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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 18 : Months of Peril | Summary



After a week in hiding Linda hears pursuers nearby and hides in the woods, where a poisonous snake bites her. When it is safe for her to return to her friend's house, she applies a poultice that eases the pain.

A kind slaveholder and friend of Aunt Martha who is familiar with Linda's trouble offers her a home until Linda can escape North. Linda accepts and is placed in a small storeroom and told to be quiet. Betty, a slave who is Linda's friend and the kind woman's cook, brings her food.

Linda's brother William, Aunt Nancy, and children are all jailed, in hopes of extorting information about Linda. When Ellen has a complication related to measles, she is removed to Dr. Flint's home so he can care for her, and she screams to go back to the prison. Mrs. Flint is so irritated that she has the child returned to the jail. Aunt Nancy returns to her employment, as her mistress cannot spare her.

Dr. Flint lies to Martha and says he knows Linda's whereabouts. Worried, she sends a message to Betty, who hides Linda under a kitchen plank. Days later Linda hears Dr. Flint's voice in the house. When she later hears a key in the door of the storeroom, she freezes. But it is the kind benefactress, who tells her he is gone. Certain she's in New York, Dr. Flint borrows money to travel there.


The imprisonment of Linda's family shows the inhumane treatment of slaves. The corrupt justice system and its support of slaveholders illustrates the might of the opposition that enslaved people face.

Throughout this period, the strength and kindness of women empower Linda and make her flight possible. A kind woman, who puts herself in danger by speaking to Aunt Martha and opening her home to Linda, is a rare exception among slaveholding women, one of the "humane" slaveholders Brent mentions in Chapter 9. Betty, the cook, also conceals Linda, feeds and comforts her, deflects people's attention, and brings her information. It is unlikely Linda could survive without these nurturers.

When talking about Betty's childlessness, Linda Brent repeats the phrase, "she had never." Betty—who has never looked into the eyes of her own baby, who has never held her own baby to her chest—nevertheless has a feminine, nurturing spirit. Honoring Betty in this way reflects an aspect of women's writing of this period, the idea that the community binding disempowered women together is a source of strength and one of their few means of self-protection.

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