Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl | Study Guide

Harriet Jacobs

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Course Hero. "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Study Guide." Course Hero. 28 Nov. 2016. Web. 20 Sep. 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Incidents-in-the-Life-of-a-Slave-Girl/>.

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Course Hero. (2016, November 28). Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved September 20, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Incidents-in-the-Life-of-a-Slave-Girl/

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Course Hero. "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Study Guide." November 28, 2016. Accessed September 20, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Incidents-in-the-Life-of-a-Slave-Girl/.

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Course Hero, "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Study Guide," November 28, 2016, accessed September 20, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Incidents-in-the-Life-of-a-Slave-Girl/.

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl | Chapter 36 : The Hairbreadth Escape | Summary

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Summary

After returning to New York, Linda visits Ellen. Mrs. Hobbs urges her to speak to her brother, Mr. Thorne, who is visiting from the South and speaks kindly of "good old aunt Martha." He congratulates her on her freedom.

On a Sunday visit Linda notices with her "mother's observing eye" that Ellen is solemn, and she coaxes information out of her daughter. Because Mr. Thorne and Mr. Hobbs drink heavily, Ellen is sent for liquor frequently, and she is exposed to Mr. Thorne's bad language, which makes her uncomfortable. On another Sunday Ellen warns Linda that Mr. Thorne has been sending letters about her to Dr. Flint. Ellen has retrieved the torn-up pieces of a letter giving the doctor Linda's address; Mrs. Hobbs's children have brought them to their mother. After Mrs. Hobbs, to her credit, confronts her brother, he disappears.

When Linda returns to Manhattan, Mrs. Bruce asks her what's wrong. She confides in her employer, and Mrs. Bruce arranges for her to stay with friends until William can arrive to help her. Linda wants her daughter with her. Mrs. Hobbs, guilty about her brother's treachery, releases Ellen from her work for 10 days. Kind Mrs. Bruce, seeing Ellen's shabby clothing, buys her a warm shawl and hood. "Of such souls as hers are the kingdom of heaven," Linda says.

When William arrives he and Linda take a ship to Boston with Ellen. Linda once again experiences segregation as a stewardess claims the three of them must sleep on the deck. Linda insists on speaking to the captain and obtains a cabin.

Linda says the day after they arrive in Boston is one of her happiest: she sees her children reunited and safe from slavery. Afraid to return to New York, Linda shares a home with a friend while Benny attends school. Linda teaches Ellen herself.

Analysis

Ellen's experience with Mr. Hobbs and his unsavory brother-in-law, Mr. Thorne, has unpleasant echoes of Linda's with Dr. Flint. Thorne has "poured vile language" into Ellen's ears. It is clear to the reader that Linda must once again escape to save Ellen from the fate of an enslaved black woman.

By this point readers almost expect for Linda to experience racist treatment while traveling, despite the fact that she is in the North. But as she did on vacation with the Bruces, she stands up for herself and gets what she wants. Her sense of self-worth has always sustained her in times of trouble, and free from the bonds of slavery she is learning how to use it to her advantage.

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