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. 18 July 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 July 18, 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 July 18, 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 July 18, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Incidents-in-the-Life-of-a-Slave-Girl/.

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl | Chapter 39 : The Confession | Summary

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Summary

After two years in Boston, William offers to send Ellen to boarding school, and Linda reluctantly consents. When Ellen's departure nears she asks her mother to write often. Linda breaks down and reveals the story of her affair with Ellen's father, and Ellen shushes her. While in Washington, Ellen reveals, Mr. Sands had treated Ellen poorly, never speaking to her kindly as he did to his daughter Fanny. Fanny's nurse had told Ellen the truth—that Sands was her father. But, Ellen repeats to her mother, "all my love is for you."

The next day William takes Ellen to school. Someone requests Linda for a temporary sewing job. When she returns there is a letter from William asking her to start an "anti-slavery reading room" with him in Rochester, New York. The project fails to make money, but they meet valuable friends, including abolitionists Isaac and Amy Post. Linda lives with the Posts for a year.

Analysis

Linda Brent focuses much of her autobiography on gender and exposes how normalized it is for white fathers to abandon their out-of-wedlock children to avoid problems with their wives. Tension arises from Linda's guilt over never "mustering" the courage to tell Ellen about her father while she and Ellen live together. In fact, just as Benny knew when his mother was hiding in Martha's house, Ellen admits she knew Mr. Sands was her father and describes his unfairness toward her.

Ellen's touching admission is delivered in a long, moving monologue. Linda has passed her passion, her sense of justice, and her eloquence to her daughter. When Ellen leaves Linda once again symbolizes her emotional turmoil in terms of light and darkness: "It seemed as if all the sunshine had gone away."

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