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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 2 : The New Master and Mistress | Summary



After the death of her mistress, Linda prepares for her new home with Dr. Flint, a physician, and his wife, the mistress's sister-in-law. The Flints have purchased Linda's young brother, William. When Linda and William arrive at their home, "cold looks, cold words, and cold treatment" greet them.

Since Mrs. Flint does not deign "to superintend her household affairs," Nancy, her waiting maid and servant, is "the beginning and end of everything." Nonetheless Mrs. Flint finds it no trouble to "sit in her easy chair and see a woman whipped, till the blood" runs. Even the Flints' dog is a "nuisance" who is fed freshly cooked "Indian mush." Linda weeps at night. At the funeral of a young friend, she learns from Aunt Martha that her father is dead. Instead of being allowed to go to her father's house, she is forced to gather flowers for the Flints. She attends her father's burial, however.

Martha's mistress was the mother of Dr. Flint's wife. This woman, who had borrowed money from her slave, dies without repaying Martha. Dr. Flint not only does not pay Martha back but puts her up for sale. The sister of the dead mistress buys Martha and grants her freedom.


Linda's position in this new household stands in sharp contrast to her position in the home she has left behind. Because a child now owns Linda, the child's parents, Dr. and Mrs. Flint, control her and are effectively her master and mistress. Linda's vulnerability to Dr. Flint foreshadows future conflict. The legal details of Linda's acquisition expose how slaves are dispersed like property.

Linda Brent's sketch of the slaveholding Flints, who think Linda's father spoiled his children "by teaching them to feel they are human beings," shows how the institution of slavery morally corrupts slave owners.

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