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 Summaries

See Chapter Summaries Chart

Timeline of Events

  • Age 6; c. 1820

    Linda's mother dies, and she is sent to live with her mother's mistress.

    Chapter 1
  • Age 11

    Linda's mistress dies, and she is willed to Emily Flint, suffering her first injustice.

    Chapter 2
  • Age 13

    Benjamin escapes to New York while being transported by a slave trader.

    Chapter 4
  • Age 15

    Linda suffers constant sexual harassment from Dr. Flint and meets Mr. Sands.

    Chapter 10
  • Age 16

    Linda, pregnant with Mr. Sands's child, lives with Aunt Martha and gives birth to Benny.

    Chapter 11
  • Age 20

    Linda gives birth to Ellen, her second child with Mr. Sands.

    Chapter 14
  • Ages 21–22

    After Linda flees to save her children from the plantation, Mr. Sands buys the children.

    Chapter 19
  • Age 22

    Peter escorts Linda to Aunt Martha's, where she hides in the garret.

    Chapter 21
  • Age 29

    With Fanny, Linda escapes to New York, where she meets the Bruces.

    Chapter 30
  • Ages 37–38

    Mrs. Bruce purchases Linda's freedom from the Dodges.

    Chapter 41

Chapter Summaries Chart

Chapter Summary
Preface by the Author Signing the preface with her pseudonym, Linda Brent, the author Harriet Jacobs assures readers the "incredible" events o... Read More
Introduction by the Editor Lydia Maria Child describes her role in bringing out the book. Knowing readers might doubt a slave could write as well a... Read More
Chapter 1 "Linda Brent" opens her narrative with the sentence, "I was born a slave; but I never knew it till six years of happy ch... Read More
Chapter 2 After the death of her mistress, Linda prepares for her new home with Dr. Flint, a physician, and his wife, the mistress... Read More
Chapter 3 Linda Brent describes hiring day, January 1, in the South. The area floods with slaves awaiting their "doom." They know ... Read More
Chapter 4 Linda tells how, after a physical altercation with his master, her handsome and spirited young uncle Benjamin flees Nort... Read More
Chapter 5 When Linda turns 15, "a sad epoch in the life of a slave girl," Linda's master fills her mind with "impure" images. He w... Read More
Chapter 6 Linda Brent has turned 16 and continues to endure Dr. Flint's attempts to seduce her. His wife detests Linda and speaks ... Read More
Chapter 7 Linda begins the chapter with the rhetorical question "Why does the slave ever love?" She tells of her romance with a ch... Read More
Chapter 8 Linda Brent addresses the audience directly in the opening sentence of the chapter, saying "Slaveholders pride themselve... Read More
Chapter 9 Linda Brent offers portraits of several violent slaveholders, ranging from Mrs. Wade, who whips slaves all day and all t... Read More
Chapter 10 Dr. Flint plans to move Linda to a small, secluded house miles out of town and make her his concubine. When Linda discov... Read More
Chapter 11 Mrs. Flint bans Linda from her house, and Linda returns to live at Aunt Martha's. Mr. Sands promises to take care of the... Read More
Chapter 12 The news of Nat Turner's insurrection affects the town. Knowing houses will be searched, Linda tidies everything. The ne... Read More
Chapter 13 With the motive of ensuring slaves don't murder their masters, slaveholders offer slaves a Sunday service after destroyi... Read More
Chapter 14 Dr. Flint learns Linda is expecting a second child, and his agitation grows. As punishment he cuts off her hair and stri... Read More
Chapter 15 Dr. Flint taunts Linda about how much money he will gain from selling her children. She vows that she would rather see t... Read More
Chapter 16 The next day Linda leaves Aunt Martha's with Ellen. Benny is ill, so she leaves him behind. Linda receives her orders an... Read More
Chapter 17 Mr. and Mrs. Flint invite Linda to work and sleep in the house, and Linda, knowing this means they are afraid she will l... Read More
Chapter 18 After a week in hiding Linda hears pursuers nearby and hides in the woods, where a poisonous snake bites her. When it is... Read More
Chapter 19 Dr. Flint returns. William, Benny, and Ellen have spent two months in jail. Through a speculator, Mr. Sands makes an off... Read More
Chapter 20 Vexed, Dr. Flint announces revenge. He arrests Linda's uncle Phillip for aiding Linda's escape. Phillip is released, but... Read More
Chapter 21 Linda is ushered to her new hiding place: a dark, cramped garret atop a shed in Aunt Martha's house. She can sleep in it... Read More
Chapter 22 As Christmas approaches Linda sews clothes for her children with materials her grandmother delivers. Linda relays the Ch... Read More
Chapter 23 When spring returns Linda wonders how much longer she has in the garret. In summer turpentine drips on her head from the... Read More
Chapter 24 After his third visit to New York, Dr. Flint returns to support the Democratic party's candidate, Mr. Sands's rival, in ... Read More
Chapter 25 Dr. Flint continues his attempt to snare Linda by promising freedom. To deceive him she writes the doctor and Aunt Marth... Read More
Chapter 26 William, who is still the property of Mr. Sands, accompanies his owner to Washington and then to the North. Mr. Sands is... Read More
Chapter 27 The new Mrs. Sands meets Benny and admires him. When Mr. Sands admits he is the father of Benny and Ellen, she invites t... Read More
Chapter 28 When Linda has been in hiding for six years, Martha visits Aunt Nancy on her deathbed at the Flints' house. Even though ... Read More
Chapter 29 Nearly seven years have passed, and Linda is desperate for freedom. The shingles over her roof are badly in need of repa... Read More
Chapter 30 Guided by Peter and Phillip, Linda reaches the wharf. Before she steps into the rowboat, Benny tugs at her and whispers ... Read More
Chapter 31 Upon Linda's arrival the captain introduces her to Rev. Jeremiah Durham, a black minister who invites Linda home with hi... Read More
Chapter 32 Fanny and Linda arrive in New York, where the crowd of coachmen vying for their business shocks them. An Irishman tries ... Read More
Chapter 33 Linda gains employment as a nursemaid for the Bruces; she is glad to work for them, for they are English and she has hea... Read More
Chapter 34 Linda's former mistress's younger brother responds to Linda's letter, saying it would be difficult for Linda to return h... Read More
Chapter 35 Linda travels to Albany with the Bruces, but her relief at escaping the city turns to discouragement as she is given rac... Read More
Chapter 36 After returning to New York, Linda visits Ellen. Mrs. Hobbs urges her to speak to her brother, Mr. Thorne, who is visiti... Read More
Chapter 37 In spring Linda learns Mrs. Bruce has passed away. Mr. Bruce asks her if she will travel with him and little Mary to Eng... Read More
Chapter 38 Linda returns to New York and, imagining "spectres" (ghosts) rising up on the shores of the United States, hurries on to... Read More
Chapter 39 After two years in Boston, William offers to send Ellen to boarding school, and Linda reluctantly consents. When Ellen's... Read More
Chapter 40 After their business fails William leaves for California with Benny; Ellen enjoys her boarding school and continues to a... Read More
Chapter 41 Fearing public spaces Linda nonetheless attempts a "cheerful countenance." Occasionally her grandmother, with someone's ... Read More
Appendix The appendix includes two statements. The first is by Linda's friend Amy Post and is dated at Rochester, New York, on Oc... Read More
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