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 41 : Free at Last | Summary



Fearing public spaces Linda nonetheless attempts a "cheerful countenance." Occasionally her grandmother, with someone's help, writes to her. Dr. Flint passes away, she tells Linda, but the danger doesn't end with him. His heirs are under orders to never free her, and Mrs. Flint tells Emily she can't afford to part with a slave.

One night Linda forgets to check the arrivals and discovers the Dodges, Dr. Flint's daughter and her husband, are visiting. Mrs. Bruce houses Linda with a friend. Several visitors stop by the Bruces and inquire about Linda and Ellen; they are told by the servants that Linda no longer lives there. Linda asks a friend to visit the Dodges and ascertain the reason for their visit; as she suspects, it is to find her and bring her back to Virginia.

Furious her children are at risk, since Mrs. Dodge never formally signed away her rights to them, Linda leaves for New England again with the baby. Mrs. Bruce tells her she plans to purchase her freedom and hires a man for negotiation. Mr. Dodge accepts her offer. Even though Mrs. Bruce has acted against her wishes—"a human being sold in the free city of New York!" she thinks—Linda is relieved.

When Linda returns to New York, Mrs. Bruce hugs her and assures her that she is now "a free woman." Linda reflects "God had raised me up a friend among strangers."

Not long after Linda gains freedom, Martha dies, and then Phillip also passes away. His obituary is featured in the paper, an honor for a black person.

Linda closes by addressing the reader directly: "Reader, my story ends with freedom; not ... with marriage. I and my children are now free!" She still longs for a home of her own but is happy to continue working for Mrs. Bruce, her friend.


Linda learns of Dr. Flint's passing from her grandmother's letter, in which her grandmother wishes he "made his peace with God" despite all the evil he has done to her family. This recollection prompts Linda to admit Martha is a "better Christian" than she is, although readers might be reminded that Christianity in the South and the North mean two different things to Linda.

For someone who, with every justification, had a hard time trusting whites for much of her life, Linda now says that love, duty, and gratitude keep her working for Mrs. Bruce, who has given her her greatest gift.

In her address to the reader Linda says that recalling the events of her past is difficult but not "altogether without solace," because those recollections also hold memories of her grandmother. Linda closes her autobiography with an image of her grandmother: "my good old grandmother, like light, fleecy clouds floating over a dark and troubled sea."

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