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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 23 : Still in Prison | Summary



When spring returns Linda wonders how much longer she has in the garret. In summer turpentine drips on her head from the roof. She relates some of the suffering she sees outside her hiding place, including a woman who jumps in a river and drowns to escape a whipping. And yet, Linda says, Senator Brown of Mississippi tells Congress that slavery is "a great moral, social, and political blessing; a blessing to the master, and a blessing to the slave."

Doubting she'll live much longer, she sees the arrival of her second winter. She suffers so much from the cold that she falls unconscious for sixteen hours. Thinking his sister is dying, William holds her, crying. When Linda becomes delirious, the family drugs her, fearing she will reveal her hiding spot. For six weeks she remains in bed.

Aunt Martha falls ill, and a dog bites Benny. His cries torture Linda, but his wounds heal quickly. After some time he walks again, but Martha worsens. Dr. Flint's wife, in an act of hypocrisy, deigns to visit Aunt Martha's sickbed, seems surprised at her illness, and sends for Dr. Flint. The doctor announces her condition is critical and he offers to treat her, but the family refuses. Slowly she heals with no thanks to the Flints. As Mrs. Flint departs the house she remarks on Benny's dog bite "I wish [it] had killed him. It would be good news to send to his mother."


Linda uses verbal irony to address Mrs. Flint's hateful character as she pronounces her judgment of Benny's injury: "With these Christian words she and her husband departed."

In this chapter Mississippi Senator Brown's preposterous statement that slavery is a blessing is contrasted with Linda's accurate observations of real experiences of slavery.

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