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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 4 : The Slave Who Dared to Feel Like a Man | Summary



Linda tells how, after a physical altercation with his master, her handsome and spirited young uncle Benjamin flees North and is captured. His master rejoices over the "capture of his human chattel," she writes.

Benjamin spends nearly seven months in jail. When Linda visits him he vows to stay in jail rather than return to his master and tells her slaves are "dogs" and "cattle" and "every thing that's mean" in the South. When a slave trader subsequently buys him, he runs North. In New York he meets his brother Phillip, on business for his mistress. Benjamin begs his brother to stay, but Phillip returns home. In time his mother, Linda's grandmother Martha, purchases his freedom.

Linda also relates a punishment in which Mrs. Flint, after complaining about the squeaking of Linda's new shoes, forces her to walk a long distance in her bare feet. Dr. Flint, meanwhile, receives offers to buy Linda but says he cannot because she belongs to his daughter.


Through her interactions with Benjamin, Linda describes how slaveholders use animalistic images to suggest that slaves aren't human. She shows Benjamin's spirit and humanity in his rejection of these images.

Aunt Martha steps in as a mother to Linda and William. A symbol of goodness, she tries to help them believe in God's plan. When Phillip tells her that Ben is free, she drops to her knees in prayer then makes him tell her every word that has passed between them. She vows to save her other children and eventually purchases Phillip.

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