sold away from her. Aggie is Fanny’s mother, and helps her hide after her escape; she also encourages Grandmother to be happy about William’s escape to freedom, rather than mourning his loss.
Fanny
A slave in Linda’s city in North Carolina, who escapes her masters and hides with her mother, Aggie. Linda finds out about Fanny’s predicament when Benny glimpses her one day, and helps make arrangements for the woman to escape with her.
Mr. Durham
A black pastor that Linda meets upon arriving in Philadelphia. He and his wife, Mrs. Durham, host her for some days before she moves on to New York, and she admires their good education and refined, middle-class way of life.
Mrs. Durham
Mr. Durham’s wife, who Linda also meets upon arriving in Philadelphia. The couple host her for some days before she moves on to New York, and she admires their good education and refined, middle-class way of life.
Mr. Bruce
The husband of Linda’s two employers in New York, Mrs. Bruce and the young Mrs. Bruce. Mr. Bruce plays little role in the narrative, and his absence underscores the independence and agency of his wives.
Mr. Dodge
The husband of Emily Flint, Dr. Flint’s daughter. An unscrupulous spendthrift, Mr. Dodge goes to New York to try to recapture Linda, but the young Mrs. Bruce convinces him to sell her for a low price, as he needs money quickly to pay off his debts.
Luke
A slave in Linda’s city with a particularly cruel invalid master, who whips him constantly even though he depends on him completely for survival. Linda runs into Luke after they have both escaped to New York, and presents his case as evidence of the universal degradation slavery causes.
Mr. Litch
A particularly vicious slave-owner who kills one of his slaves, James, by locking him a cotton gin.
Reverend Pike
A pastor who leads services for slaves in Linda’s city. He attempts to use Christianity to indoctrinate slaves and convince them that slavery is a righteous institution; in fact, he convinces Linda of the inherent hypocrisy of slaveholders who practice Christianity.
Fred
An elderly slave whom Linda teaches to read, in order that he can read the Bible. His quest represents the meaningful engagement with Christianity that exists more often among slaves than slave holders.
Miss Fanny
An elderly white woman, and the sister of Grandmother’s mistress. When Grandmother’s mistress dies and Dr. Flint proposes to sell her, Miss Fanny buys her at auction for a low price and emancipates her. She also tries to protect Linda after she gets sent to the plantation.
Young Mrs. Flint
Nicholas Flint’s young wife, for whom Linda works briefly on the plantation. Even though the young woman is the plantation’s mistress, Linda pities her because she knows her marriage will soon dissolve as a result of Nicholas Flint’s infidelity and immorality.
The White Woman
a long-time acquaintance of Grandmother’s, who bravely agrees to hide Linda in her house after she escapes from the Flints, thus preventing her from being recaptured.
Jenny
A slave of the white woman who hides Linda, Jenny deduces her mistress’s secret, thus forcing Linda to leave the house. Later, Jenny snoops around Grandmother’s house as well; fear that she has seen Linda causes the family to send her north on a ship.
Mary
The first Mrs. Bruce’s daughter, for whom Linda cares as a nanny.
Isaac and Amy Post
Two Quakers with whom Linda spends a year. Although she doesn’t mention it here, it’s Amy Post who encourages Jacobs to write and punish her memoirs.
James
A slave of Mr. Litch, who tries to escape but is recaptured and killed by being locked inside a cotton gin.
Betty
The cook of the white woman who hides Linda; a brave and loyal friend, she brings food to Linda, keeps her apprised of the latest news, and makes sure she remains undiscovered.