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Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl | Study Guide

Harriet Jacobs

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Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl | Chapter 10 : A Perilous Passage in the Slave Girl's Life | Summary



Dr. Flint plans to move Linda to a small, secluded house miles out of town and make her his concubine. When Linda discovers that the house is being built, she vows to never go there. At 15 she meets a "white unmarried gentleman," Mr. Sands, who is kind to her, and she involves herself with him romantically. She knows it will irk her master and hopes he will sell her in anger.

When Dr. Flint tells her to go to the completed cottage, she tells him she is pregnant. She visits her grandmother to confess, and her mistress rushes in, making accusations about Linda and her husband. Martha believes Mrs. Flint, though she knows something is wrong; Martha tells Linda to never return. Linda stays with her mother's friend and sends for Martha. Martha visits days later and Linda tells her the truth; Martha exclaims "Poor child! Poor child!"


By contrasting the lives of Northern women with those of female slaves, Linda's choice between taking a lover or submitting to a master draws attention to the bleak (and limited) choices of women in slavery. Linda's choice overwhelms her with guilt, but in order to inform readers of the poor conditions of slavery, she explains herself honestly. About initiating a relationship with Mr. Sands she says "There is something akin to freedom in having a lover who has no control over you, except that which he gains by kindness and attachment."

Initially Mr. Sands is known to Linda simply as "a white unmarried gentleman" who sometimes speaks to her in the street—a form of attention Linda finds "flattering." Knowing that her Northern women readers might look askance at this conduct, Linda nonetheless shows how a kind of intimacy arises: "By degrees, a more tender feeling crept into my heart." This word choice displays how the relationship brings tiny traces of comfort into her grim life. The "tender" feeling is conditional, a product of Linda's hostile environment. Had Linda had the privilege of choice, Mr. Sands might not have been the lover she chose.

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