Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

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In “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl,” Harriet Jacobs gives a detailed account of the life story of “Linda Brent” which is the pseudo name for herself, outlining the events which primarily focuses on her escape from her slave master, “Dr. Flint.” After learning that Dr. Flint has already fathered 11 children from his slaves, it is hard to imagine why he is never able to successful pursue Linda. After all, just based on the sheer number of his incidents of sexual relations with his slaves, it would seem highly unlikely that he will be they type that would be polite enough to wait for a mutual consent. The fact that Linda is able to be able to avoid having any sexual relations, despite countless pursuits by her master shows she possesses many strong qualities which helps her in her struggle. Her upbringing and strong sense of self is perhaps the number one weapon in her fight against Dr. Flint. The values in which her parents instill in her are so firmly in place, that she is perhaps one of the most self-confident female slaves that ever lived. The fact that she knows how to read, and writes the first slave narrative book speaks for itself. After her parents passes away, she becomes under the care of her grandmother, who plays an important role in shielding her from her lustful master. Her grandmother’s reputation and influence in society helps her in more ways than one. Those two factors combined with Dr. Flint’s need for power, and social acceptance helps to work in Linda’s favor, and keeps her safe from the sexual advances of her master.

Before the mistress of Linda’s grandmother dies, she puts it in her will that Linda’s grandmother would be freed. However, Dr. Flint who becomes one of the benefactors, refuses to carry out that portion of the will, and instead tries to fool her grandmother in thinking that he will try to spare her feelings by putting her up for private sale, instead of selling her at a public auction. Her grandmother who sees through this “hypocrisy” refuses, knowing that he is ashamed of what he may appear before the public, as everyone knows and respects “Aunt Martha” and knows that she is not to be sold just like any ordinary slave. This incident tells us a lot of the character of Dr. Flint, and how it plays into his unusual relationship with Linda. First, it not only shows his greed for material gain, it shows how immoral he is for not being honest enough to fulfill the will as his wife’s sister had intended. Next, it demonstrates how despite the fact that he does many evil things, he does not want it to appear so in the public. In other words, he is a hypocrite, as Linda’s grandmother points out.

Dr. Flint’s chosen profession as a doctor shows that he is a man that wants to have a high standing in society, and that power is important to him. It also shows that he is an educated man, and perhaps a man of intellect. Because of his relentless pursuit of Linda which continues all the way until his death, it seems that he seems to enjoy challenges and playing mind games. Linda, being one of the few slaves that could read, is a perhaps a bigger match for him than any of his other slave concubines, and he seems to like the added challenge. Linda is able to use this to her advantage, and knows that her outright refusal could even win her more respect with her master. As the story unfolds, it seems that the more persistent Linda is in her refusal, the more Dr. Flint desires her. In the end, we discover that he even spends hundreds of dollars putting himself into debt in the process, to continue this “cat and mouse” chase. As a doctor, Dr. Flint possesses some power in his society, such as the power to treat sick people, and it feeds into his power hungry personality. Winning over Linda instead of just taking her by force, is another way that he can prove to himself of how powerful he really is.

Linda’s ability to read also aids her in averting Dr. Flint after she escapes. For...
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