Incidents in The Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs

Incidents in the life of a slave girl by Harriet Jacobs, written by herself using the pseudonym Linda Brent. Linda describes a very powerful and brutal subject of “peculiar institution” that destroys peaceful lives, “slavery”. She also brings other elements and themes like, race, friendship, religion, freedom the picture. Slavery destroys lives and leaves families torn apart with no emotional anchor.

In chapter 1, it’s all about the care free little girl, “never knew it, till six years of happy childhood had passed away” that she is someone’s property. We learn that even the “kind” slaveholders like her late mistress, there is also no good in them, it turns out she is not as kind as she seems after Linda discovers she has been “bequeathed to her sister’s daughter, a child of five years”. In other words, the powerful “demons of slavery” gives ownership over the actions and emotions of slaves. However, slaveholders hide this immoral, greedy and hypocrisy morality under the umbrella of Christianity and it becomes an instrument of evil for slaveholders.

On the other hand the slaves cannot be free, but also “the laws gave no sanction to the marriage” of slaves. That is to say, no slave can fall in love or have “…any family ties of their own”. It is a sad thing to think about, that such simple naturally occurring feelings could also be controlled. Linda feels like it is “right and honourable” for her to be with her lover. However, there is no law that protects slaves and thus, she cannot get married to the love of her heart.

“I wanted to keep myself pure; and, under the most adverse circumstances, I tried hard to preserve my self-respect; but I was struggling alone in the power grasp of the demon Slavery; and the monster proved too strong for me”. Yet, she knew Dr Flint was strong, and her life depends on her actions, she chooses to become sexually involved with Mr Sands, with the hopes that he will save her. This is her only key to find herself away from Dr Flint. Slaves were purchased as merchandise and were constantly brutally abused and beaten. Though, Harriet does not experience the same violence as other slaves. She also endures the pain from her brutal master.

The most remarkable part of all, is when she hides away for “nearly seven years”, in a small uncomfortable space. It is painful and heart aching to think how a person can hide away to gain their freedom. Literally, she is not free, but all she wants is emotional relieve from Dr Flint’s abuse and sexual mistreatment. It shows how the evil of slavery can lead one to take dreadful measures. This proves, how unbearable it is for the women enslaved, not to mention losing physical and emotional contact with your children. Yet, she survives with the help and support of her family and friends.

Despite the fact that Christianity teaches the values of respect, well-being, caring etc, Christian slaveholders seem to exclude themselves from this standards, which undoubtedly shows hypocrisy and greed. Slave masters only care about the profit in turn from the slaves, but not their well-being. Similarly, the phrase, “The dealers gives his blood-stained gold to support the pulpit, and the pulpit, in return, covers his infernal business with the grab of Christianity”.

This book is also written at the same period as Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the life of a slave girl, it shows how the cruelty exists among slaveholders. Due to the lack of humanitarian and no compassion and the way slavery is practiced, Christianity could not exist. In the book, the abuse and violence that Linda Brent encounters is put to practice by her Christian master and his wife. In other words, she is not beaten and chained, but still she endures the pain from her master’s psychological, and sexual abuse. This makes her hateful of slaveholders, and she loses the sight of the possible good actions of slaveholders.

Linda being “free at last” does not mean, she is away from any form of evil from her master. She knows that he is going to hunt and capture her. She never gives up, she fights fiercely for her freedom and becomes strong, not only for herself, but for her children too. She finds her way to survive in the north. Linda becomes so sure that “she would go to the ends of the world, rather than pay any men or women for her freedom, because she thinks she has any right to it. Besides, she couldn’t do it, if she would, for she has spent her earnings to educate her children”. Different chapters in the book also bring light to other things that play a role in Brent’s life. However, Jacob is finally free from Dr Flint and slavery in the Southern states. She holds one key factor, which makes her a very remarkable person, she perseveres during hardship, and mistreatment from her evil and ruthless master, Dr Flint.

Jacob’s writing style is narrative, but the initial style of the novel is commentary, on the events that happen at the time of her slavery. Her writing style is unique, since it also enables partial understanding of the author, her style is also political, personal and historical as well. Not only does she concentrate about slavery, but she simultaneously threads a romance and a seduction novel, using her melodramatic style. Thus, making the writing unique and shaping the literature different to any of literatures in her period.

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Incidents in The Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs. (2021, Mar 15). Retrieved June 12, 2024 , from

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