Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

by

Harriet Jacobs

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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. Flint proposes to auction her, a white woman buys her and sets her free. Grandmother uses her new status to save up money to buy her son, Phillip, and to protect Linda and William in any way she can. Although she’s a woman of strict religious principles and is appalled when Linda becomes pregnant out of wedlock, she provides her a refuge from Dr. Flint, and later hides her in a crawlspace for seven years. Grandmother is a source of strength and principle for Linda, who always depends on her judgment; at the same time, her insistence on making the best of the family’s situation in the South contrasts with Linda’s determination to escape and involvement in activist circles after her escape. At the end of the narrative, Grandmother dies; the tranquility of her death and her faith that she will meet God in heaven is reflective of the sincerity of her religious beliefs, as opposed to the hypocrisy of Christianity as practiced by slave owners.

Grandmother 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 Grandmother or refer to Grandmother. 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:
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). 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 29 Quotes

We knelt down together, with my child pressed to my heart, and my other arm round the faithful, loving old friend I was about to leave forever. On no other occasion has it ever been my lot to listen to so fervent a supplication for mercy and protection. It thrilled through my heart, and inspired me with trust in God.

Related Characters: Harriet Jacobs / Linda Brent (speaker), Grandmother, Benny
Related Symbols: Houses and Homes
Page Number: 129
Explanation and Analysis:
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Grandmother Character Timeline in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

The timeline below shows where the character Grandmother appears in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter One: Childhood
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Linda is also under the care of her grandmother, a strong and determined woman. The illegitimate daughter of a planter, Linda’s grandmother was freed... (full context)
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When Linda is six, her mother dies. Her mother’s mistress – the daughter of Grandmother’s mistress – has always been kind to her, and promises on her deathbed that nothing... (full context)
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...of injustice” and remember the mistress’s kind behavior towards her. Along with Linda, several of Grandmother’s children are separated among the mistress’s relatives, despite her long faithfulness. (full context)
Chapter Two: The New Master and Mistress
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...it’s a person’s father, not his mistress, who has the “strongest claim upon his obedience.” Grandmother tries to cheer up the children, but they are demoralized by the cold and unkind... (full context)
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A year later, Grandmother delivers the sad news that Linda’s father has died. Grandmother tries to comfort her by... (full context)
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...eat because Mrs. Flint is so stingy with food for her slaves. Linda relies on Grandmother to provide her with good meals and clothes. (full context)
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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... (full context)
Chapter Four: The Slave Who Dared to Feel Like a Man
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As the years pass, Grandmother manages to buy a small home by making and selling preserves and bread. She tells... (full context)
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Grandmother can’t help Linda with the new oppression she’s now facing. Dr. Flint, “whose restless, craving,... (full context)
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In February, Grandmother has just bought Linda a badly-needed pair of shoes. However, the shoes’ noise bothers Mrs.... (full context)
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...master, an offense that can lead to great punishment. That night Linda meets Benjamin at Grandmother’s house; he says that he’s running away before he can be punished. Linda warns him... (full context)
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At night, the family sneaks into the jail to visit Benjamin. Grandmother is deeply distressed to see her son in prison; she tells him to trust in... (full context)
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...punish his insolence, the master keeps Benjamin chained in jail, where he’s covered in vermin. Grandmother has to sneak him food and new clothes. After three months, a slave trader buys... (full context)
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...mistress. He encourages Phillip to escape and join him, but Phillip is reluctant to leave Grandmother alone. Benjamin says she should use her savings to buy Phillip and, if possible, Linda.... (full context)
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When Phillip brings this news to Grandmother, the old woman is sadder at losing Benjamin than she is happy about his freedom.... (full context)
Chapter Five: The Trials of Girlhood
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...into submitting to him. He attempts to “corrupt the pure principles” Linda has learned from Grandmother, and although she tries to ignore him, she’s trapped in his house and she’s his... (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... (full context)
Chapter Six: The Jealous Mistress
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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... (full context)
Chapter Seven: The Lover
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Linda goes to a white friend of Grandmother’s, explains her situation, and asks her to convince Dr. Flint to sell her to the... (full context)
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...about escaping, but it’s hard to make plans when Linda is so sharply watched; moreover, Grandmother is very opposed to escape, thinking it too dangerous. (full context)
Chapter Ten: A Perilous Passage in the Slave Girl’s Life
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As the months pass, Linda is still very anxious, especially because she knows Grandmother will be enraged to find that she’s “degraded” herself. But when Dr. Flint triumphantly tells... (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, screaming at Linda and accusing her of having a child... (full context)
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...to the house of a family friend, where she stays for several days. At last, Grandmother comes to fetch her; Linda tells her about all the abuse that led to her... (full context)
Chapter Eleven: The New Tie to Life
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Linda goes home with Grandmother, who talks to Mr. Sands and extracts his promise to care for their child. Dr.... (full context)
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...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”... (full context)
Chapter Twelve: Fear of Insurrection
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...and the poor whites,” who hate to see black people living comfortably or neatly, as Grandmother dies. In anticipation, she cleans the house and watches soldiers assemble in the roads outside. (full context)
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...white men “rudely” march into the house, turning over all the furniture and pawing through Grandmother’s possessions. They even open and eat the preserves she makes to sell. Opening her trunk... (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... (full context)
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...of pride. He starts coming to the house every day to hurl insults at her; Grandmother tries to defend her, but only inflames his anger. (full context)
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...insulting her until she faints at his feet. He hurries out of the house before Grandmother catches him abusing her. Linda feels that, if not for her children, she would want... (full context)
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Grandmother is determined to have the children christened, even though Linda knows Dr. Flint would forbid... (full context)
Chapter Fifteen: Continued Persecutions
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...ignores him, acting “the conqueror” for once. In retaliation, Dr. Flint begins hitting Linda until Grandmother, hearing the struggle, rushes in and scolds him to go back to his house and... (full context)
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Dr. Flint jeers at Grandmother, accusing her of “sanctioning” Linda’s extramarital relationship. She retorts that he should start praying so... (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.... (full context)
Chapter Sixteen: Scenes at the Plantation
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Linda leaves the next morning, accompanied by Ellen but leaving Benny, who is sick, with Grandmother. At the plantation, she has to leave Ellen with the kitchen slaves and work as... (full context)
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The next day, Linda sends Ellen back to Grandmother without asking permission. She doesn’t get in trouble because she’s been such an efficient housekeeper... (full context)
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...out at night to visit her children, walking quickly and fearfully back to the town. Grandmother lets her in and the whole family gathers, crying to see her. She looks over... (full context)
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...Nicholas’s great aunt visits the plantation. This woman, Miss Fanny, is the one who bought Grandmother at auction and freed her; in subsequent years she’s often visited Grandmother, and the old... (full context)
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...any way. She tells Linda that she will never “feel any peace” about her and Grandmother until they are dead and gone to Heaven. Linda tells the old woman to not... (full context)
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...bride, and Linda receives permission to spend that Sunday with her family. She goes to Grandmother’s house; the calm day contrasts with her turbulent mind, as she’s wondering if she’ll ever... (full context)
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...well, so he will sell them to Mr. Sands. Linda is packing her things when Grandmother comes into the room, sees what she’s doing, and scolds her for worrying an old... (full context)
Chapter Seventeen: The Flight
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...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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
Chapter Eighteen: Months of Peril
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...urged her to return to him, but she is determined not to. At this point, Grandmother turns to a white woman she has known for a long time, and who has... (full context)
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Grandmother gets word to Linda, telling her to be ready. On the specified night her friend... (full context)
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...money. He throws William, Aunt Nancy, Benny, and Ellen into the city jail and tells Grandmother that she will never see them again until Linda comes back. Thinking of her children... (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, Betty has Linda... (full context)
Chapter Nineteen: The Children Sold
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...take them out of the state. William is put in chains and Aunt Nancy and Grandmother say goodbye to the children as if they’ll never see them again; seeing the children... (full context)
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William and the children return to Grandmother’s house, where the family has a clandestine but joyous celebration, giving thanks to God. Mr.... (full context)
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Dr. Flint visits Grandmother in a fury, threatening to kill her and Phillip if he finds out they’re helping... (full context)
Chapter Twenty-One: The Loophole of Retreat
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Outside Grandmother’s house is a small shed, which has a tiny garret between the joists and the... (full context)
Chapter Twenty-Two: Christmas Festivities
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This Christmas, Grandmother invites the town constable over; in the course of the meal she shows him the... (full context)
Chapter Twenty-Three: Still in Prison
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...many scenes of local slave life. Once she sees a woman trudging by in despair; Grandmother tells her that she’s just given birth to a child who looks exactly like her... (full context)
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...dog attack Benny in the yard but is unable to come to his assistance. Moreover, Grandmother becomes seriously ill herself and Linda is unable to take care of her. Mrs. Flint... (full context)
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...dog had killed the boy, so she could deliver the news to his mother. Fortunately, Grandmother’s fever breaks shortly after this and there’s no cause for the doctor or his wife... (full context)
Chapter Twenty-Four: The Candidate for Congress
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...He promises to do so and hurries away. Linda is so weak from inactivity that Grandmother has to help her back into the garret. The family is starting to worry that... (full context)
Chapter Twenty-Five: Competition in Cunning
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...to take north and post from New York. She also writes a letter to her grandmother asking to have her children sent to her in Boston, knowing that Dr. Flint will... (full context)
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Grandmother is troubled when she finds out what Linda has done, thinking it will backfire on... (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 opportunity to lure Linda south again, and... (full context)
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...to the mayor of Boston, asking him to look for Linda. Linda has to reassure Grandmother that the mayor won’t waste his time hunting down escaped slaves. (full context)
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...in the area, as it takes some pressure off her family. Feeling slightly more secure, Grandmother lets Linda walk around in the shed at night so that she can recover some... (full context)
Chapter Twenty-Six: Important Era in My Brother’s Life
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...date, and Linda wonders whether he will try to escape. However, Mr. Sands writes to Grandmother praising William’s faithfulness and saying that although abolitionists have tried to “decoy him away,” he... (full context)
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...new bride. The family is eager to see William, but no letters from him arrive. Grandmother prepares an enormous homecoming meal, but Mr. Sands arrives in the city without William. He... (full context)
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Grandmother is distraught rather than happy, thinking that she’ll never see William again. Linda is jealous... (full context)
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One afternoon, Linda hears Benny and Ellen asking Grandmother if they will ever see their mother again or live with her. Ellen says she... (full context)
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Aggie is overjoyed to hear this news, and tells Grandmother she should fall on her knees and pray. All of her children have been sold... (full context)
Chapter Twenty-Seven: New Destination for the Children
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Grandmother is anxious at this development but has to agree to the request, as the children... (full context)
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Grandmother visits Mr. Sands, reminding him that Linda is still very much alive and does not... (full context)
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Linda goes weeks without hearing anything about Ellen. Grandmother sends letters to Washington and Brooklyn, but no one responds. Linda feels betrayed by Mr.... (full context)
Chapter Twenty-Eight: Aunt Nancy
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Six years after Linda starts living in the shed, Aunt Nancy becomes deathly ill and Grandmother returns to the Flint house to nurse her last daughter. Even the Flints are touched... (full context)
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...do justice to the cruelties Aunt Nancy has endured and which Linda is still enduring. Grandmother especially finds it hard to recover after this blow, and Linda hates to think that... (full context)
Chapter Twenty-Nine: Preparations for Escape
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...bedding are frequently soaked with water. However, whenever she mentions the possibility of escape to Grandmother, the old woman becomes worried and upset. (full context)
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...her mother Aggie next door. Benny happened to catch a glimpse of her and told Grandmother, who warned him never to speak of it again, and he has kept the secret... (full context)
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...weeks to decide what to do. Uncle Phillip urges her to go and even talks Grandmother into the plan. Linda gets ready for the journey and promises that once she arrives... (full context)
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...recaptured fugitive slave is killed gruesomely (this is James, whose case Linda =described earlier). Frightened, Grandmother persuades Linda not to go. She tells Peter to give the spot on the ship... (full context)
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...bad and it stays docked for several days, to everyone’s consternation. On the third day Grandmother calls Linda out of the attic; she’s panicking about the likelihood of Fanny being discovered,... (full context)
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...and that if Benny is good, God will reunite them soon. As they are embracing, Grandmother comes in, bringing some money for Linda to take with her. She takes Linda’s hand... (full context)
Chapter Thirty-Two: The Meeting of Mother and Daughter
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...possible, Linda writes to Dr. Flint and Emily Flint asking him to sell her to Grandmother. She also seeks out William, who has moved to Boston. When she arrives in that... (full context)
Chapter Thirty-Four: The Old Enemy Again
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...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... (full context)
Chapter Thirty-Six: The Hairbreadth Escape
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...she go upstairs. Mr. Thorne is a drunken spendthrift who has often borrowed money from Grandmother and professes great attachment to her; Linda does not respect or trust him, but he... (full context)
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...that Mr. Thorne has “poured vile language” into Ellen’s ears, despite his professed respect for Grandmother. (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 end of her life. Through a friend she writes to Linda that... (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... (full context)
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...receives her with tears of joy and Linda remembers the efforts of her father and Grandmother, who tried to buy her without success and who would take pleasure in her triumph... (full context)
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Grandmother lives long enough to hear of Linda’s freedom before her death. Soon afterward, Uncle Phillip... (full context)
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...as a slave is very painful, but she’s consoled by memories of her moments with Grandmother, which are like “light, fleecy clouds floating over a dark and troubled sea.” (full context)