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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 27 : New Destination for the Children | Summary



The new Mrs. Sands meets Benny and admires him. When Mr. Sands admits he is the father of Benny and Ellen, she invites the children to her house and takes an interest in them. She wants to raise Benny and have her sister, who is visiting, adopt Ellen.

Feeling helpless, Linda contacts Mr. Sands about his promise to emancipate the children. "I had no trust in thee, O Slavery!" she writes. Martha carries this message to him and he replies with surprise that he has already freed the children. He says he thinks Linda should send the children North and get them away from Dr. Flint. The doctor claims the contract in which they were sold wasn't binding because his daughter (Linda's and the children's owner) wasn't of age at the time.

Linda agrees to send Ellen to Mr. Sands's cousin, who can provide a good life and education for the child. She visits Ellen on her last night and promises that she and Benny will live with their mother one day. Ellen falls asleep in her mother's arms; Linda stays awake to enjoy her time with her daughter.

It takes six months for Brent to receive word that Ellen has arrived safely in Brooklyn. In the letter a girl writes that Ellen will be her "waiting maid" and that the child will attend school. Linda worries over whether or not Mr. Sands has presented the child as free or enslaved. After all, she thinks, "slavery perverted all the natural feelings of the human heart." She contrasts her experience with that of a Congressman who fathered six children with a slave woman and ordered her to remove the children from "the great house" before he brought guests there so they would not see the resemblance to him.


When Linda spends the night with Ellen in her old room, repetition of the word "there" shows how she suffered in captivity in this place. After five years in hiding, she says, "there came my old tyrant, to mock, insult, and curse me; there my children were first laid in my arms." Although some happy memories are mentioned, readers know this is the same place where Benny was knocked unconscious by Dr. Flint. Readers know Linda has felt more pain than happiness in this place. This meditation on Linda's former bedroom shows how slavery invades intimate spaces, intimate moments, and relationships.

During the six-month silence Linda questions her decision. She wonders if Mr. Sands has sold Ellen and if she should have let Mrs. Sands's sister adopt her. After news of Ellen's arrival, Linda wonders if her daughter is lodging with them until she can care for her herself or if she is a "piece of property." The casual dismissal of the parental bond by the Congressman in the story she relates only emphasizes the emotional turmoil enslaved mothers experience.

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