Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

by

Harriet Jacobs

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Dr. Flint Character Analysis

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 begins to harass her and proposition her sexually; not bothering to conceal his desires from Mrs. Flint, he leaves Linda vulnerable to her jealousy and retribution as well. Throughout the narrative, Dr. Flint tries to get Linda to sleep with him through both bribes and coercion, but she refuses to do so. Their long standoff shines a light on the particular vulnerability of female slaves, who have no defenses against sexual abuse. Dr. Flint’s moral bankruptcy and complete disregard for Christian principles contrasts with Linda’s strength of character, disrupting contemporary stereotypes that saw white people as “civilized” and slaves as “primitive.” Moreover, his behavior shows how slavery dehumanizes even those it ostensibly benefits. At the end of the novel, Dr. Flint dies; while Linda rarely expresses a desire for revenge on her captors, she admits that she finds it impossible to feel any sadness at this event.

Dr. Flint Quotes in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

The Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl quotes below are all either spoken by Dr. Flint or refer to Dr. Flint. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Dehumanizing Effects of Slavery Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Dover Thrift Editions edition of Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl published in 2001.
Chapter 2 Quotes

When my grandmother applied for him for payment he said the estate was insolvent, and the law prohibited payment. It did not, however, prohibit him from retaining the silver candelabra, which had been purchased with that money. I presume they will be handed down in the family, from generation to generation.

Related Characters: Harriet Jacobs / Linda Brent (speaker), Grandmother, Dr. Flint
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes

For my master, whose restless, craving, vicious nature roved about day and night, seeking whom to devour, had just left me, with stinging, scorching words; words that scathed ear and brain like fire. O, how I despised him! I thought how glad I should be if some day when he walked the earth, it would open and swallow him up…

Related Characters: Harriet Jacobs / Linda Brent (speaker), Dr. Flint
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

He tried his utmost to corrupt the pure principles my grandmother had instilled. He peopled my young mind with unclean images, such as only a vile monster could think of…But he was my master. I was compelled to live under the same roof with him … He told me I was his property; that I must be subject to his will in all things.

Related Characters: Harriet Jacobs / Linda Brent (speaker), Dr. Flint
Related Symbols: Houses and Homes
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:
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Dr. Flint Character Timeline in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

The timeline below shows where the character Dr. Flint appears in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter Two: The New Master and Mistress
The Dehumanizing Effects of Slavery Theme Icon
Motherhood and Family Theme Icon
Along with William, Linda moves to the house of Dr. Flint , Emily Flint’s father. Both children are resistant to their lot as slaves, partly because... (full context)
The Dehumanizing Effects of Slavery Theme Icon
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To add insult to injury, when Grandmother’s mistress dies, Dr. Flint , her executor, refuses to repay Grandmother the loan she once gave his mother-in-law. He... (full context)
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...eats dinner she spits in the leftovers so that the slaves won’t eat them. Meanwhile, Dr. Flint whips or humiliates the cook every time he doesn’t like a meal: once, after the... (full context)
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Linda once sees Dr. Flint tie up and whip a slave from his plantation who offended him by accusing him... (full context)
Chapter Four: The Slave Who Dared to Feel Like a Man
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Grandmother can’t help Linda with the new oppression she’s now facing. Dr. Flint , “whose restless, craving, vicious nature roved about day and night,” has begun to harass... (full context)
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...be “good and forgiving,” but she knows that she herself does not feel forgiving towards Dr. Flint and she knows that it’s in their “God-given nature” to “question the motives of those... (full context)
Chapter Five: The Trials of Girlhood
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...sometimes allowed to share “indulgences” with the Flint children. Now that she is fifteen, though Dr. Flint starts to “whisper foul words in my ear,” trying alternately to persuade and coerce her... (full context)
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Linda wants to go to Grandmother for advice, but she’s both terrified of Dr. Flint ’s rage and ashamed of mentioning the subject before the old and pious woman. Nevertheless,... (full context)
Chapter Six: The Jealous Mistress
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...Flint becomes more and more angry at her husband. In order to get Linda alone, Dr. Flint decides to move his youngest daughter’s crib into his own suite of rooms and force... (full context)
The Dehumanizing Effects of Slavery Theme Icon
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...never be kind to her, but she hopes for some protection. Indeed, the mistress forces Dr. Flint to abandon his new sleeping arrangements. (full context)
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...she even begins to worry that one night she’ll be killed. Sometimes Mrs. Flint confronts Dr. Flint with the evidence of his crimes, but he simply responds that “you tortured [Linda] into... (full context)
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Suspecting what’s going on, Grandmother tries to buy Linda, but Dr. Flint always refuses, saying that she rightly belongs to his daughter. Linda says that his scrupulousness... (full context)
Chapter Seven: The Lover
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...who wants to marry her. However, she’s worried that marital happiness is impossible for her. Dr. Flint refuses to sell her; although Mrs. Flint would be happy to be rid of her,... (full context)
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...goes to a white friend of Grandmother’s, explains her situation, and asks her to convince Dr. Flint to sell her to the carpenter. The woman does so but fails, and Dr. Flint... (full context)
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Dr. Flint reminds Linda that he can do whatever he wants to her, and she retorts that... (full context)
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For two weeks Dr. Flint doesn’t speak to Linda, but she’s scared and oppressed by his malicious watchfulness. Eventually, he... (full context)
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Once, Dr. Flint catches Linda speaking to the carpenter in the street; at home he taunts her, asking... (full context)
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...is her close relationship with William. Even that bond is not secure, though—she worries that Dr. Flint will sell him away to punish her. They often talk about escaping, but it’s hard... (full context)
Chapter Ten: A Perilous Passage in the Slave Girl’s Life
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Dr. Flint contrives another plan to bring Linda under his will: he informs her that he’s building... (full context)
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As it happens, after hearing about Dr. Flint ’s conduct, another slave owner, Mr. Sands, become interested in Linda, writing sympathetic letters to... (full context)
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When Linda sees Dr. Flint actually start building the house, she knows she can exact revenge and gain some protection... (full context)
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...because she knows Grandmother will be enraged to find that she’s “degraded” herself. But when Dr. Flint triumphantly tells Linda the house is finished, she takes pride in informing him that she’s... (full context)
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Fearing Dr. Flint ’s retribution now that she’s confessed, Linda goes to Grandmother’s house. Soon Mrs. Flint arrives,... (full context)
Chapter Eleven: The New Tie to Life
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...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,... (full context)
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Although this is a welcome reprieve, Dr. Flint comes to the house often, demanding that Linda reveal the father of her child and... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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By this time, Dr. Flint employs William as a physician’s assistant. William is adept and competent in his tasks, and... (full context)
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...surname, but Linda knows such an action carries no legal weight and would simply enrage Dr. Flint further. (full context)
Chapter Thirteen: The Church and Slavery
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...that there is an important divide between “Christianity and religion” in the South. For example, Dr. Flint is religious and always donates money to the church, but “the worst persecutions [she] endured... (full context)
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...says she would be happy “if I could be allowed to live like a Christian.” Dr. Flint says that the best way for her to be virtuous is to obey him, and... (full context)
Chapter Fourteen: Another Link to Life
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Because of Mrs. Flint’s antipathy towards her, Linda is still living in Grandmother’s house. Dr. Flint frequently visits and scolds her for “lowering herself” by her involvement with Mr. Sands. She... (full context)
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Soon, Linda gets pregnant again. When she tells Dr. Flint , he becomes enraged and, in revenge, cuts off all her hair, in which she... (full context)
Sexual Virtue and Sexual Abuse Theme Icon
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...that slavery is “far more terrible for women” than for men. Soon after her labor, Dr. Flint arrives at the house, commanding Linda to stand before him and insulting her until she... (full context)
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Grandmother is determined to have the children christened, even though Linda knows Dr. Flint would forbid such a thing. While he is on a business trip, they sneak into... (full context)
Chapter Fifteen: Continued Persecutions
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To free Linda from Dr. Flint ’s continued harassment, her family and friends try to buy her again, commissioning a trader... (full context)
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...Benny runs up and throws his arms around his mother, as if to protect her. Dr. Flint throws him across the room and Linda worries he has killed the child, but Dr.... (full context)
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One night, a slave whom Dr. Flint has sold to a trader that day is spending the night with Linda’s family before... (full context)
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Dr. Flint jeers at Grandmother, accusing her of “sanctioning” Linda’s extramarital relationship. She retorts that he should... (full context)
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Dr. Flint leaves her alone during the winter but resumes his visits in the spring, becoming enraged... (full context)
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Linda immediately rejects the offer. Calmly, Dr. Flint says that if she doesn’t obey him, he will send her and the children to... (full context)
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...she will experience abuse from Nicholas Flint, who runs the plantation; knowing his son’s character, Dr. Flint has always kept her out of his way before. She decides that she must “save... (full context)
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Trying to intercede, Grandmother visits Dr. Flint , reminding him how well she has served his family, even nursing Mrs. Flint along... (full context)
Chapter Sixteen: Scenes at the Plantation
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Linda’s plan is to hide with a friend for a few weeks, until Dr. Flint gets tired of searching for her. She predicts that Dr. Flint will worry about the... (full context)
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At dinner Linda has to wait upon Dr. Flint and Mrs. Flint, who are visiting. She hasn’t seen her old mistress for five years,... (full context)
Chapter Seventeen: The Flight
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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... (full context)
Chapter Eighteen: Months of Peril
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Dr. Flint has threatened Linda’s family and urged her to return to him, but she is determined... (full context)
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Linda hopes that Dr. Flint will sell her children soon, but he seems to want revenge more than money. He... (full context)
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At some point Ellen gets measles and is taken to Dr. Flint ’s house to recover, but she screams and cries so much while she’s there that... (full context)
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To frighten Linda, Dr. Flint falsely tells Grandmother that he knows where she is and will soon capture her. Worried,... (full context)
Chapter Nineteen: The Children Sold
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Of course, Dr. Flint returns from New York having failed in his quest. Mr. Sands again tries to buy... (full context)
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In order to avoid suspicion from Dr. Flint , the trader pretends to take them out of the state. William is put in... (full context)
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...telling her that her children and brother now belong to Mr. Sands. Thinking how angry Dr. Flint is going to be, she laughs. (full context)
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Dr. Flint visits Grandmother in a fury, threatening to kill her and Phillip if he finds out... (full context)
Chapter Twenty: New Perils
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Dr. Flint has Uncle Phillip arrested, trying to charge him with helping Linda. Mr. Sands works to... (full context)
Chapter Twenty-One: The Loophole of Retreat
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...she can see her children playing in the yard and people walking through the street—even Dr. Flint . (full context)
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Soon after this, Dr. Flint goes to New York again, believing he’s discovered some new clue. When he returns, Benny... (full context)
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...she often hears people talking about her and speculating that she’s in the free states. Dr. Flint often tries to bribe Benny and Ellen into divulging their mother’s whereabouts, but Ellen says... (full context)
Chapter Twenty-Three: Still in Prison
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...of escape. She’s angry to be trapped in the airless and boiling hot garret while Dr. Flint is free to enjoy the summer nights. Sometimes she worries she will die in the... (full context)
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...but to avoid seeming lacking in “Christian charity” she pays a visit herself and gets Dr. Flint to treat the old woman. Linda is terrified to have him so close at hand. (full context)
Chapter Twenty-Four: The Candidate for Congress
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Despite Dr. Flint ’s aggressive activism against him, Mr. Sands is elected to Congress that summer. This makes... (full context)
Chapter Twenty-Five: Competition in Cunning
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In order to mislead Dr. Flint further, Linda writes him some letters which she entrusts to Peter to take north and... (full context)
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When Dr. Flint receives the letter, he comes to Grandmother’s house in triumph. He sees this as an... (full context)
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...the excuse that the North is full of abolitionists who won’t let Linda return south. Dr. Flint brags that he has written to the mayor of Boston, asking him to look for... (full context)
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It’s a relief to see Dr. Flint convinced that Linda is not in the area, as it takes some pressure off her... (full context)
Chapter Twenty-Seven: New Destination for the Children
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...“decide their fate” as she wants. Apparently, he has in fact freed the children, but Dr. Flint is now trying to claim that as they legally belonged to his daughter, his sale... (full context)
Chapter Twenty-Eight: Aunt Nancy
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...mother and daughter, although Mrs. Flint is overcome with “shock” at losing her best servant. Dr. Flint reminds Grandmother how much Aunt Nancy loved his children and tells her that he wishes... (full context)
Chapter Twenty-Nine: Preparations for Escape
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...for the journey and promises that once she arrives in the North, she will write Dr. Flint asking to be sold to Grandmother. The old woman wants to die knowing that her... (full context)
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...always tried to keep children from playing too near the shed and kept watch for Dr. Flint . Linda is amazed and proud of his intelligence and maturity. (full context)
Chapter Thirty-Two: The Meeting of Mother and Daughter
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Feeling it necessary to legally free herself as soon as possible, Linda writes to Dr. Flint and Emily Flint asking him to sell her to Grandmother. She also seeks out William,... (full context)
Chapter Thirty-Three: A Home Found
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...at her house, but Linda is afraid to offend Mrs. Hobbs, who could easily apprise Dr. Flint of her whereabouts. Still, she’s very unhappy with Ellen’s situation— Mrs. Hobbs now demands that... (full context)
Chapter Thirty-Four: The Old Enemy Again
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...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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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Meanwhile, Dr. Flint visits New York and tries to learn where Linda is, but is unsuccessful. As soon... (full context)
Chapter Thirty-Six: The Hairbreadth Escape
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...visit her daughter, Ellen reveals that she’s found a torn-up letter from Mr. Thorne to Dr. Flint , saying that as a “patriot [and] a lover of my country” he has the... (full context)
Chapter Thirty-Nine: The Confession
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The night before Ellen leaves, Linda begins to tell her how Dr. Flint had “driven [her] into a great sin,” but Ellen embraces her and tells her to... (full context)
Chapter Forty: The Fugitive Slave Law
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Again, Linda receives warning that Dr. Flint knows she’s in New York and is trying to capture her. She confides in the... (full context)
Chapter Forty-One: Free At Last
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Even though Dr. Flint has gone, Linda continues to feel anxious. Meanwhile, it’s clear that Grandmother is approaching the... (full context)
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Shortly after this, Grandmother writes again to Linda telling her that Dr. Flint is dead, and hoping he has reconciled himself with God. Linda remembers all the ways... (full context)