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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 19 : The Children Sold | Summary



Dr. Flint returns. William, Benny, and Ellen have spent two months in jail. Through a speculator, Mr. Sands makes an offer to buy the three of them. Dr. Flint counters and Mr. Sands accepts. An hour later the paperwork is signed. To maintain the appearance that the speculator, not Mr. Sands, is the new owner of the three, William is handcuffed and he and the children leave in the trader's cart. Believing something has gone wrong with the sale, Martha faints. Phillip follows the wagon and, after a few miles, brings them back to town, where Martha and Mr. Sands wait with the curtains closed.

Linda has a vision that night of seeing the forms of her two children in a streak of moonlight on the floor. The next morning she overhears a housemaid gossiping about her children, and Betty confirms the good news. "It was the first time since my childhood that I had experienced any real happiness," she writes, concluding "It is always better to trust than to doubt."


While reporting the cruelty of slavery, Linda Brent is quick to give credit where it's due. She admits the slave trader, who plans to retire because trading slaves is a "bad business for a fellow that's got any heart," has some emotions. The trader surprisingly waives his fee for helping the children escape Dr. Flint. Yet this same man asks William to tell the "pretty gals" to go with him on his last trip. Under racist and sexist conditions, female slaves are thrown on the mercy of anyone who shows even the least trace of humanity, as with the generous but leering slave trader.

Linda once again uses the symbols of light and darkness to express her relief at the outcome of the sale: "the darkest cloud" has rolled away. She is happy that she has believed in those who said they would try to help her children. While Linda struggles with issues of trusting whites throughout the book—justifiably, given her life events—she realizes that trust has made her greatest wish come true: slavery will never threaten her children again.

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