Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

by

Harriet Jacobs

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William Character Analysis

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 runs away, Dr. Flint jails William along with Ellen and Benny, and he takes good care of the children. After being bought by Mr. Sands, William accompanies his new master on trips to the North, where he seizes the opportunity to run away. Leaving a note expressing his refusal to purchase the freedom to which he is already entitled, he shows his strong character and deep sense of justice. Later, he reunites with Linda and her children in New York and helps support the family.
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William Character Timeline in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

The timeline below shows where the character William 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
The Dehumanizing Effects of Slavery Theme Icon
Motherhood and Family Theme Icon
...a certain sum per year, and Linda lives with her parents and her younger brother William in a “comfortable home,” unaware that she is a “piece of merchandise who can be... (full context)
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... (full context)
The Dehumanizing Effects of Slavery Theme Icon
Linda and William are both more depressed than ever; when she tries to comfort her brother by saying... (full context)
Chapter Four: The Slave Who Dared to Feel Like a Man
The Dehumanizing Effects of Slavery Theme Icon
Sexual Virtue and Sexual Abuse Theme Icon
...“surrender” her will to him. One afternoon, as she’s trying to decide what to do, William approaches her, upset because Dr. Flint’s son, Nicholas, bullies him constantly and threatens to whip... (full context)
Christianity Theme Icon
Linda counsels William to be “good and forgiving,” but she knows that she herself does not feel forgiving... (full context)
The Dehumanizing Effects of Slavery Theme Icon
Motherhood and Family Theme Icon
One day, William comes to Linda telling her that their Uncle Benjamin has impetuously gotten in a fistfight... (full context)
Chapter Seven: The Lover
The Dehumanizing Effects of Slavery Theme Icon
The only consolation left in Linda’s life is her close relationship with William. Even that bond is not secure, though—she worries that Dr. Flint will sell him away... (full context)
Chapter Eleven: The New Tie to Life
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Motherhood and Family Theme Icon
By this time, Dr. Flint employs William as a physician’s assistant. William is adept and competent in his tasks, and Linda is... (full context)
Chapter Eighteen: Months of Peril
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...sell her children soon, but he seems to want revenge more than money. He throws William, Aunt Nancy, Benny, and Ellen into the city jail and tells Grandmother that she will... (full context)
Chapter Nineteen: The Children Sold
Motherhood and Family Theme Icon
...he needs money and at the last minute agrees to sell them, as well as William. (full context)
The Dehumanizing Effects of Slavery Theme Icon
...avoid suspicion from Dr. Flint, the trader pretends to take them out of the state. William is put in chains and Aunt Nancy and Grandmother say goodbye to the children as... (full context)
The Dehumanizing Effects of Slavery Theme Icon
...the trader has left town, but he actually stops a few miles away and releases William, Benny, and Ellen to Uncle Phillip. He seems to think that the deception is a... (full context)
The Dehumanizing Effects of Slavery Theme Icon
William and the children return to Grandmother’s house, where the family has a clandestine but joyous... (full context)
Chapter Twenty-Three: Still in Prison
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...tries to treat her, but they’re obviously unable to get her real medical care. When William finally devises a way to make a fire for her, she’s so happy that she... (full context)
Chapter Twenty-Six: Important Era in My Brother’s Life
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Motherhood and Family Theme Icon
Linda pines greatly for William, who has gone with Mr. Sands to Washington. After the legislative session, he accompanies him... (full context)
The Dehumanizing Effects of Slavery Theme Icon
...he’s returning to the South with a new bride. The family is eager to see William, but no letters from him arrive. Grandmother prepares an enormous homecoming meal, but Mr. Sands... (full context)
The Dehumanizing Effects of Slavery Theme Icon
Grandmother is distraught rather than happy, thinking that she’ll never see William again. Linda is jealous that her brother is free while she is trapped, although she... (full context)
The Dehumanizing Effects of Slavery Theme Icon
Motherhood and Family Theme Icon
...the yard; seeing that Grandmother is anxious, she asks what’s wrong, and Grandmother says that William has run away. (full context)
The Dehumanizing Effects of Slavery Theme Icon
...sold away, and she will never know where they are. At least Grandmother knows that William has escaped. Linda admires this woman’s ability to take pleasure in William’s triumph even amidst... (full context)
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Motherhood and Family Theme Icon
Soon the family gets a letter from William, saying that although Mr. Sands is a kind master, he has always wanted to be... (full context)
The Dehumanizing Effects of Slavery Theme Icon
Mr. Sands tells Uncle Phillip that William left brazenly; he even saw him carrying his trunk away, but William claimed he was... (full context)
The Dehumanizing Effects of Slavery Theme Icon
Much later, William tells Linda what actually happened: he doesn’t need abolitionists to tell him about freedom, and... (full context)
Chapter Thirty-Two: The Meeting of Mother and Daughter
The Dehumanizing Effects of Slavery Theme Icon
...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 city, however, she finds that... (full context)
Chapter Thirty-Three: A Home Found
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...looking out the window, she sees a man in a sailor’s uniform and realizes it’s William. She rushes down to embrace him, and the siblings rejoice to be reunited again as... (full context)
Chapter Thirty-Four: The Old Enemy Again
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...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... (full context)
Chapter Thirty-Six: The Hairbreadth Escape
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...friends, who advise going north immediately. She stays with a friend from Mrs. Bruce until William arrives to take her to Boston. Mrs. Hobbs, who feels guilty about her brother’s actions,... (full context)
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Linda, William, and Ellen board a steamboat towards Boston. Normally, black passengers are not allowed to sit... (full context)
Chapter Thirty-Nine: The Confession
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After two years of living in Boston, William offers to pay for Ellen to attend boarding school. Linda hates to part with her,... (full context)
The Dehumanizing Effects of Slavery Theme Icon
Some weeks after Ellen departs for school, Linda receives a letter from William inviting her to join him in establishing an abolitionist reading room in Rochester. She eagerly... (full context)
Chapter Forty: The Fugitive Slave Law
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William decides to move to California and takes Benny with him. Ellen is flourishing at school;... (full context)
The Dehumanizing Effects of Slavery Theme Icon
...other is a fugitive. The passage of this law is one of the reasons that William moves to California and Linda, fearful for her safety, goes out as infrequently as possible... (full context)