Essay on Harriet Jacob‘s autobiography „Incidents of a Slave girl“
How was Linda’s family affected by slavery?
Harriet Jacobs uses the pseudonym Linda Brent for herself in her autobiography written in 1861. Pseudonyms are also used throughout the narrative to describe the other characters in the book.
Linda‘s mistress, the daughter of her grandmothers mistress was nourished from Aunt Martha’s (grandmother‘s) breast as well as Linda’s mother. The young mistress was the foster sister of Linda, they spend their childhood together and played together as if they were normal siblings. By the age of six, from the talk around her Linda learns as a child that she is a slave. So when Linda gets older she has to serve her foster sister and the relationship changes. Linda in some cases at first grew up very privilidged compared to other slaves. By her mistress she is taught to read and to write. For those reasons Linda mentions that she tries not to be angry at her mistress when she dies and still leaves Linda in the status as a slave.
When Linda‘s mother dies, Linda finds herself all alone and is worried where her little brother an herself are going to stay and what will happen to them.
Linda and her 2 years younger brother William find a home at her mothers mistress, who promissed Linda‘s mother when she died that her children never have to suffer from anything. Still the children have to work as slaves and are not freed by the young mistress. The mistress bequethed them to her sisters daughter and does not let them free as Linda and her friends hope (Jacobs 10).
They find a happy home there. Linda describes those childhood days as happy because she doesn‘t know any better. She describes how sad she is when her mistress dies, because she was almost like a mother to her.
Together with her brother William she is given to her new master Mr. Flint who has married Linda‘s mistresses sister so she was now the property of their little daughter.
Mr Flint‘s home becomes Linda’s and William’s new home. Little time after she moves she is told by her grandmother that her father has died. Her grandmother a former slave, is a free women for the sister of grandmothers mistress, buys her for 50 dollar at an auction where she was put in order to be sold by Mr Flint, although she was promised to be a free women by her dying mistress. When Linda is about 15 years old her master Mr Flint starts making sexual advances to her. She starts a sexual relationship with Mr. Sands, a white neighbour. Her reasons for agreeing to the affair are that she hopes that when Flint finds out about it, he will sell her to Mr. Sands for reasons of pride and reasons of his property being used. She hopes that Mr. Sands will buy her and later free her children as he promised but Mr. Sands whom she describes as generous is ashamed of the forbidden relationship. When she becomes pregnant by Mr. Sands and tells Mr. Flint about it, he is full of rage and builds a cottage in which Linda should live alone. Linda feels some kind of triumph towards Mr. Flint when she tells him about her pregnancy. With Mr. Sands, she has two children, Benny and Ellen. Linda argues that a powerless slave girl cannot be held to the same standards of morality as a free woman. In order to have revenge Mr. Flint sends Linda to his plantation so she has to work very hard. Probably he thinks he can break her with this hard labor. Linda, in order to escape the plantation and to save her children, had to escapes and hide in the den of her grandmother’s house.
Linda’s grandmother‘s approval in everything she does is very important to her because her parents died very young and she can turn to her for advice. From her she has learned morality for her mother died so young and could nnt teach her any values. She has a lot of respect for he. By Linda she is decribed as a very spirited women and compassionate towards Linda and her children, which is highly appreciated by Linda. We do not get to know a lot about Linda’s parents, probably because she was so young when they both died. Her grandmother seems the be the mother figure for her after the death of her parents. She takes good care of Linda’s children when she is sick and hiding in the den and also when Linda has to work on the plantation.
Linda’s children seem to give her the strenght to stay in the den for 7 years. She sometimes can see them through a little peeping hole and can listen to their voices. She is of the opinion her children do not know anything about her hiding in the den but when she exits the den her son confesses that he had assumed she stays in there but never said a word about it to anyone. Instead he helped protecting her by keeping away the people from the house and distracting them. As her daugther Ellen leaves to live with another family she steps out of the den to say goodbye. If it wasn’t for her children Linda probably would have given up already. In slavery often death is wished to a born child or to oneself, because it is seen as the only way suffering can be escaped (Jacobs 15). When Linda’s daughter is sick she wishes that the baby might not wake up so it does not have to go through the same cruelety of slavery as she has to go through but when it wake up she is happy for it gives her new hope and something to live and care for.
Linda throughout the narrative stuggles very hard to keep her family together and to protect them in every way. When she hides in the den she is constantly scared about what would happen to her loved ones when someone would find out that they have helped her to escape. Especially she is worried about her grandmother due to her old age. Her grandmother is a freed former slave due to the kindness of a women which died already. Aunt marthy as she is called, is still in danger for hiding Linda although she has a good relationship with many white and black people who helped her a lot. Her grandmother is appreaciated very well in town. Even Mr. Flint has respect for her.
It feeld an immense pressure in order to be a free women some day and to live in peace.
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- University of Frankfurt (Main)
- Incidents in the life of a slave girl Harriet Jacobs female slavery slavery women autobiographical slave narratives slave literaure Linda Brent american slavery slavery