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 16 : Scenes at the Plantation | Summary



The next day Linda leaves Aunt Martha's with Ellen. Benny is ill, so she leaves him behind. Linda receives her orders and readies the house for Mr. Flint's bride. On a break she visits Ellen and overhears Mr. Flint say that his father should have "broke[n] her in long ago." Mr. Flint watches her suspiciously; she works "day and night" to give him no reason to punish her. Without asking his permission she sends Ellen, who cries constantly for her mother, back to Aunt Martha's. She says all her trials and sacrifices are made for the sake of her children: the children "gave me fresh courage to beat back the dark waves that rolled and rolled over me in a seemingly endless night of storms."

Linda secretly visits Aunt Martha's house, a six-mile journey, at night. After six weeks Mr. Flint leaves to get his bride and bring her home. Linda is given permission to spend Sunday with her family. She considers that this might be the last day she and her children are together, and she determines to save them, especially Ellen, from their fate as slaves.

Linda visits her parents' graves and prays to God for guidance and support. She thinks she hears her father's voice "bidding [her] not to tarry till [she] reached freedom or the grave." She plans to hide at a friend's for several weeks, until the search for her is over. Then her grandmother discovers her plan and tells her not to run away yet for the sake of the children, and she agrees.

Linda gets along fairly well with the new mistress, although she witnesses the woman's cruelty to an elder slave who is denied food and told to eat grass. However, when a gentleman she knows tours the cotton plantation, he tells her that Mr. and Mrs. Flint are sending for her children. Linda realizes the plan is meant to tether her to the plantation and "break in" the children with harsh treatment. This "nerve[s]" her to "immediate action."


The moment Linda arrives at the plantation is a turning point; now Ellen begins suffering the deprivation of slavery since Linda's work takes her away from the child for long hours at a time. This chapter, "Scenes at the Plantation," hearkens back to "Sketches of Neighboring Slaveholders," which highlights the threats that would exist for Linda and her children in the hands of a violent slaveholder. With Ellen asleep beside her Linda renews her belief she would rather her daughter die than suffer the verbal, physical, and sexual violence of slavery.

Images of storms in this chapter exemplify Linda's emotional torment. Previously Linda Brent used dark images to describe things that happen to her, emphasizing her passivity. Now in similar turmoil she finds new strength as the ferocity of motherhood urges her into action.

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