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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 37 : A Visit to England | Summary



In spring Linda learns Mrs. Bruce has passed away. Mr. Bruce asks her if she will travel with him and little Mary to England so his daughter can visit some of her mother's relatives. Seeing a chance to make more money than she can by sewing, Linda sends Benny to trade school and leaves Ellen to stay with Linda's friend and go to school.

After 12 days the travelers arrive in Liverpool, England, and check in at the Adelaide Hotel. Linda remains in England for ten months, enjoying being treated as an equal "without reference to my complexion." She marvels that the "poorest poor" of England live better than "the most favored slaves in America." They are not flogged, nor are their families broken up; no law prevents them from learning to read.

In Steventon, England, Linda stays with a clergyman's family. The experience reawakens her interest in the church.


Linda compares and contrasts her experiences of England with what she knows of slavery. She addresses class in Europe, noting the oppression of poverty. But to show how horrible slavery is, she contrasts English agricultural workers' lives with the lives of slaves. Linda uses images of darkness to strike home her point when she says the poor in Europe work hard "but they were not ordered out to toil while the stars were in the sky, and driven and slashed by an overseer, through heat and cold, till the stars shone out again." Through the repetition of "no" she exposes additional cruelties of slavery. She says, "No insolent patrols could come, in the dead of night, and flog them at their pleasure ... There was no law forbidding them to learn to read and write."

She enjoys the religious services in England because they aren't tarnished with proslavery sentiments. The church in the American South is used to justify slavery. In England she sees a simple, beautiful practice of Christianity based on faith and humility.

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